Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Nyx - "The Greek Goddess of the Night" aka "Queen Nyx"

Great Danes are like Lay's Potato Chips - you can't have just one!  We tried, so hard, to stay with one when we had Guinness.  After Pepper, our second rescue Dane passed away July 4th weekend of 2013, it got to the point where he would just lay around and look depressed. He wouldn't get up to greet us when we came home.  He didn't want to eat and rarely wanted to go outside.  We knew something was missing.

When Pepper was around and healthy, Guinness was like a different dog.  He would taunt Pepper and even get up and try to play (in his way) with her.  He also liked to clean her ears and lay with his head across her side.  For the short time we had her, Pepper helped to fill an empty hole in our hearts left by the absence of our first little girl, Atae.  Not just for Guinness, but for us, too.

When Guinness had his gold bead implant procedure done, the doctor told us that we needed to protect Guinness' neck area as much as possible. This meant no rough playing or jarring (no tug-of-war, his favorite game, wrestling, rough housing, or large toys).  We pretty much all but discounted the thought of being able to get a puppy while Guinness was with us.  After Pepper (a senior rescue), we started to seek out another older Dane that may have been returned to a breeder or something similar.  The most important things that we wanted was a calm demeanor  and healthy.  We needed a dog we didn't have to worry about like we did with Guinness.  An emotional break was needed.

Our beautiful Nyx
KRW Danes near Jacksonville, Florida, is a shower/breeder of Great Danes.  Kelly lives, breathes, and loves Great Danes. She has shown numerous championship Danes, and if you know her, you'll quickly learn how dedicated she is to caring for them, even when they aren't directly living with her.  She truly wants the best for all of her dogs.  We contacted KRW to look for a senior Dane that may been have been taken back.  In our first phone conversation, and after speaking with her for a few minutes, she (Kelly) realized that I had contacted her through their website a few days before.  As soon as I mentioned Guinness and the trials we faced with him, she immediately wanted to help.

After discussing things for a while, Kelly suggested that we inquire with Guinness' specialist as to whether a slightly more personality-developed puppy (read: an older, non Alpha-type personality puppy) would be ok for Guinness to be around.  Upon receiving confirmation from our vet that a submissive-mannered puppy would not only be good for Guinness, but may actually help improve his health by being more active.  Since it had been determined that we could have another puppy, it was only a matter of time (and timing) until we found and brought our little girl home.

At three and a half months old, this sensitive, sweet, and completely loveable little girl took ahold of our hearts within minutes of meeting her for the first time.  She wore a beautifully sleek coat of black as shiny as it was soft.  She had affection and love to give for days. She was definitely exactly what we all needed. Guinness instantly bonded with her and she immediately took to the way that Guinness could play.

The first command we taught Nyx was "no feet".  Since Guinness' neck was subject to being affected by rough play,   We taught her that when she was playing with Guinness, she had to keep her paws to herself.  So they would play the "bitey-face" game where the two would pretty much gnaw on each others faces. No paw action to be had!

Those eyes will make you want to do anything for her!

Nyx, even from the very start, was very in tune with Guinness.  We referred to her as Guinness' therapy dog.  She may not have known exactly what was wrong with him, but she knew that he was different and that she had to play differently with him.  She evidenced this by numerous visits to dog parks.  If she was playing with (or around) Guinness, her play was completely tempered down to his level.  However, if she was playing with other dogs, large or small, she would ramp up the intensity level as far as they could handle.   We haven't met too many dogs that can wear her out, although there have been many that have kept up with her! To have other dogs chase her is by far her favorite game.  Since her strides are multiple times the length of most dogs, she makes covering a large distance look effortless.  The other dogs just can't keep up and eventually give up!  
Testing the waters of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park
To this day, Nyx is extremely sensitive to the energies around her.  If Moose isn't behaving and gets yelled at, she becomes very "apologetic" and looks into your eyes begging forgiveness - even when she isn't the one in trouble!  In her quiet way, she will take care of Jeanine and keep her company if she (Jeanine) is hurting.  She wakes us up during the night if she senses something isn't quite right (she used to do this when Guinness needed something).  She will follow us down any path.  A few weeks before we lost Guinness, we started looking for another puppy.  We knew Guinness' time was limited and we were hoping to make one last effort to help him by bringing in more puppy energy. This is how we came to find Moose - another KRW/ARW Great Dane!

After Guinness passed, we had a period of about three weeks where Moose wasn't yet old enough to come home with us, so Nyx was an only child.  While she loved all the attention, she was definitely missing having a "sibling" - someone to play with.  After all, she was still very young and still had loads of energy!  Moose was not just for Nyx though.  Moose was just as much a part of healing and the grieving process as anything.  Moose was/is also a pleasant, albeit annoying (in the cutest way), distraction from grieving over the loss of Guinness. 

Fast forward to today and we have Nyx who is 2 1/2 years old and Moose is 9 months.  Moose has passed her in both size and weight as he is a full two inches taller than she and at least 10-15lbs heavier. While he isn't nearly as agile as Nyx, he can keep up with her. Watching them play is like nothing you've likely seen before.  Like two small horses jumping up and beating the snot out of each other.  Nyx is still pretty strong in comparison to Moose, despite his size.  She's like Muhammad Ali, fast and quick, whereas Moose is like an immature George Foreman, large, but lacks the experience and maturity to beat her.  It works out well from our end - they tire each other out on the regular.  This keeps our sanity, and the RV, intact!

Nyx probably would have been just fine on her own without having Moose as a brother.  The amount of emotional ups and downs with Guinness assumingly had to be just as difficult for Nyx as it was for us.  Maybe even more so because she didn't understand what was going on with him. Even though she knew something wasn't right with "Squishy", she was always there for him when he needed it. She's been the same for us..

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Troubleshoot & Repair RV Water Pump

The freshwater systems in RVs are relatively simple.  A series of inlets, valves, pipes, a pump, and the connections between each of those components - and that's about it.  Usually, it's pretty easy to spot a problem as they usually manifest themselves as leaks.  The problem is when the leak is intermittent, slow, in an area that is not easily viewed, or a combination of any of those.

When we picked up our RV and had everything inspected, our water pump and freshwater delivery system were working just like they should.  The pump was the requisite RV pump But after running all summer and not doing any dry camping, we hadn't tested out the water pump at all.  Since summertime usually included "plugging in" at campgrounds to run the air conditioning, every campground we stayed also included city water hookups, so there was no need for a water pump at that time.  Naturally, we figured that if it worked then, why wouldn't it work now - lesson learned!

RVs are a lot like boats in a lot of ways.  There are a lot of different systems - freshwater, graywater, blackwater, heating, cooling, moisture control (humidify/dehumidify) as well as the electrical and propane and/or diesel/gasoline.  Each of these systems is connected via hoses or wires (electrical system example below).  The problem with this is that because there are so many systems crammed into small (sometimes VERY small) spaces, finding a problem can prove to be very difficult.

I am, by no means, either an expert or even close at rv repair.  What I am pretty good at is troubleshooting - problem solving and "Googling" Logically seeking out the cause of a problem by eliminating variables that have no effect on the problem is the first step.  If you know that the pump is not doing anything at all (no power), you don't need to check the lines first - start with the pump first!  I know it sounds silly and is common sense, but believe me, starting at the beginning is the best place (speaking from experience!)

The issue that we faced with our water pump wasn't a "no power" or lack of operation, it just wasn't building pressure.  The only thing it was doing was moving a few air bubbles in the line back and forth.  This should have been an easy thing to troubleshoot.  The pump lost suction somehow, so there's either an airlock (bubble of air inside of the pump head that causes excessive cavitation to the point where it can't pump water until the air is removed) or there is something else that is not allowing the water pump to draw water from the water storage tank.

RV Electrical Sytem example
The easiest way to troubleshoot is to work backwards from where the problem started.  Since ours was a suction issue, the first place I checked was the connection point between the intake of the pump and the output of the inline water filter.  On my first observation, I thought that the reason for the problem was a missing seal, but upon further investigating, I discovered that the fitting was a compression fitting that required no seal.  No luck there.

 Next, I checked the connection on the other side of the inline filter only to find them tight.  The next step down the line was the check valve (check valves keep liquids flowing in one direction - in this case, the check valve keeps water flowing into the storage tank from the city water hookup if the valve is open - prevents backflow).  The check valve is also connected on both sides by compression fittings.  When I checked the output fitting, it was nice and tight requiring no pushing, etc, to get it to fit the pipe.  However, on the intake side of the check valve, the fitting had worked itself loose enough to allow air to be sucked into the line thereby causing the airlock in the water pump.  Easy fix!
Never in easy spots to work!

What if it wasn't as easy to fix?  Well, I gave the abridged version of how this story actually went.  I thought the water pump head was shot (the head is the part that propels and pressurizes water through the lines) so I went ahead and ordered a new pump to the tune of about $70.  Of course, I replaced the "old" pump and put in the new one only to experience the same problem - the pump wasn't bad!  Had I properly done effective troubleshooting of the problem, I would have found that the pump itself worked just fine.  So what should I have done?

First, identify what the problem is.  Is the pump not turning on?  Is the pump not pumping water?  Is the pump not turning off?  Is the pump moving water but not building pressure or enough pressure?  This is a crucial step in troubleshooting.  Once you identify what it is that is or is not happening, it makes it a lot easier to hone in on what's causing the issue.  So my problem was that I wasn't pumping water at all.

Like anything, there aren't any dumb questions, so I always ask myself those dumb questions.  For this one, "Do you have water in the water tank?" it seems like a no-brainer.  "Of course I have water in the water tank, I'm not an idiot!"  Don't fall into this trap.  Making a mistake doesn't make you an idiot, it makes you human.  Also, are you sure that your water tank gauge is accurate?  Once you've eliminated these as potential causes (kill two birds with one stone by putting some water in the tank - you can always drain it out later if you need), you can focus on what's actually the problem!  So now you know that you've got water (not air) to pump.  As long as you have a self priming pump that's operating correctly, you should be able to pull water from the storage tank with no problem.  If you still can't, you now know the issue lies somewhere in the tank or between the tank and the pump - this is where I found my problem.
Typical RV Water System

So what if your pump isn't turning on at all?  First things first, make sure you have power to the pump!  This is accomplished by turning the pump switch on (check for illuminated light if yours has this option) then checking for 12VDC power with a test light on the wires connecting the pump.  If no power is present, you will need to (again) trace your way back to the power source.  Is an inline fuse blown?  Is the water pump switch bad?  Is there another water pump switch (common to have more than one) that may be bad?  Is there a wire pinched, cut, or grounding out that's causing the problem?  Once you eliminate these as potential causes, you can then go to the pump.  Alternatively, you could run jumper lines from a known power source to the pump to test it before troubleshooting back the entire length of the wire run.

The pump is running, but very little to no pressure is coming out of the lines.  This could be a problem with the pump itself or with the freshwater delivery system.  Again, work from the problem then downstream (if you know it's not a suction issue).  Disconnect the output from the pump and connect a piece of tubing (most pumps come with a fitting to allow this) that will run to a bucket.  If the pump is pumping water from the freshwater tank to the bucket and you can crimp off the tubing and allow the pump to build pressure (it should shut off), then you know the pump is good but something downstream from it is causing the pressure loss.  Take it step by step and look for leaks, etc, the would cause pressure losses in the lines.

While many things in an RV can be repaired by someone handy, some things should be left to the professionals.  If you've gone through the steps of troubleshooting and trying to diagnose the problem but simply can't figure out what's causing it, swallow your pride and take it to a repair facility.  I hate doing it too, but sometimes it's not worth the time wasted to try to figure out how to fix something only to figure out that it's beyond your ability.  Granted, anyone can learn to do anything, but sometimes (especially if you aren't comfortable with something) it's best left to those who are the most experienced.

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!
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Monday, December 14, 2015

Devil's Tower Belle Fourche Campground Review - Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Devil's Tower National Monument
Belle Fourche Campground
Devil's Tower, WY 82714
(307) 467-5283
Rates:  $12/night first-come first-serve

First off:  Thanks, Lauren!  We are SO glad that we decided to stop here.  Not only did we thoroughly enjoy the tower and areas surrounding, the campground was amazing!

As the first national monument in the United States, commissioned by Theodore Roosevelt, this place has an amazing feel to it.  Not only is is spiritually and culturally significant to the Lakota Indian, but it is also the site of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  In addition, Devil's Tower has come of the best crack climbing in North America if you are a rock climber (Eric even got to do some light climbing while we visited!).  And, although we didn't get to see much of the night sky, we were told that some of the best stargazing around can be had here - next trip!

Eric scaling his way up some crack formations
The campground is sparse when it comes to amenities.  All things considered, we would call this a primitive campground although they do have restrooms, so it is a step up from dry camping or boondocking, but not too big of a step!  The location of the campground is unbeatable.  Only a few minutes from the base of the tower, the campground offers easy access to trails for hiking, biking, and access to lower level bouldering rocks (the higher areas offer great crack climbing).

On the lowest part of the tower, the bouldering ranges from easy V0 and V1 problems all the way up to the nearly impossible!  Further up the formation (where the pic above was taken) offers some very good crack climbing opportunities.  Ranging from very easy to very difficult to ridiculous on any scale, climbing this beast would prove a feat - it's on my (Eric) bucket list! At 1267' in height, it's not for the faint-of-heart!
Amazing pic taken by Jeanine along the road outside the tower
The geological history around Devil's Tower is also not completely known, from what we gathered.  Some geologists think that it was formed by igneous lava flowing upward then suddenly cooled. Others feel that the Tower is merely a remnant of a much larger volcanic formation. From what we heard about its history, all geologists agree that the stone that comprises the Tower, phonolite porphyry, is a much harder substance than the surrounding softer clay-like soil that makes up the ground material in the valley around the base of the tower. So all of the material around the Tower eroded away leaving just the harder material behind.  Imagine the thousands of years (and millions of gallons of water) it took to carve out nearly a quarter of a mile thick of earth!  

Not only is Devil's Tower a worthwhile side trip just to see and experience this spectacle of nature, it's also a great place to camp (if you aren't in need of full hookups).  We definitely recommend adding it to your list of must-see national parks/monuments!  If you area traveling west, it's a great stop-off after the Badlands, and/or Yellowstone!

View from the base of the tower

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Full-Time Winter Living in an RV - We've already learned so much!

Winter.  The season that either elicits a variety of responses.  From "I hate the cold!" to "Pray for snow!", anyone you ask is going to have an opinion one way or the other about it.  Most full-time RVers "follow the weather" meaning that they go the way of birds - south for the winter, north for the summer.  In case you haven't figured it out yet, we don't fit the mold of "most" in this respect!  We tend to get "you guys are crazy" more often than not!  After over ten years of marriage, we've grown quite accustomed to hearing this from friends and yes, even family!

When we first got to Montana, we did our post on cold weather prep based on the tons and tons of research over the months leading up to our arrival.  When we did that post, we hadn't actually been down below freezing temps yet, but we felt very prepared for it (and have since found out that we were over prepared - we like that!)  We were still dry camping in Glacier National Park where temperatures had not yet dropped below freezing.  Nonetheless, we were ready for it.  Now we've been consistently below freezing during both the day and into single digit temps during the nighttime.

Park City, Utah, now the largest resort in the United States, is also now
part of the Epic Pass!  7300 acres of terrain with 357  ski runs!
When we were on the search for our 5th wheel, we knew that we wanted to spend time in colder weather for some ski seasons (Jeanine grew up in Colorado and has skied with her father since literally before she could walk!).  I've been snowboarding since high school (with some extended hiatuses since) and absolutely love it!   We both consider ourselves intermediate in our abilities in riding down the mountain.  Unfortunately, before full-timing, our opportunities to hone our skills have kept us to 1-2 weeks per year, or 5-7 actual ski days.  This will be our first season being "ski bums" as we've dreamed of doing since our twenties!  Granted, we still work full time, so it's not like we will be skiing all day every day, but by living in a ski town, the access is so good that we can easily get at least a couple runs in every day (some resorts we plan to visit  have night skiing, too).
Although what we're doing doesn't exactly classify as true ski bums, we think that we are getting the best of both worlds - keeping our employers happy and being able to ski in our off-time.  To add to that, we both got Epic Passes from Vail Resorts which allow us almost unlimited skiing at some of the best resorts in the west (and some others around the world!).  The Epic Pass is an amazing deal. In March of the outgoing ski season, they take a $49 deposit per pass and charge the remaining $500 in September.  If you plan to ski more than 4-5 days in the entire season, the pass pays for itself!  We knew earlier this year that we would be skiing at least that much this winter, so we went ahead and got them.

Building up snow along the bottom
 of our skirt to help seal it
So what is different about living in an RV in freezing temperatures?  Well, stuff can freeze.  Although, so far, we haven't had any problems, we will continue to improve our cold weather living to ensure that we don't in the future, too.  In this post, we will be covering what we have compiled through both research online, from other blogs, and firsthand knowledge through other full timers who had already spent a few (some hard) winters in their rigs.

Our 2006 Holiday Rambler Presidential 36RLQ was constructed with full-time living in mind.  It is rated as a "four season" Rv.  This can be confusing as RVs, even those built as well as ours, are really not truly meant for below freezing full time living (the only exception would be a custom-built rig such as New Horizons.  From what we've been told by numerous (read: more educated in RV construction than either J or me) people that our 5er is "built like a tank".  While that's all well and good, in my experience, tanks aren't insulated very well!  Holiday Rambler, in this rig, uses a 10 layer insulation in the roof and 6 layer insulation in the walls,slides, and floor.   For comparison sake, this particular type of insulation (from what we've found) in the top percentile of RV insulation grades.  This was exactly what we were needing - got lucky on that one!  It is important to note that since approximately 2007, many manufacturers either severely decreased the quality of construction on their units to lower costs due to the Great Recession.   Still others either went completely out of business or were bought out by one of the conglomerates.  Unfortunately, neither of these occurrences help us RVers out, especially full-timers since we need the quality build and construction.  We had planned on upgrading to a newer rig, possibly a toy hauler, but after hearing horror stories about "warranty nightmares", we are probably better off staying with the Presidential!  After all, what good is a warranty if your home is in repair all the time.  If it's something that will keep you from living in it, it means that you're relegated to a hotel or otherwise - warranty doesn't cover hotel stays from any manufacturer we know.  We haven't been able to confirm whether or not the construction quality has returned or not, so until we do, we will be sticking with this one.  The only exception to that rule is New Horizons, which we have yet to hear anything bad on either their rigs or their service. (If you know otherwise, please let us know)  So far, we haven't had anything major, so we're keeping our fingers crossed!

Water -  Water freezes at 32 degrees fahrenheit or 0 degrees celsius.  Usually this isn't an issue since most RVs are winterized for when the mercury takes a plunge.  This is also another reason why so many full time RVers spend time in the warmer climates.  When you don't have to worry about anything freezing up on you, there is less preparation and significantly lower probability of having temperature-related problems.  While that's all fine and good for most, we wanted snow!  That, and the skiing kind of sucks in Florida (unless you're water skiing!).  The lack of mountains doesn't help much either.  So how exactly do you keep your pipes, valves, etc from freezing?  Let's start with the source.
Black heated wire wrapped around
post to keep from freezing
Any RV park that's worth staying (and claims that they are open year round through winter) is going to have a heated water source.  This usually comes in the form of a metal pipe coming up from the ground wrapped in heating cable.  The cable will almost always have a thermostat built in so that it only operates when the temperatures dictate its need.  You should count on having to power this cord, so make sure you have at least one long extension cord capable of handling higher amperage loads (we use the one below).  You will also want to ensure that you have at least a three way splitter as you will also need to plug your heated water cable (and sewer pipe heater cable - we will get to that in a moment).  On the water source, you will want to make sure that the heated cord is touching as much of the metal, including the faucet assembly as possible.  This will eliminate any potential freeze points.  To add to this, we also triple-wrapped the faucet head with foam insulation.  So far, the lowest temperature has been is 4 degrees fahrenheit and we've had no freezing issues in the faucet area.  

Moving up the water feed towards the RV, in the pic is a blue water hose.  This one isn't wrapped for a reason - the heating cable is built in the to the hose itself.  While this isn't the cheapest option, we've found the reviews

The section leading from under the slide to the water inlet
door is the only non-heated part of the water's entry but
we've triple-wrapped it in insulation and have had no freezing
to be more than favorable and the manufacturer, Camco, reports no issues in freezing when used properly.  We ran the water hose underneath our dining room slide (completely insulated on the bottom and partially up the sides), attached it to our filtration system, then fed a non-insulated water hose from the filter to the entry point in the RV.  We triple-wrapped insulation on the 18" section of the hose that was not heated between the skirting and the water entry door.  In addition to that, we covered the door for the water entry point in 1" thick foil lined foam insulation to further insulate the water coming in.  Again, we've had zero issues with this setup thus far.  That being said, when we move to our next winter wonderland,  Breckenridge, Colorado, we plan to add a short section of heated cable for this piece - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Inside the RV, our underbelly is fully insulated and heated assuming that we are using the furnace.  Since we are currently using an oil-filled radiator and a ceramic space heater (that's all we've needed to heat the entire RV so far), this means that our furnace almost never comes on.   So how do we keep the underbelly from freezing if we aren't using the furnace?!  How have our water pipes not frozen?

Skirting and Underbelly - In our post on cold weather prep, we mentioned skirting the RV with insulation in the form of foam boards in order to keep cold winds from significantly lowering the temperatures underneath the RV.  We found that using either type of foam board (foil-lined or non foil-lined) work equally well but we prefer the foil lined because the tape used to secure it sticks better to the foil than bare foam.  It also releases much more cleanly with little to no residue left behind.  As you can see from the pictures, we have also opted to use "painter's tape" specifically designed for exterior use.  We've heard many people say (including one of our current RV neighbors with evidence of it) say that "regular" tape should never be used as it can leave a residue behind or even pull off paint when it's removed.  So far, the exterior painters tape has held up to snow and rain with no signs of peeling off.
To attach the foam board to the RV, we first laid out a framework of 2x2 boards approximately 2-3" out from the perimeter of the RV and attached all of them together with screws.  By angling the foam board inward towards the RV from the ground, it allows for a slight outward angle so that when it is windy, it doesn't push the foam boards in, but rather redirects it up and over the RV.  This is not a complicated system and exists simply as a means to connect the bottom of the foam boards.  It is not entirely necessary, but we thought it was best for our use.  We used the blue painter's tape to cover the RV itself and served as an attachment point for the foil tape to adhere.  This combination of tape has worked great so far and we highly recommend it!
Our 5er with 1" Foil-Lined Foam Insulation

A neighbor's skirting.  While effective at keeping wind out, its insulation properties can't match the foam board
We also added insulation under our
bed slide to further insulate the floor
Foam board is not the only option when it comes to skirting.  If the area/s that you plan to winter get significant amounts of snow, the option of piling snow around the sides of the RV exists (you then would have to dig yourself out).  Then again, you're at the mercy of the weather!  Our neighbor at Whitefish RV Park had custom skirting attached to his fifth wheel.  From a convenience standpoint, there probably isn't a better option out there!  That being said, it has very little in terms of insulation (he is having frozen pipe issues now that the weather is under freezing day and night despite his "blizzard package" and the full time use of his furnace).    We have also heard stories about other winter RV full-timers using bales of hay stacked around the outsides of their rigs.  We DO NOT recommend doing this.  Not only can it attract various forms of wildlife, it is a fire waiting to happen.  We aren't sure there is an insurance company out there that would cover a loss knowing that this type of skirting was used.
As for the underbelly, since ours is already insulated, we just had to worry about keeping it warm enough to keep from freezing - without using the furnace.  The solution came to us in the form of a digital thermostat ceramic heater.  The one we got works perfectly for this purpose as it has a built-in setting just for this purpose.  We keep it in the underbelly along with a remote temperature sensor that came with our color wireless weather station.  The weather station has the ability to set a low temp alarm (we set it at 35 degrees fahrenheit) so that we can see if there is an issue with the heater, etc.  Again, so far this combination has prevented any frozen pipes, etc.  The only other thing that we did to insulate the underbelly (in addition to the skirting), was affix foam board insulation to the insides of any of the door entry points into the underbelly.  This includes our propane tank storage area and our two access points to the underbelly storage.  Again, prevention is the best cure!

Be sure to support the sewer pipe!
Black/Gray Water - Most of the winter RVers we've met go with the permanent sewer hookup - this is what we chose.  There are some out there who choose to use their tanks and dump as needed.  We preferred to have a permanent hookup for sewer.  To accomplish this, we were able to find a permanent sewer hookup made by Valterra.  This lets us leave the gray water valve completely open so that it constantly flows into the campground's waste pipe.  The Valterra attachment goes directly onto the sewer pipe attachment of the RV on one side and has a 3" threaded PVC pipe connection on the opposite side.  After getting the necessary fittings (we needed 2 - 90 degree pieces one being threaded into the campground waste pipe) and the long, straight pipe, we push-fitted everything together and securely taped all fittings.

Insulation and heated cable on the underside of sewer pipe
As far as dumping the black water tank, you will want to keep an eye on your tank levels.  When the tank is getting to the point where you normally dump, you will then open up the black tank emptying valve and clear out the tank.  We DO NOT recommend leaving your black tank valve open as solid materials may sit in the pipe rather than flowing out as they should.  It will also help keep everything moving if you run a hose into the toilet to "flush out" any solids that may be hung up in the tank.  I usually fill up a pot or two with very hot water to rinse the pipes, tank, etc.
We also opted to use heat tape along the bottom of our sewer pipe.  This also helps keep waste from freezing up should any be caught up in the pipe.  We also wrapped the pipe with insulation over top of the heating cable to further keep the heat transferring to the pipe rather than losing it to the cold air!

Small or partially inflated beach balls help to keep the slide
awning covers from sagging under the weight
of the snow
Awnings, slideout covers and snow - Awnings are made to be extended from the RV for shade and to provide cover from the elements.   They are not designed to be open when the temps drop below freezing nor do they have any business being open if it starts to snow.  Ensure that you retract and lock down your awnings prior to the first snow, or from freezing.  Slide out covers serve only to protect slides from the elements and minimally to protect against debris such as leaves and small branches.  As for snow, once it starts to accumulate, it will weigh down the slide out covers and can potentially damage the fabric as well as the springs in the retractor assembly.  Neither one of these is easy or cheap to fix, so again, prevention, prevention, prevention!  We've found that by putting 12" partially inflated beach balls (Pack of 12 on Amazon) between the slide and the slide out cover helps to support the cover and keeps the weight of the snow from pushing down on top of the slide.  Usually two beach balls per slide is sufficient, but you may have to use more depending on the size of the slide.

Wiping down with a paper towel
will often be enough to keep
moisture at bay
Indoors - Cold air outdoors hitting warmer, moist air indoors causes the ability of the air indoors to hold water to decrease dramatically.  Warmer air is capable of holding more moisture than cold air. Our windows do not have a vapor lock between the outside metals and inside metals of the window frames.  This means that we typically have a collection of condensation around the frames (most bottom) of our windows, nearly all the time!  Some of the ways that we combat the excess of moisture are by having a dehumidifier in the RV (we aim to keep our inside humidity below 40%), using window film over the glass parts of the windows (to keep drafts at bay - unless the windows are double pane insulated, you will have drafts!),  using fleece underneath the frames to wick the moisture away rather than running down the walls and soaking the floor, and finally, using a good old-fashioned beach towel to collect moisture.
Using a towel underneath to collect moisture

Using double sided tape to attach
fleece under frame

All of these methods, especially when combined, have helped to significantly decrease the probability of moisture buildup inside of our rig.  Checking behind any objects against walls, i.e. beds, couches, inside closest, etc, for moisture should be done regularly.   It will often show up in places that do not have adequate circulation. We recently found condensation between the head of our bed and the wall. The simple fix was a small fan placed alongside the bed base blowing towards the wall as well as pulling our bed out from the wall a few inches during the day.  In a few hours, the condensation had nearly completely disappeared.  We plan to use some foam board on the outside of the slides on any areas that have condensation issues where it is not feasible to use a fan or simply don't circulate well.  Inside of our closets have also had some issues.  We've found that just by leaving the closet doors open, we've all but eliminated this problem.

Lastly, we haven't seen or heard of a lot of other RVers that use dehumidifiers.  I imagine this is because most live in summer temps and the air conditioner acts as a dehumidifier.  We've been using a GE 50 pint that we picked up at Home Depot since being in colder weather and definitely recommend its use.   True, it does produce and output cooler, drier air which would seem like it's counterproductive when trying to heat your rig.   Most of the other blogs that we've read said to simply crack a window on each end of the RV for airflow and to keep the humidity in the lower 40% range.  This didn't help us.  If we were running the furnace, we would absolutely do this!  The other option, if you prefer not to use a dehumidifier is by using moisture absorbing products such as Damp Rid or a smaller dehumidifier meant for smaller areas.  To protect the interior of the RV, it's of the utmost importance to us to maintain stable humidity to prevent mold, mildew as well as a host of other issues that high humidity can cause.  This is one area that we are very accustomed to having spent so many years living in the sunshiney humidity-drenched Florida!  

Not everyone will want to go RVing in cold wintery weather - we know that...  In fact, a lot of the fellow full-timers we've met go full time specifically to escape the colder weather and its inherent challenges.  If you think you might want to give it a try, we would certainly encourage you - that's part of the adventure!  Don't let the preparation, etc, scare you - it's not that difficult.  While nothing will completely eliminate the effects of cold weather, snow, freezing and everything that comes with it, being proactive and preventing the causes of concern as much as possible will keep you, your rig, and its contents stay warm and dry!  

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jeanine's health: Update

Treamillin' it up in the therapy pool
As all of our regular readers know, I have degenerative disc disease (read my original post here and more about my stem cell therapy here).  I had been living in constant pain for many years and have undergone many different therapies.  In December of 2014 I had my first of two stem cell treatments at the OsteoCenter in Miami, Florida – my second one in April 2015.  In between these I underwent cranio-sacral therapy, PEMF or pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, PRP or platelet rich plasma injections, and a Myers cocktail of vitamins.  Before my first treatment almost a year ago I was on antidepressants and taking up to eight hydrocodone a day and living as a zombie.  I was waiting for my next insurance approval for more steroid and pain blocking injections when I met a friend at a wedding whose college roommate was a non-medical partner in the practice.  I’m not sure I could ever thank not only Tasha, but also Jayne and Dr. Sean enough for how I feel today.  I spent the summer in physical therapy slowly rebuilding muscles that hadn’t been used regularly for years.  I started out still in pain daily, but it was manageable.  Not how most people want to live their life, but at least I wasn’t a zombie anymore!  

With daily stretching and activity, I have been continually surprising myself with just what I can do now!  I spent so much time on the advice of past doctors “resting” and “reclining” so as to not aggravate anything or cause more pain it was a welcome relief when my physical therapists over the summer told me “if it doesn’t make it hurt worse, keep doing it”.  This new concept has been what I think has helped me to start to repair the relationship with my body the most.  It hasn’t been easy and I’m still working on trusting my body again.  I know it will take time, but I keep telling myself that it took me years to get to the point where I was.  It's often not easy, but I try to stay motivated daily to keep pushing harder!  All my life, I have had an unusually high tolerance for pain.  My mom still tells stories from when I was growing up and situations when she had to insist that doctors look into problems more seriously if I told them something hurt.  I know she worries daily about me pushing myself too hard trying to do too much (as does my husband for that matter) but I keep what I was taught over the summer in mind – if it doesn’t hurt more, keep going.
I spent the summer doing physical therapy in North Carolina and starting to increase the number of steps I took daily from a measly 3,000-4,000 up to the recommended 10,000.  It was mostly just going for walks several times a day increasing the distance and a few hikes as I was starting to feel brave toward the end of July.   Thanks to my Fitbit, I have been able to accurately track all of my activity.  It's made it SO much easier to track and monitor my progress!

In the beginning of August, we were back in Florida and I was up to 3-5 miles a day!  Then came the broken toe (surprisingly my very first broken bone considering how clumsy I can be).  It wasn't bad, but it still took about 5 weeks before it stopped hurting and I could start really walking some miles again. Then there was the Labor Day bike ride.  Both these events conspired against my need for daily movement.  I had not been on a bike for over a year because of my back, so when the invitation came for a beach bike ride I was stoked!  It not go well, unfortunately.  I made the ride but did end up hurting pretty good for a few weeks after which that, plus my toe, made it extremely difficult for me to want to go out for even short walks.   I slacked off which ended up being even worse!  It did not take long before I was back to increasing pain and thoughts of another steroid shot (I did have one in my SI joint in the middle of July for lingering hip pain).  I should have known better!  I should have just kept moving…

We left Florida at the end of September (the official start of our “full time” Rv life!!) and since that week I started to get back to my 10,000 step per day goal most days of the week.  It is now the middle of November and I have increased my daily step goal to 12,000.  There are a few days a week I don’t make that goal, but there are now also days that I exceed that goal and it feels great!  Well, not always “great” but I have started to not always hurt when I do.  In fact, I have had a few pain free days these past few weeks, and that surprises me considering what I have been doing.  I have hiked up to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park, a 5 mile round trip with about 750ft elevation gain – for a total of 19,500 steps or 8½ miles total for the day with very few aches the next days following.  I also hiked up to Apgar Lookout, a fire tower atop a mountain.  Yes… I climbed a mountain!!  

Unbelievable.  It certainly took several days to recover from that 7.2 mile round trip (a total of over 25,000 steps for the day including the mountain) hike with a 1,845ft elevation (vertical) gain but more from my arthritic knees, weak ankles and muscles that had not been so taxed in years.  I still strove to keep moving in the days following – not quite to my daily step goal, but enough to keep the back spasms at bay.  That and the best heating pad in the world (Thanks Mom!).  If you haven’t heard of them, you definitely need to look into an infrared heating pad.  I have one by Thermotex that I got on Amazon.  

I would say that at this point I have found my limit after that hike up Apgar, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try again soon to try to surpass it.  I feel the need to continue to push myself, many times beyond where I probably should.  But what else are limits for if not a measure of what you can do?  Thank you to my parents and family who always taught me to have the courage to never give up! And to my husband, Eric, who believes in me and tells me every day that I’m the strongest woman he knows.  The support of friends and family and believing in myself and what I'm capable of - with those things, I have no doubt that I will not only get myself back to the point I was before all this affected me, but I think I will come out stronger, both physically and mentally!

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Whitefish RV Park Campground Review - Whitefish, MT

Whitefish RV Park
6404 Highway 93 South
Whitefish, MT 59937
(406) 862-7275
Rates:  $450/month + metered electric ($150 deposit) (Subject to change)
            We stayed during the off-season (winter) - rates higher during all other seasons!

Like many campgrounds we stay, for us, it's more about location than amenities or being able to plug in.  The perfect example of that was our stay at Glacier National Park's Apgar campground.  Even though we didn't have water, or electric, sewer (or a dump station), the location was about as good as it could get!  Even with the sparse (primitive) accommodations, it was about as perfect a spot as we could hope given the time of year and location.  We were close to hiking and biking trails, right off Going to the Sun Road, and knee-deep in wildlife!

The downside of Glacier is the 25 miles from Whitefish.  Since our only vehicle to travel is our full size truck, our fuel economy (though good for what it is) had us burning through 1/4 tank of fuel a day going back and forth between the park and town - when we first arrived, we were spending a majority of time in and around Whitefish as we were looking for property.  But, since the weather was still warm enough to both dry camp and still be able to hike in the late afternoon and evenings (once we complete our work day), we knew that we had to seize the opportunity to stay there while we could.

Fast forward to the end of October.  The temps were regularly starting to drop into the low 30s with more regularity.  Heeding the advice of  Gone with the Wynns, we knew that once the temps got below freezing for more than a short time, it wasn't the best of ideas to dry camp.  Granted, we have backups and backups for those backups (thanks to my father-in-law!) in terms of heating.  If our furnace went out, we had space heaters.  If those failed work or the genny failed to operate, we had plenty of propane and a Mr. Heater Big Buddy that produces enough heat to warm up to a 400 sq ft area, just about the exact size of our rig.

Whitefish RV Park is located about one mile from the center of downtown Whitefish.  With a few minutes drive or a 15-20 minute walk, downtown is easily accessible and has plenty to do to keep you occupied!  The campground itself only offers a limited number of long-term (monthly) spaces, so make sure that you don't have an issue with that.  In reference to the above map of the campground, all of the sites from 1-34 (as we understood it) are not plowed during the winter, so these didn't present us with the option.  This was a little disappointing because we were hoping for a spot along the treelines.  That being said, with over 300+ inches of snow, on average, we decided that a spot that was plowed was probably a good choice!

There are showers open year round and offer heated stalls as well as nice hot water!  The bathroom itself is also heated to a comfortable level.  If you've experienced colder weather camping, you know there is no substitute for a long, hot shower (without sacrificing the 6-10 gallons of hot water capacity that most rigs have)!  The laundry facilities are standard with $1-$1.50 per load to wash and about the same to dry.  The washers and dryers are a bit dated, but that's not our of the ordinary for most RV parks.

We normally find that most RV parks have a very small area for pets to play. Whitefish RV Park is no exception.  The pet play area (located on the right side of the map above the maintenance building) is about 10'x20' - not anywhere near large enough for our two miniature horses to run around!   That being said, for normal size dogs, this area is more than sufficient (and well-kept) than most that we've seen.   Next to the doggie play area is a small playground for kids in the case that you have the two-legged as opposed to our four-legged furry types - it looked like a standard playground to us non-child-having folks!

So, to sum up:  Would we recommend Whitefish RV Park to other RV campers?  Absolutely.  Aside from the great location, amenities, and well-kept facility, the park also allows dogs to be off-leash providing the pets are under the owner's control.  For RV parks, this is a few-and-far-between policy.  Most parks require pets to be on a leash at all times regardless of the situation.  Whereas we don't mind having ours on leashes, we do also like to let them roam and play!  If you're planning a stay in Whitefish, don't count out Whitefish RV Park.  There is a KOA down the street a few miles that is a little bit larger and has more amenities, but they have no AT&T service and the price was higher, so we decided to nix that one.  If your travels bring you to Whitefish or the surrounding areas, do yourself a favor and check out Whitefish RV Park.  If you happen to meet the owner, Mike (you will if you plan to stay monthly!), tell him the Libbys sent you and that we said "Hi!".  Safe Travels...

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!