Driving, driving, driving…

August 8th, 2011

August 7—The trouble with RVing is that you have to drive—and drive—and drive. I am not fond of driving, even though I am a passenger, not the driver. Driving was OK was I was young and I shared in on the chore, but now I find it boring and tedious. And I do not intend to drive Baby, with or without “toad” (our towed car). So, driving is boring; one interstate mostly looks like another.

The good thing about RVing, though, is that you don’t have to stop to use the toilet (as long you are the passenger!); you have a clean bathroom; you sleep in your own bedbug-free bed; you can make some popcorn for a midafternoon snack, and you both can listen to the same audiobook at the same time.

You can’t do those things when you are flying.

Jim keeps reminding me to enjoy the journey. To me, it’s the destination. I just want to get to where I am going, in this case Yuma, Ariz.

But, I’ll try to do as he says. I promise.

Still the reluctant RoVer.

Delayed start

August 7th, 2011

August 5. Things don’t always go as planned. We had wanted to get an early start on our journey to Yuman/Los Algodones, but it didn’t go that way. Our neighbor e-mailed me that the lawn mower (which he uses) was still malfunctioning, so Jim had to fix that before we could even fetch “Baby.” Fortunately the fix was an easy one and didn’t delay us too much.

Packing up was another story. It seemed like I moved my entire house! It’s amazing how much you can stow in a 38-foot motorhome—with room to spare. Baby seems to have a lot of nooks and crannies, and perhaps I admitted to myself that I really don’t need all that “stuff” in the house. At any rate, we packed and finally got on our way at about 2 p.m. EDT.

We traveled as far as Tallahassee. Florida is ONE BIG state! (Can’t wait to go across Texas:<).

More later.


July 10th, 2011

July 10, 2011—When we took our maiden voyage, we left our cats at home. We wanted to “shake down” Baby without worrying about Charlie and Xena. But on this trip, we decided to bring them along with us.

My biggest worry was that whenever we opened the door, one or both of our kitties would bolt. They are used to a lot of freedom. For the last eight years, they have been able to go wherever they wanted—indoors or out. When we moved in, Jim had installed two cat doors: one from the house to the porch, and a second from the porch to outdoors. (As a side note: The second cat door was billed as “critter-proof,” requiring our pets to wear a magnet that allows entry and keeping all other animals out. Not quite. Several clever raccoons in search of an easy meal have managed to open the door. As recently as a couple of months ago, when the evenings were still cool, Jim had opened the French doors so we could enjoy the night air. At 3 a.m. we discovered a little bandit helping himself to the cat food—in our kitchen!)

I shouldn’t have worried. Charlie and Xena are true “scaredy cats.” Whenever they hear the door open, they head for the bedroom. They would like to hide under the bed, but that is not possible, since it rests on a platform. So, they either bury themselves behind the pillows on the bed, or in the corner on the side of the bed.

Yesterday, while we were driving, it was even worse. Apparently they really did not like the noise of the diesel (which is louder in the bedroom, in the back of Baby.) So where did they hide? In the kitchen cupboard beneath the kitchen sink, where we had placed their litter box. (We took the door off the cabinet to give them access.) Charlie hid behind the box; Xena sat in the box during most of the ride.

We aren’t unsympathetic to the difficulty of the cats’ adjustment. And we are trying to accommodate their needs. We bought a harness and leash for each of them. Charlie’s is blue; Xena’s pink. We have yet to try them out. Every time we try to put them on, that’s when they bolt—to their favorite hiding place.

Jim is the “softie” when it comes to the cats. He makes sure that the shades are up during the day so they can stare at the world, and he even keeps a couple shades open at night so they can keep an eye on the comings and goings of any night creatures that might pass by our motorhome. For privacy at night, we draw the curtains around the huge front window. Jim has discovered that both of the cats like to jump up on the front dash and lurk behind the curtains during the wee hours of the morning.

I mentioned the litter box. That was my second biggest worry—that they would not use it. After all, they had had an endless “sandbox” in our backyard. The first day, someone had an “accident.” Same, the next day. But I think they are finally getting used to it. At least, I hope so.

All said, I think Charlie and Xena will eventually adjust to their new home. They might not like their restrictive environment much, but that’s too bad.

Until next time,


We have lift off

July 8th, 2011

July 8, 2011, Space Coast—The day didn’t start without mishap, but it grew into one that was memorable.

Last night we both showered before going to bed. (Nice to know, right?) When you are in an RV, the experts generally recommend what they call a “Navy shower”—wet down, soap up, rinse off. That recommendation is made for when you are boondocking—that is, camping without hookups.

We are in an RV park, and we are hooked up. At least, now we are. Last night, when we pulled into the park, it was raining, so Jim hooked up the water and the electrical outlets. That gave us plenty of H20 and electricity. But he didn’t hook up the sewer (grey water) connection, which would automatically drain the grey water tank. The problem was that he had parked the motorhome about six feet too far forward, and the sewer hose wouldn’t reach. Since it was raining, he decided to wait until the morning to fix the problem, if at all.

We forgot about showers.

Since we had plenty of water…well you get the picture. We (OK, maybe I) didn’t do a Navy shower. So, when we woke up this morning and Jim was about to take an a.m. shower, he discovered about four inches of water in the shower stall.

Not a major problem, but a lesson learned. It successfully drained, of course, once he hooked up the sewer.

I thought we were going to watch the launch from the RV park; I was mistaken. Jim wanted to get much closer, so at about 10:30 we headed out toward Titusville, which is near Cape Canaveral. The weather was still iffy but blue sky showed through the clouds, so everyone (thousands of people) were optimistic.

The closer we got to the Cape, the more congested the highway became. Cars were parked everywhere, and people were hiking along the highway, moving in a mass eastward. We hoped they knew where they were going, since we joined the troop as it trudged up (literally) the highway, took shortcuts across woody and weedy areas, and finally ended up in a park on the Indian River, part of the Intracoastal Waterway system. We walked about 1.5 miles. Had I realized we were going to take a nature hike, I’d have worn sneakers, not sandals. Fortunately, I had the insight to prepare a thermos of ice water for each of us and insist that we take chairs. We needed both by the time we reached our viewing destination.

Once we got settled, we had about a half hour to wait. The minutes passed, but no one knew if the launch would take place. The park was packed with people. On the bridge to Merritt Island, about a mile away, we could see thousands more waiting in anticipation. Would it be a “go”?

As the designated launch time—11:26 a.m.—passed, everyone wondered. Then, a couple minutes later, we could see the smoke from the rocket and then suddenly, glowing in the patch of blue sky, was the rocket with the shuttle on its back! It burned brightly for several seconds, perhaps 30, before becoming hidden in the clouds. Just as it passed into the clouds beyond our view, we could hear the sound of the rockets! Loud! They rumbled so much you could almost—not quite—feel them beneath your feet.

It was over in minutes. As the smoke dissipated, we packed up our chairs, camera, binoculars, and water bottles and made the long trek (downhill time) back to the car.

We stopped for lunch at a local barbecue place, where the wait staff was selling T-shirts of the last shuttle launch.

Next time you see me, I may be wearing, “STS 135: Final Shuttle Mission.” It was historic.

Until next time,


An aborted vacation and a belated start

July 8th, 2011

July 7, 2011—When Jim learned that the last space shuttle launch was scheduled for July 8, we decided it was a good excuse to take a real trip in “Baby.” Jim had witnessed two launches “up close and personal,” Apollo 8 and Apollo-Soyuz; he said you could feel that ground shake as the rockets took off. I’d only seen launches at a great distance—about 100 miles as the crow flies—in Palm Beach Gardens and in Jacksonville. So, we made plans to go down to the Space Coast to watch the shuttle take off. Although we weren’t planning to go to Cape Kennedy (which promised to be wall-to-wall with space aficionados), we wanted to be very near. We found an RV campground about 15 miles from the launch site and made reservations.

We asked ourselves, “Why not make this a real vacation?” We’d been promising ourselves a trip to the Florida Keys. This was an ideal time. Our vacation began to take form: a couple days near Cape Kennedy, a nice visit with Jim’s son and his family in West Palm, a trip down to the Keys for snorkeling and “touristing,” and a leisurely trip back up the west coast of Florida, perhaps visiting some historic spots and National Monuments. We intended to be gone about two weeks.

That was before I had a dental emergency. One of my many crowns came off.

I spent a frustrating day placing call after call to the dentist office where I had had the procedure done several years ago. The answering machine instructed me that “we are unable to take your call because we are with a patient” and advised me to leave a message. I left several; no one called me back. The next morning, I was at the dental office before it opened—only it never opened. Judging from the UPS notice left on the door from the day before, I guessed the office had closed for vacation. Too bad they didn’t change their answering machine message. (Suggestion: Do not go to Great Expressions dental clinic in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.)

I finally found a dentist, who charged me $190 for an x-ray and recementing the crown. But she had bad news for me: The crown had leaked and I now had a tooth requiring a root canal and news crown. The cost? About $2000. Ouch!

American dentists are expensive. Not so the dentists south of the border. A small town in Mexico near Yuma, Ariz., boasts more than 1,000 dentists. After receiving referrals from two friends, we had decided to make the trip to get long-postponed dental work done for each of us. That trip was going to occur in the fall. Because of my dental emergency, however, we decided to cut our Florida vacation short (only four days), return home, and head out to Arizona in a couple of weeks.

Although the vacation would be short, we still looked forward to it. Early this morning, we drove down to the RV lot to retrieve Baby. Jim attached all the cables and we tested the brake lights and turn signals. Then Jim slowly pulled out of the lot. As I watched the car being towed, I almost panicked! The right front wheel wasn’t turning! When Jim stopped to let me in, I told him. He pulled forward again, but this time the wheel turned. “Hmmm,” I said, “Maybe I was mistaken.”

I wasn’t.

About five miles later, as Jim turned a corner, a motorcyclist motioned to us, indicating something was wrong. A minute later, a woman pulled up next to our bus and yelled to Jim that we had lost a wheel cover. We pulled off the road to look for the cover, wondering how it could come off.

We never did find the cover, which came off the right front wheel, but when Jim walked around the car, he saw that the left front wheel cover was about to come off! The seatings had melted. A few minutes later he discovered the cause: The breaks were locked. I had not been seeing things when I thought the wheel wasn’t turning!

My husband-who-can-fix-anything managed to find the cause of the locked-up breaks, and within 15 minutes we were on our way home.

Our troubles weren’t over.

Jim had to adjust the break cable (which had pulled the breaks into a locked position). To fix the problem, he had to unhitch the tow bar. That’s when he discovered that the hydraulics on one of the bars were not working. Three calls to the manufacturer, a disassembly of the tow hydraulics, and a refitting of a part later, Jim solved the problem.

We had intended to be on the road by 11 a.m. We finally left Jacksonville about 3 p.m.

If all this weren’t enough, there is one more thing: It is raining. The launch will probably be postponed.

Oh, well. We’re on vacation. And even though our plans won’t pan out, we’re having a good time. I hope you are, too.

Until next time,

Safe haven

June 2nd, 2011

I’ve owned residences in eight different cities: Hobart, Ind.; Indianapolis; Taylor, Texas; Muncie, Ind.; Marshall, Mich.; Chicago; Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; and Jacksonville, Fla. The house in Hobart and the co-op apartment in Chicago did not have garages; the rest did. And my car took safe haven in the garage in every single residence—except Jacksonville. That is, until yesterday.


When we moved to Jacksonville in January 2003, we combined not two, but three households: Jim retired and moved up here with me, bringing with him his things. Then a few months after we got settled, his mother expressed a wish to move in with us. Although Jim disposed of most of her furniture, she still brought a lot of “stuff” with her. (And she had a lot.) The excesses of our three households found their way into the attic and onto the floor of the garage.


None of the cars I have owned since moving up here—two Honda sedans, a Murano crossover, and our current vehicle, a Chevy HHR—had never been able to take cover in the garage. It was too full.


Our plan (which may or may not happen, depending upon the housing market) is to put our house up for sale, travel in Baby around the country, and eventually find a new place to live, most likely not in Florida. To follow that plan, the house has to be ready for sale—and that has meant culling through our possessions.


Jim has done a great job of this. He brought everything down from the attic, and we participated in the community yard sale in April. (We’ll have another in the future.) And yesterday he cleaned out the garage enough for the car to find a place of its own. Finally.


It won’t last long. The back bedroom (formerly his mother’s) is full of stuff that will have to be stored in the garage eventually.


But until that time, I plan to enjoy seeing our little HHR rest in a safe haven.


Until next time,


The sound of silence

May 26th, 2011

I love my husband, and I love spending time with him. He’s been retired since we moved to Jacksonville more than eight years ago. During more than five of those eight years, I worked outside of the home and Jim was my “house husband.” It was a great arrangement, and I loved it. I mean, how many wives do you know whose husbands have dinner waiting for them when they came home from work?


For the last three years, however, I have worked at home, about half-time. We’ve been able to golf, go shopping, and do anything else around my flexible freelance work schedule. It has been great. And despite being together full time, we haven’t gotten on each other’s nerves (too much).


As I become more “retired” (I still choke on that word), we anticipate traveling in our motorhome, and we will be spending even more face time together. But togetherness has its limits. I mean, how much can you talk about when the only other person you’ve seen all day is the one sitting next to you?


Whenever we have traveled, we have filled car-time with recorded books. (Fortunately, we usually enjoy the same genre.) When we took “Baby” out for its maiden voyage, we thought we could listen to recorded books through our new entertainment center. I noted, however, that the CD/DVD player was above the driver’s head. Jim could not change CDs while he was driving, and it would be hazardous for me to try, lurching along at 60 mph. Safety was a moot point, however. We discovered that the entertainment center is not wired to be used while the motorhome is in motion, so the new CD/DVD player wouldn’t work while we were driving.  Probably a safety measure, don’t you think? (I mean, some drivers might be tempted to watch TV instead of keeping their eyes on the road.)


I’ve always said there is more than one solution to any problem, so I found another way to listen to our library mystery—my laptop computer. Unfortunately, that did not work out, either. The speakers were not loud enough to overcome road noise. So, for the four days we were on the road, Jim and I had to resort to old-fashioned conversation and (yes) silence.


As soon as we got home, Jim researched AM/FM car radios with a CD player. Baby came with one, mind you, but it did not work. So we ordered a new one, a nice Sony that even has an audio plug (so I can plug in my laptop and listen to downloaded books), and a USB port. Since the old radio had been a Sony, we thought it would be a snap to plug it in and begin listening to NPR.


Not quite.


Remember, I said the old radio didn’t work? Jim plugged everything into the wiring from the old set, and—you guessed it—the new radio failed to turn on—despite the fact that the wires were “hot.”


He tried everything, and both he and I researched the topic on the Web. To no avail. “It’s got to be something simple,” I told him. He agreed, but we couldn’t find the solution. I suggested he go across the street from the RV dealer and talk with the young fellow who owned a (very loud) car stereo shop.


The next day, before he could make the short walk across the street, however, the shirtless stereo-shop owner with bleached blond hair and colorful tattoos running along his arms, abs, and back came over to the RV place to ask Ed for a favor. Jim happened to be there, and he told blond boy our problem.


“Hey, man. That’s easy,” said the tattooed kid. “Splice the red and yellow wire together and then plug it in.” I don’t remember why this was supposed to work. But, I’m happy to tell you the kid knew what he was talking about. It worked. (We wondered if the old radio had ever been wired correctly. We probably did not have to buy a new one.)

So, the next time Jim and I take Baby out (and that will be in a couple of weeks, complete with the cats), we won’t have to sit in silence any more and stare at the passing palm trees.


Any suggestions for a good books-on-tape mystery?

Until next time,





What we learned

May 11th, 2011

The main purpose of our maiden voyage was to learn about RoVing. And learn, we did:


• Pack the pillows. That’s right, I forgot to take our pillows. And you know how important personal pillows are. Fortunately, I had made some decorative pillows for the bed, so we weren’t obliged to sleep without any pillows. But sleeping just wasn’t the same without the pillows we are accustomed to.


• Take bathing suits. Friday, and even Saturday, we didn’t need them. But Sunday we spent at a nice RV park on the St. Johns River. The sun beat down on us fiercely. We were cool inside our “Baby,” but I longingly looked at the large pool. After dinner, the campground cleared out. I suspect a lot of families with kids went home, or perhaps the parents just kept the kids inside after supper. We could have had the pool virtually to ourselves. But, we forgot our suits. Next time.


• Stow lawn chairs in the basement. It was on my list, but somehow we forgot to load them. That’s a must. Although most campgrounds seem to have a picnic table next to the RV spot, sitting on hard planks isn’t as comfortable as reclining in a nice canvas lawn chair with a built-in footstool.


• Stock the kitchen. We forgot some basics, such as dish towels, the toaster, mayonnaise (we did have mustard, though), steel wool, napkins, and a kitchen sponge. Fortunately, we had a full roll of extra-absorbent paper towels, which was a good substitute.


• Pack more food. Because we didn’t want to unhitch the car, we cooked on our gas stove. I had packed enough food, but we were limited in our choices. So, next time I’ll pack more staples to increase our flexibility.


• Toss in a roll of TV cable. When we were in Orlando/Kissimmee, the TVs found more than 60 stations (a lot of them in Spanish). Where we stayed our last night, we were pleasantly surprised to get about 15 stations (again, many in Spanish, and even more church-related). So, we weren’t without entertainment. But the park did have cable available. We just didn’t have any way to hook into it. Next time we’ll be prepared.


• Take the right fishing equipment. Jim packed two rods as well as his tackle box. But the rods were for ocean fishing, not lake fishing. We attempted to fish off the dock, and we even had a few minnows nibble at our bait, but it’s a good thing we had brought hot dogs along for dinner. Jim will stow two fresh-water rods in the basement along with the others before we head out next time. We’ll be prepared to fish in either locale. (In Florida, we old folks over age 65 don’t even need a fishing license.)


• 3G is good enough. A couple of months ago, largely on a whim, we switched from ATT DSL service in our home, to Clear (clear.com). Clear is a wireless broadband provider, both for home and on-the-go usage. We purchased a bundled package, with a home modem (4G) and an on-the-go USB dongle (4G/3G). When we were in 4G range, the dongle worked well, but not consistently well enough to view videos. The 3G did not allows viewing videos, but was fast enough for my other work, such as getting to websites, checking webmail, and even uploading files.


So, we made the decision to return to DSL yesterday and to purchase a prepaid 3G dongle from VirginMobile. Using that device, I will only have to pay as I need the service, and not pay a monthly charge, whether I use it or not.


• Relax! That was probably the most important learning for me! It’s hard for me to take it easy, but I’m learning. I can almost (but not quite) say I am retired! I’m looking forward to our next trip, which will definitely be a real vacation.





Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer, Linda

What goes around, comes around?

May 8th, 2011

My mother used to say (and still does), “What goes around, comes around.” It’s true. Almost 45 years ago, I was married to my first husband while we were still in college. Student-poor, we applied to live in married housing at Indiana University. We were assigned the least expensive housing—a tiny 8 x 28 foot green trailer. It was so small that when I was lying in the double bed, I could touch both walls! But the rent was reasonable—as I recall, only $49 a month, utilities included.

A lifetime later, here I am in a green motorhome! Only this time, as my current (and last) husband reminded me, our home is 8 ½ x 38 feet, plus a slide that expands the living area! Another difference: Instead of $49 a month (utilities included), when we paid for our “utilities” (diesel fuel) this morning, the fill up cost $228! (We found diesel at $3.99 a gallon. Our tank holds 90 gallons; I think we had to purchase around 70.)

I’m getting more comfortable traveling in this fiberglass box. Jim is becoming quite adept at driving it. But don’t look for me to be behind the wheel.

We left Orlando not sure where we would go. We started to head toward the coast, but decided on the spur on the moment to head toward Lake Astor, at the edge of a state forest where bear-crossing signs abound. The campground is on the St. Johns River, not far from where we rented a houseboat for our honeymoon almost seven years ago. It’s quiet, and we even went fishing. We didn’t catch anything, but we did feed a few minnows.

Tomorrow it is back home. I think I am beginning to like this almost-retired life, and I’m looking forward to our next trip.

Until next time,


Maiden voyage

May 8th, 2011

Maiden voyage

May 6, 2011, 2:30 p.m. It took us about two hours to hook up the car, load our belongings, and stow our provisions, but here are we, turning onto I95 South on our maiden voyage to Orlando from Jacksonville, a trip that should take around two hours.

I have to confess to my unease: The few times that I have ridden shotgun in Baby I have not felt entirely safe and comfortable. There is something “unnatural” about sitting so high above passing vehicles and swaying in the wake of semis…I don’t know if I will get used to it. Logic tells me, of course, that we are safe. Baby is bigger and heavier than almost anything on the road (except the semis), so if an accident were to happen, we would come out the “winners.” Nevertheless, I feel uneasy. It probably has more to do with being an ill-at-ease passenger than being in Baby.

I don’t like to ride shotgun (or in the back seat, either). Over the last dozen years, I have come to distrust drivers, especially those that tailgate and speed. Me? I allow myself 5 mph over the limit, tops. And I give myself the recommended car-length distance between me and the vehicle in front of me. I also slow down when I see others slowing down. Jim hates my driving; I hate his. Yet, here I am, sitting passenger in a 39 foot motorhome. Life is strange.

We are planning to dry camp (also known as boondocking) tonight, in the driveway of a friend in Orlando. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

More later.

May 7. We parked in our friend’s driveway last night. I don’t consider our first night in Baby as fully “initiated” because we did not cook; we did not shower; and we did not watch TV. We went out to dinner with our friends. We decided to use their shower and hot water instead of Baby’s. And we could not watch TV: Without starting the generator (which would have been loud in that quiet neighborhood), we were limited to a few lights.

I wish I could say we slept well. The bed is comfortable enough (unlike many we’ve found in motorhomes), but we both tossed until almost dawn.

I played my first official role as “backer upper”—the person who guides the driver in backing up. It’s quite frightening, but Jim is becoming adept at maneuvering the bus.


May 8. Last night, after a day spent cleaning up and making minor repairs to our Orlando house (on the market, any takers?) we found a campground in Kississmee, outside of Orlando. We didn’t even have to unhook the car; we got a drive-through spot. And we now we can say we are fully initiated into RoVing: We dropped jacks, leveled Baby, extended the slide, cooked dinner, and showered. We even slept a bit better.

Jim keeps grinning like a bear. This is one of his dreams. I’m glad it’s come true for him.

Me? I’m still a reluctant . I’m the person who doesn’t enjoy a vacation until it is over, so I know I will come around..

Until later,