Not all who wander are lost.

Monthly archives for November, 2014

RVing in the Winter Day 2

Water is still frozen and fresh water tank is now empty. Tank is empty because kitchen facet was still working. We are going to wait to fill it until weather warms up a little. Friday forecast is showing above freezing temps. It is currently snowing and the temp is 1 degree with feels like temp at -10. IMG_2056We will need to go and get one of our LP tanks filled today and I am hoping second tanks has enough gas to last why we get other tank filled. I had to youtube is see how our LP system worked I didn’t understand the automatic switchover valve. Our 5th wheel is equipped with two 30 pound LP tanks. They are connected to a automatic switchover valve so when one tank goes empty it will automatically switchover to the other tank. There is plastic bubble with a green or red color in the bubble to let you know when the primary tank is empty. You can tell which tank is the primary by the direction the automatic switch lever is pointing. When switching out the tanks you turn the switch to the tank that still has gas and then disconnect the empty one. Sounds pretty simple but I didn’t know to switch the valve over when disconnecting the empty tank until watching a youtube video on how the automatic switchover works.

Our Wandering Minds

It’s been awhile since we updated the blog because last week, even though we spent most of our time in one place settling in to our new lifestyle, our minds were out wandering plenty as we were trying to figure some things out.  And let me tell you, they go much farther than we ever could in a week.

Before we left and throughout the entire planning process, I knew there would come a time early in our journey that we would wonder what the hell we were doing and if we are completely insane.  I just hoped that we would recognize it when it happened and we would be able to work through it and understand that it was all part of making a change this big.  Moving out of our comfort zone is well….not very dang comfortable! We had a beautiful home, our kids were running in and out with their friends making us laugh every day, we had our family all around us, and no matter how much we like to travel, Ames, IA is actually a great city with everything we needed.  So why would would we want to leave all of that??  Because as much as we loved our lives there, we knew that we wouldn’t be content if we didn’t at least try this new life we had been dreaming about for a long time.  Even though we did countless hours of research and thought we talked about everything we could fathom that could happen, we found out pretty quickly that there were a lot of variables that we hadn’t figured into our planning.

The house not selling was a huge set back that we are still trying to work through.  The sale was supposed to provide us with a little financial cushion to help us early on because we knew the beginning phase was probably going to be the most expensive.  Since that didn’t happen we have no cushion and things ended up being a little more expensive than we realized.  For instance, we knew the truck wouldn’t get great gas mileage but pulling the RV here cost over $300.  We also didn’t budget in the $70 for the park passes and the $8 every time one of our kids wanted to come visit us. When we move to our next place we will need fork over $90 for a county pass because we can’t stay in a state park for more than 28 days in a 45 day period.  We have to pay for these passes on top of the regular camping fees.  Nowhere in our planning did we figure in our cost for our regular living expenses on the road as well as all of our utilities and expenses for the house at the same time.  In hind site the best thing to do would have been to wait until the house sold to leave but we were anxious to get going and tired of the stress of trying to sell the house while we still lived in it.  But in no way did we think we would still be trying to sell the thing in November.  So needless to say, finances have been a strain on us for the last couple weeks.  We knew we would need to be more careful with our budget and we were ready for that.  It was part of the plan.  It was our choice.  What wasn’t our choice was the way the house sale collapsed and with it our sense of security in our financial situation. I’m still trying not to be bitter towards that woman and her realtor, and I’m trying to let it go but its taking a lot of work!

Jason was sick most of the week the first week, and Sam had to be taken to the dentist to get his infection taken care of.  Sadie was at home really sick and there was nothing I could do for her to make her feel better being 700 miles away.  Obviously none of this was in the plan but we knew illness or dentist visits accompanied by trying to figure out what places would take our insurance would be part of living on the road.  You can’t avoid that kind of stuff all together but we didn’t picture our first week in beautiful Colorado sitting in the camper while Jason felt miserable and I felt helpless.  But who would ever picture that kind of thing?

We didn’t realize that there were actually things we would miss about home besides our families.  Like, we will have to find a new favorite coffee house every where we go! How are we a going to find a coffee joint that has the black bean burgers, cinnamon rolls, and cheesecake that Cafe Diem has that we love?  We loved riding our bikes around the paths in town through Brookside Park and I enjoyed being able to run all my errands through town on just my two wheels.  With my terrible sense of direction, it would take me months to figure out the way to get everywhere by bike and then we would leave and I’ll need to figure it out all over again.  Familiarity creates a strong draw to a place and we didn’t understand quite how much until last week.

So it took a broken iPhone which let to entire meltdown on my part for us to start doubting our decisions and re-thinking our plans.  I was upset about something, probably a really dumb thing like dropping one of my cookies in dog hair or something,  and Jason said the words “Do you just want to go back?”  Since things weren’t going quite as we had planned it was very easy for us to start picturing the life we left behind and suddenly wanting the comfort of being where we used to call “home”.  We quickly put the RV and truck up for sale on Craigslist in Fort Collins and we planned to stay here until Thanksgiving, then move back to Ames to our house.  Our very. empty. house.  The next day after realizing that we didn’t want to go back to our same exact situation, our plan was to try to trade the RV for a smaller Class C which would allow us to get our cushion back and travel a little cheaper because we could sell the truck and pull the Mini behind us.  We even went to look at a few but now that our 5th wheel was starting to feel a bit like home, I had a hard time picturing myself actually living in one of those dinky things, tripping over my dog, possibly dislocating my shoulder…AGAIN.  We liked the idea of having a home base and traveling so we first thought about selling the house, finding a smaller place to rent in Ames, and then still traveling the country like we wanted to but having a place to land from time to time when we were missing home or Vesuvius’ wood fired pizza.  The idea of renting an apartment and asking someone if we could paint our walls pink or whatever wasn’t sitting well with us.  Plus we didn’t know how we would afford such a lifestyle.  At one time we came up with this brilliant plan: What if we asked our kids here in Colorado to let us rent a room in their house when they found a bigger place so we could have a place to come “home” to?  We quickly regained what was left of our sanity and chucked that idea because it really didn’t make any sense and honestly, what late teen and 20 something kids would want their parents renting a room in their house??  So in the matter of a few days our minds had wandered all over the country, to Ames, and back to Colorado and we still handed landed on a solid plan.

Then one morning I was out walking Lucy.  It was 9AM or something like that and I had on a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt…in November.  The sun was out and it was so warm and in front of me there was the lake that we’ve gotten used to looking at every day and walking around with the dogs.  I turned my head and before me were the Rocky Mountains with all of its beautiful colors and snow capped peaks.  I recalled the previous day where we took a drive up to Estes Park and even though we couldn’t go for a hike like we planned (because we learned that you can’t take your dogs on the trails in the national parks) it was still an amazing drive with views that we’d never see in Iowa.  I thought about our plans for the day which was to pick up Sam and Tater and go for a hike at Eldorado State Park since it was such a nice day.  I suddenly remembered that this is the life we have been striving for. We’ve been planning and dreaming about being gypsies for years and now that we’re finally doing it, why are we sitting here trying to figure out a way to do something else?  Were we EVER going to be satisfied with the life we were living at that moment and stop planning for something different?  It finally hit me that this was the time that I knew was going to come, that I thought I’d prepared for.  That time where we would wonder what the hell we were doing and if we were completely insane.  And No, we didn’t recognize it when it hit us.

When things aren’t quite going as you hope, its really easy to want to fall back to the comfort of knowing what lies around every curve.  But that is what we were trying to get away from in the first place.  So now we are back on plan and still keeping our 5th wheel even though we have spent the better part of the day trying to thaw out the lines in the front half.  We haven’t ruled out the idea of traveling in a Class C, if we can find one that will offer a few more comforts than what we looked at before.  We like the idea of traveling together and pulling the car which would save us a little money on gas.  We would be able to sell the truck which would get us our cushion back we would lower our insurance bill which is already significantly high with a teenage kids’ “not so great” driving record attached to it.  But that is something we will probably look at later.  I was able to sell some of my fiber for a little extra money and we still had a little downsizing to do as we found things that we’re lugging around but not using (gotta love Craigslist!) I’m going to start putting together a few things to sell in our online store which will be coming soon to our blog, so hopefully I’ll be able to contribute a bit financially.  So even though things aren’t perfect, we know that they aren’t anywhere.  We are far better off that the few people that are living in tents out here in the 15 degree weather, moving from campground to campground because they don’t have a home.  We also know that after just a couple weeks we’re bound to struggle here and there because this is all new to us.  And that is okay.  That’s part our journey.

Photo Nov 11, 10 25 20 AM

RVing in Winter Weather

So we are officially rving in winter or at least winter temps. We have been staying at Boyd Lake State Park since we been in Colorado. Weather has been VERY nice upper 60’s to lower 70’s. Woke up Monday morning to 64 degrees outside by Monday afternoon temperature  had dropped over 40 degrees. Monday evening we were in the teens. We have been using a radiant heater with furnace set to about 60 so not to use so much propane (this may not have been a good idea). IMG_2048Sunday we knew colder weather was coming so we put window plastic on 90% of the windows and weather stripping around door. By 6pm Monday night we decide to go to Walmart and purchase another small heater. Our rv runs on a 30 amp connection. This sucks when trying to run two small space heater. We were constantly popping breakers. Late Monday night half of our water lines are frozen (the bathroom half). First thing that happens when your lines freeze is panic. Second thing is search Google to find out what to do. We turned the furnace up to about 72 degrees and opened all cabinet doors to get warm air to water lines. We finally decide there was not much more we could do at this hour so grabbed our blankets and went to bed and figured we would deal with it in the morning.

Woke up this morning to about 15 degrees outside. Kitchen water lines still work bathroom lines still frozen. Ran an extension cord from the power pole and set the new small space heat in the bottom compartment of rv to try and thaw the frozen waterlines. IMG_2054The power pole has a separate breaker so I could run both heaters without popping breakers in the rv. So far lines are still frozen but hoping that after heater runs for awhile they will thaw out. At this point we wait it out and use the campsite facilities and hope the weather warms up sooner rather than later but I think the cold weather is here for at least the next few days. I guess this is part of living the rv dream if your living it in northern parts.

Not feeling well and figuring out insurance.

Not feeling well sucks to begin with but not feeling well in an RV is a new experience all together. For the last few day I have not felt well at all. So finally I decide it was time to go see a doctor because I was feeling worse everyday. The problem is, I have not seen another doctor in almost 15 yrs. I would normally call up McFarland Clinic and ask if I could be seen. Now I am out of my home town and even out of my home state. We got a new insurance company at work and haven’t had to use it any where but at the same clinic I have been going to for years. The insurance is called CoOpportunity Health. I created a web account before we left home so I could look up medical centers in our network. Once logged-in to the site I went to find a network provider, set the location, and clicked on search and a list of doctors came up. One thing I noticed out here in Colorado is the medical clinics are open a lot later and a lot of them are open 7 days week. I called to make sure they would take my insurance and then tried to make an appointment. Since it was a Saturday all appointment were walk-ins. We arrived at the clinic mid morning filled, out all the paper work for new patient, and gave them a copy of my insurance card and drivers license and in about 5 to 10 min I got in to see the doctor (Nurse Practitioner). I am glad I went! I found out I had an ear infection with bronchitis. Hoping for a speed recovery, it’s no fun feeling sick. At least I know how my insurance works and how to find a doctor now that we are traveling. We also got to test our dental insurance as well. Our youngest son, Sam, has also just moved out here to Colorado. A few weeks before we left to come out here, Sam had all 4 of his wisdom teeth pulled. About 4 or 5 days after he got them pulled he was still having pain so he went back and found out he had dry socket. They gave him something for that and everything seemed to be good. The 3rd day we are here he tells us his mouth is sore and his cheek is all swollen. We found a dentist office and made him an appointment for the next day. He got something in one to the holes where the tooth was pulled and it had gotten infected. They had to get some of the infection out and then sent him home with antibiotics. They took our insurance but didn’t know what would be covered so we had to pay for the service and they will reimburse us a check when they find out how much our insurance covers. Needless to say, this as been a new experience…just not the one I was hoping for when first starting out. Also Sam is doing well.

Horsetooth Mountain Open Space/ Horsetooth Rock

Where it is: This 2,886 acre park is located on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir, 4 miles west of Fort Collins and 12 miles northwest of Loveland.
Trail Use: Hiking, biking, horseback riding. Hike to Horsetooth is foot traffic only
Cost: Need to pay the $6.00 per car day pass for all individual walk in, bike, or drive-ins. Self –service station takes Visa, MC credit and debit cards. Larimer County yearly passes also available for $65 for residents and $85 for non-residents
Pets Allowed? Yes- Must be on leash at all times
Elevation: 5,815′ – 7,256′ (7,256′ max elevation)
Other Park Uses: Boating, camping, fishing

Although there are many things you can do at this park we’ve only hiked here. We have checked out the campgrounds and they definitely look nice. They have full hook-ups right next to the reservoir and there was plenty of space between each site. We initially came here to check out the campground but we’re not sure if driving the RV up there is something we’re ready for just yet. The name of the park is Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and although there are many trails, we hiked the trail towards Horsetooth Rock which is the park’s tallest feature and can be seen from Fort Collins. Horsetooth Rock - thumbnail 2Native American legend says it is the remains of the heart of an evil giant, slain and cut in two by Chief Maununmoku. European settlers believed the rock looked more like a horse tooth which is how it got its modern name.

At first, we weren’t quite aware of the fees involved to get into the parks in Colorado (which are also added on top of your campsite fees.) We’re just used to driving into a park and wandering around and not needing to have our wallets with us. Not the case here. So, if you’re planning a trip to Colorado make sure to budget that into your travel plans. The parks we’ve been to so far have been beautifully maintained and the fees are relatively cheap. It’s pretty difficult to find a day of entertainment for more than 1 person for 6 bucks these days so I’m not complaining. For frequent visits the yearly pass is definitely the way to go and will get you into all parks in their system, which is this case is Larimer County.

The trail head has the self-pay station which takes credit and debit cards but we were paying cash so we couldn’t figure out how to pay for our pass. The first time we came here, there was a booth with an actual person so we could pay that way but this time, since we couldn’t shove our cash into the self-pay machine, I kind of felt like we “stole” our hike. Maybe I’ll pay double next time? Bathrooms, a picnic shelter, and water fountains (along with a super short one for dogs) are available there as well. Once piece of advice: Bring water! We weren’t really planning on hiking this so we weren’t prepared. It gets pretty dry up there, and obviously water for energy and hydration is always important.

The hike up was a little tough for us due to the constant incline, but our biking legs are kind of new to hiking. Plus we had only been here a couple days so the elevation change probably came into play as well. For someone that hikes regularly, we figured it would probably be considerate moderate in the difficulty range. The surface of the trails are pretty easy to walk on which is basically smoothed over rocks. You still have to watch your step, but it’s not like walking on loose gravel. The first part of the hike is through what seemed more like a prairie and then as we got higher up we were hiking through more timber and rock. When we first started we ended up walking by what we assumed were Texas Longhorn Steer (we don’t really know our cattle) and these things are HUGE. I don’t know how they lug around those horns on their head all day long! There are places to stop and rest along the way with park benches, stations go get free dog waste bags, and garbage cans. The trail system is marked very well also so we always knew where we were and how to get back. There are lots of places to stop along the way and enjoy the views of the foothills or reservoir below.

When we got to the area just below Horsetooth Rock, which is where it changes to foot traffic only, we decided to start our climb down since we are not climbers…at all. Sam and Reid came to hike to that rock so they kept on. From what we were told, there was a bit of a climb to get to the top but the views are breathtaking! Our descent down went much quicker than the climb obviously, but we were happy to get to the trail head to get a drink of water and wait for our son. Overall, we think this a great place to hike. The park is well taken care of and the facilities they offer are clean. Definitely worth the 6 bucks for a little exercise, beautiful views, and just a generally peaceful experience.
Photo Oct 28, 4 12 46 PMPhoto Oct 28, 4 10 14 PMPhoto Oct 28, 4 26 08 PM