Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thistle Dew Too's Maiden Voyage

Our Motto, Kid Pond, Idaho, May 2008, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 52mm, Exposure 1/320 sec @ f9.0, ISO 200, exposure bias -2/3 stop, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Well, we're home now. We got back a little earlier than planned, since this was our first time driving across the country (note to self: spend more time out west ;-) We covered 17 states (some only briefly): CA, OR, ID, WY, SD, NE, KS, IN, IL, MO, KY, OH, WV, PA, NY, VT, NH.

We had a great time, and found our "RV legs" pretty fast. We had virtually no problems, and only one newbee "D'oh" moment while trying to dump our tanks.

Here's a quick financial synopsis, by the numbers:

- days/nights on the road = 56 days and 55 nights
- miles driven and miles/day = 7502 miles and 134 miles/day
- avg cost/day and avg cost/mile = $124.18/day and $0.93/mile
- gas mileage (avg mpg/tank) = 9.2 mpg (driving 55 mph or less)
- fuel (total, avg/day and % of total) = $3148.56 / $56.22 (45%)
- supplies (total, avg/day and % of total) = $1632.00 / $29.14 (23%)
- groceries (total, avg/day and % of total) = $1321.58 / $23.60 (19%)
- camping (total, avg/night and % of total) = $674.45 / $12.04 (10%)
- eating out (total, avg/day and % of total) = $168.88 / $3.02 (2%)
- propane (total, avg/day and % of total) = $9.04 / $0.16 (1%)

What did we like best about the RV adventure? "Nowhere to be, and all day to get there." That is to say, we planned our itinerary one day at a time, and made only one campsite reservation the entire trip. It was incredibly liberating.

Some surprises? We really liked driving 55 mph. One of us has been known to be a bit of a speed demon. When we lived in Germany, he white-knuckled the autobahn at 115 mph, and enjoyed it. Before this adventure, cruising at 75-80 mph was typical. So we weren't sure what life would be like "in the slow lane." Well ... it's darn relaxing ;-)

Internet on the road was great. We used a cellular modem, external antenna, amplifier, and router to have almost-always available internet access for our two laptops. If I recollect correctly, we were only without internet access 2 out of 55 nights. You can read more about our set up here.

Taking "navy showers" is not a problem. We didn't feel deprived or like we were roughing it as we tried to match Andy's 1-gallon showers. And while we probably didn't reach that level of stinginess, we never ran out of fresh water, and never filled our waste tanks. Boondocking is what we like best.

On the other hand, we installed an over-the-top solar system (500W solar panels and 520Ah AGM batteries), and were pretty much energy "hogs". We used our inverter regularly, and therefore were able to run our microwave, toaster, and hairdryer on demand, without having to fire up the generator. Indeed, we only ran the generator twice when high temps warranted daytime A/C. However, warm and muggy nights did cause us to seek out electrical hookups more than we wanted to allow us to keep running the A/C so we could sleep comfortably.

We found the 2000 26.5' Mid-bath Lazy Daze very comfortable (if somewhat cozy) for two people; frankly, we can't imagine how large families manage to keep from coming to blows (Tessa, we're waiting on your reports ;-). But storage both inside and out seemed generous for our needs.

So we drove our new-to-us rig with over 80,000 miles on it across country, and added another 7500 miles with no maintenance issues (thank you Ed and Carol Daniels for your fastidious upkeep, and Lazy Daze for your outstanding quality). We thought the ride was quite comfortable (except for those California rattle traps called interstate highways -- OMG!).

Our next big (cross-country) adventure won't be until January 2009 (this time we'll be heading east-west via the southern route). Until then, we anticipate exploring our own beautiful state and New England region.

Woo-hoo ... we're RV'ers!

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Gone tubing ...

Gone Tubing, Mohican State Park Campground, Ohio, June 2008, Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Exposure 1/200 sec @ f2.8, ISO 80, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Ya know the expression: "I'd much rather be lucky than good." Well that applies to us this weekend!

We were looking for a campsite with electric hookups since it's been so hot lately (for our A/C), and called to see about reserving one at the Mohican State Park Campground in Ohio. At first they weren't sure they had any left, but then, they found one. Sure, we'll take it (expecting the worst, but happy for A/C).

Well, sure enough, when we arrived, the place was PACKED. But it looks like we got probably the BEST campsite in the park, right on the river! And what did we see floating by, but people! Boy, they sounded like they were having a ball.

So we stayed an extra day (more serendipity on that as well), and we bought ourselves some inner tubes and jazzy water shoes, walked on up the river a ways, and decided to jump in! We too had a ball. Maybe you will get a feel with this video. I hope you enjoy it. And if you ever get a chance to visit this campground, be sure to try to reserve a electric hook-up site in the 142-153 loop, and ask for "riverside".

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Monday, June 2, 2008

The Blue Hummer

Blue Hummer, Brookport Bridge over the Ohio River, June 2008, Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Exposure 1/200 sec @ f5.0, ISO 80, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Now this is a cool bridge. It's called the "Blue Hummer" because it is all steel, including the deck, and therefore makes a "humming" sound when you drive over it. Apparently motorcycles really DON"T like it (kinda grabs their tires).

It is also quite narrow, quite high, and quite nerve wracking when facing oncoming traffic, especially other trucks. But we survived ;-)

I love the deep blue color of the bridge, and guess they must have recently painted it. I thought the geometric patterns were cool.

Blue Hummer (tall), Brookport Bridge over the Ohio River, June 2008, Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Exposure 1/500 sec @ f5.0, ISO 80, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Here's one more pespective to also show you the height. I think there are ten of these trusses connected together. Oh, and if you are interested in taking the "Blue Hummer" challenge, this bridge is on Route 45 between Brookport, Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky.

Have fun! We sure are!

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Horsethief Lake

Horsethief Lake Campground, Black Hills National Forest, Hell Canyon District, near Mt. Rushmore, South Dakato, May 2008, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 18mm, Exposure 1/160 sec @ f6.3, ISO 200, exposure bias -4/3 stop, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Well, it's been a while since my last update. Tough making time for the internet when you are wandering through such natural beauty. I have, however, managed to keep Frito-a-Day up to date. So you can look there for our dog's perspective of the trip so far ;-)

This photo is from this morning, just after sunrise, but before the rest of humanity had awakened. A serene setting (with Thistle Dew Too in the background) at a National Forest campsite just outside Mt. Rushmore. A little pricey ($23 for dry camping), but then, I guess one is paying for the setting and the proximity.

It's been exactly a month since we picked up Thistle Dew Too. We are having a blast! No where to go and all day to get there ;-) Actually, we're taking two months to drive back from the Mothership home to New Hampshire.

In addition to the solar (which has been fantastic -- we haven't had to use the generator once except to exercise it), we've made a few more additions. To allow us to get on the internet, we purchased a Verizon aircard, and have that tied into a Cradlepoint router and Wilson amplifier and antenna raised up about 6 feet above the top of the RV. Generally, that will increase our signal strength by 2 bars, often times giving us access when we would otherwise have none. This configuration also allows my wife and I to share the wireless connection simultaneously, and works for her PC and my Mac, no problem. I'll post about this in more detail on a newly established Thistle Dew Too Improvements blog.

We've had great weather, with just a few days of rain. And I'm so happy that Thistle Dew Too is watertight and ship shape! Just one more testimonial to the Lazy Daze reliability.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Alton Baker Park, Eugene, OR

Well, we came to Eugene, Oregon so Steve could run in a marathon. I you are interested, you can read about that over at Frito-a-Day.

As is our plan for this whole 2-month RV adventure, we are not preplanning our camping locations, instead trying to play it by ear. So this time we asked the marathon registration folks where we might stay. They suggested Alton Baker park.

Well, this is just a fantastic place, and is very close to Autzen Stadium where the finish line is located. Now I need to be clear that it is not completely legal for us to be here. While there are a few other RVs, they all have special permits that look like they allow parking for a month. I would have tried to get one of these, but they are only offered on Tues and Thurs, somewhere else in the city. So we took a chance, and indeed were not bothered for either of the two nights we spent in the park.

And what a beautiful park! 300 acres of trails, rivers, ponds, lawn, oh yeah, and we hit cherry blossom time. This is all about outdoor recreation and beauty. A great place to spend some relaxing time. Oh yeah, and run that marathon ;-)

And the name of the Oregon football team? Well, that would be the ducks!

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Solar Install

Well, we finally arrived at AM Solar for our planned install. The details were still to be worked out based on the specifics of our rig.

As it turns out, they were able to fit 400W of solar panels (2 @ 150W and 1 @ 100W) and still have them tiltable in both directions (for winter sun angles, if desired).

Then we decided to go for the new larger capacity Lifeline AGM batteries that total 300AH. While these fit into the existing battery compartment of the Lazy Daze, it must be noted that they "just barely fit", and indeed, they ended up going through a number of wiring machinations to do so. In retrospect? Well, let's see what the bill turns out to be.

Finally, we ended up with a Magnum Energy (ME-RC) 2000W pure sine wave inverter and Heliotrope HPV-30DR Solar Charge Controller. And inside, we added an Xantrex (XBM) Battery Monitor, in addition to the panels that came with these devices.

All-in-all, this was a rather involved installation, and took the better part of three days.

I'll report later on how it's all working (after I get a chance to test it out.) I can tell you this much right now: Greg and Deb Holder (the owners of AM Solar) are great people, and treated us like guests in their home, as well as customers. Their new business location is just great.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lots of Driving

Frito Takes the Wheel, Thistle Dew Too, April 2008

Well, it's been quite a bit of driving to get up to Eugene, Oregon. Steve was getting kinda tired, so Frito thought he might help out.

Lap Dog, Thistle Dew Too, April 2008

But that was tiring for Frito as well. So the next stop was on Carol's lap. This will clearly become the preferred seating arrangement during the long days of driving.

Frito's Bed, Thistle Dew Too, April 2008

For the record, here is Frito's official travel position.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

PCH Coastal View

Thistle Dew Too on Pacific Coast Highway, Rt 1, CA, April 2008

Well, this is the reward to the curvy, and somewhat slow, Pacific Coast Highway. We enjoyed this break from the California Freeways. And Thistle Dew Too handled the road very well.

Classic Coastal View, Big Sur, CA, April 2008

I love this view -- it is a postcard picture.

Thistle Dew Too Rear View, Big Sur, CA, April 2008

And take a look at those rear windows. Our plan is to find nice remote locations to take advantage of all that glass. Looks inviting, don't you think? Frito certainly enjoys them.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Old Age RVs

Old Age RVs, Belle Vista RV Park, Cayucos, CA, April 2008

So where do senior RVs go to retire? How about the Belle Vista RV/ Mobile Park. (Hey, it's where we were when the sun went down ;-) But it wasn't bad for just an overnight. They also had a section for RV storage. I thought all the shapes and colors of these stored RVs up against the blue sky was picturesque.

As we continued our morning walk with Frito, we rounded the corner and had this view of Cayucos State Beach. Not such a bad way to get some exercise, now is it?

Morning View, Cayucos State Beach, CA, April 2008

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Headed toward the coast

Beach Time, Morro Strand State Beach, CA, April 2008

Anyone ever drive on SoCal freeways? My God! Those things are crazy. Rough I mean. And since we are in an RV, and not in any big hurry, we drive in the right lane -- where all the trucks ride. That means they are really beat up.

We couldn't really imagine the tooth-jarring adventure all day, so we decided to head to the coast and take a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (CA Rt 1).

Here we are at the beach at Morro Bay. Frito was happy to get out and play a little. And we had a nice sunset.

West Coast Sunset, Morro Strand State Beach, CA, April 2008

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mega pine cones

Steve, Carol, Frito and the giant pine cones, San Gabriel Mountains, CA, April 2008

In addition to our "enlightenment", we also got to take a nice walk in the woods. Check out those giant pine cones. Those things are heavy and very sharp. And yes, we now have two of them in Thistle Dew Too's storage compartment.

Don't ask me why. Call it our first souvenier. (And yes, it is legal for us to take up to twelve each ... see what great restraint we showed? ;-)

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Friday, April 25, 2008

The Enlightenment Weekend

First Outing, San Gabriel Mountains, CA, April 2008, L-R: Steve, Frito, and Carol Crisp; Terry Tanner; Denise and Garth Morrison, and our rigs, respectively (how come they are all blue?)

Yes! We took ownership of our new-to-us 2000 Lazy Daze Mid-Bath from Ed and Carol Daniels. They were picking up their new rig (same floorplan), and we flew out to the Mothership (aka Lazy Daze factory) to hand over the keys.

So where does one go on their first outing? Well, we made contact with Terry Tanner (of Techsnoz fame) via e-mail, since we wanted to get his LED tail lights installed. And he invited us and another couple out to his "hide-out" up in the mountains just outside of Pasadena, CA. (I could tell you where it's located, but then I'd have to shoot you ;-)

LD Enlightenment by Terry Tanner, San Gabriel Mountains, CA, April 2008

Terry declared this a weekend of "enlightenment", and that was surely the case. Oh yeah, he also installed LED lights on rigs ;-)

If you have not taken advantage of Terry's kind service to get your rear lights upgraded, I'd strongly encourage you to do so. He showed us just how dim the stock rear LD lights are. They simply would not get the attention of a vehicle following you. But the new ones, plus the third light he adds to the tire cover really pop! I would say these are a "must have" safety improvement. And for older rigs (like ours), I would also say the replacement Velvac mirrors are also a critical upgrade.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Thistle Dew Too

Thistle Dew Too, aka 2000 Lazy Daze 26.5' Mid-Bath, January 2008

There's a phrase in RV-dom: "Wannabees". That's what we've been for many years. We've been following many on-line RV forums, reading various blogs, visiting RV dealerships, factories and shows, and even have made a couple of offers on some used RVs. But to no avail.

And that's been OK. We are, by any measure, patient shoppers, and pretty good researchers.

That all changed today. That's right -- we are no longer "wannabees". Now we are "gonnabees" ;-)

We saw a posting for a used 2000 26.5' Mid-bath Lazy Daze motorhome, and thought it was a good deal. So after a short discussion in the hot tub (that's where much of our RV fantasizing is done) we agreed to try and buy this one. And sure enough the gods were smiling, because somehow, we were the ones whose offer was accepted.

Our future Lazy Daze RV, to be known as Thistle Dew Too, is shown above. The current owners are buying a new 2008 RV -- same brand, same model. And they will be driving across country to pick up their new one in Montclair, CA. We've contracted to buy their old unit at the time they take delivery of the new one.

And so, the adventure really will begin soon. We're excited. What a way to start off the new year!