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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thunder on Cocoa Beach 2015: Space Coast Grand Prix

So this was a much unexpected weekend.  We had originally planned on going to Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL, but had to change our plans last minute.  Not that it was a difficult decision to make;  Thunder on Cocoa Beach is always a great time (this was our third year participating as sponsors).  100+ mph speedboats running offshore on Cocoa Beach draws a huge crowd and is a great addition to the many events on the Space Coast.  Sponsors included:  Ocean Potion, Geico, Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill, Cocoa Beach Pier, Juice N Java Cafe9 Mile Media, Port Scooters, Carl's Van Rentals, Florida Biplanes and Helicopters, as well as many other Brevard County and national organizations.

Miss Geico
The festivities kicked off at the Cocoa Beach Hilton's new Tiki Bar.  Racers had just started coming in - and of course, the Miss Geico boat was parked right out front in all her glory!  What a beautiful safety yellow color!  We had the opportunity to meet the "Who's Who" of Superboat International racing.  While face-melting speeds in a boat might not be everyone's forté, it is a pretty neat thing to be able to experience.  While many people think that it's just a "bunch of super-rich people comparing egos on the water", most of the racers contribute a large amount of their winnings to various charitable organizations, so it while that statement isn't completely wrong, it's nice to see that these guys like to give back, too, especially considering the bad rap!

Thursday's party was at Juice N Java Cafe in downtown Cocoa Beach. Proprietors hosted the event and provided food and beverage for all of the VIP and Sponsor guests. Most of the boats in the Manufacturer P4 category (smaller boats) and promotional vehicles were packed in to Juice N Java's parking lot and into the adjacent overflow lot.

JJ Turk and his "No Vacancy" speed boat
Friday night brought much of the same festivities except with an escorted ride to the downtown street party from the port.  And of course, we just had to ride the scooters in the parade!  The convoy of boats, sponsors' vehicles, and people just out to show off their wares, creeped the few miles from Port Canaveral to downtown Cocoa Beach passing thousands of local supporters, tourists, and Superboat racing fans.  The Friday night street party carried on until about 10pm.  Post-Juice N Java, we joined some friends for drinks at one of our favorite spots in the Cocoa Beach area, Preacher Bar.  Don't let the name fool you,  this place has the best beer selection in town - with great food to boot.  Owned by the same as Kelsey's Pizza, also with great food, but more Italian-style (did the name give it away?!). Preacher Bar boasts one of the best menus for what we call southern-soul modern comfort food. Check out the menu and tell us what you think.  If you make plans to be anywhere near Cape Canaveral, it's truly worth the stop, not just for the beer selection and food - the staff have very unique uniforms.  You'll have to visit to find out!

Saturday was spent in the dry pits mingling with the drivers and crew and checking out the bigger boats.  Miss Geico, CMS Marine, and many of the larger boats stole the show with their full rigs complete with kitchens (and one had a theater in the trailer!) and full of all of the creature comforts of home - these guys truly "rough" it!  The other cool thing that we got to experience on Saturday was the "splashing" of the boats into the water for their time trials.  Since these boats are both not on normal trailers, and are very specialized, they require a certain finesse to get them into the water without damage.  Finesse for these guys comes in the form of a huge crane!  Lifting the boats off the trailers and setting them in the water is a little nerve-wracking just to watch from the perspective of a spectator - can't imagine having to watch that every time my multi-million dollar boat got put in the water.

Saturday night was the party in the dry pits.  Live music, great food variety, and plenty of beautiful people walking about and imbibing.  Imbibition was definitely the correct word for Saturday night!  Between Fishlips, Grills, Rusty's and Milliken's Reef, there were no shortages of "watering holes" to keep the drinks flowing for the duration of the night, despite the fact that we didn't make it much past 10pm.  For the amount of time that we spent preparing for the events, participating in the events, then helping out with the after-event cleanup, etc, we were already pretty spent.  Sunday, the big race day, was waiting for us, so we turned in and got our full eight hours!

Jeanine is looking all cute and ready to take to the skies!
The first race was scheduled to run at noon Sunday.  After a little bit of a late start for the race, things got moving pretty quickly.  Jeanine and I had VIP tickets, so we planned on hanging out at the VIP tents at Lori Wilson Park and watching from the beach.  Little did we know, there was a surprise in store for us!  At about 12:45 (30 minutes prior to the start of the second race), I received a phone call from a close friend asking if we wanted to watch the race from a little different vantage point. Without disclosing all the details, we went as instructed to the Victory Casino parking lot in Port Canaveral.  We were met by a helicopter pilot and a gentleman that was in charge of watching for manatees and sea turtles.  They just happened to have two extra seats in their chopper with our names on them!  Not only was this only our second boat race experience, but this would be our first experience watching the races from the sky!  Enjoy the photos that we were able to capture on our ride by scrolling below.  A special thanks to Florida Biplanes and Helicopters for taking us on the ride as well as another special thanks to 9 Mile Media for allowing us to take their seats for the second race - it was truly an amazing experience!!!

Cocoa Beach just north of Alan Shepard Park

World's Largest 4x4

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jeanine's Stem Cell Therapy

Since the beginning of December 2014, I have been undergoing treatment at The Osteopathic Center in Miami, Florida with Dr Sean Goddard.  While I wouldn't say that I've been healed, in the past six months my use of pain medication has dropped significantly.  Before my first stem cell procedure, I was in the process of being scheduled for more epidural steroid (pain blocker) injections. While the epidural had worked for me before (last injection was June 2014), the effects only allowed for a few months of physical therapy and as close to a "normal" life as I had been in over a year. Once they started wearing off, it was back to waiting for appointments, insurance approvals and taking up to 8 painkillers per day.  Needless to say, I was not looking forward to it.  I had built up such a tolerance to the painkillers (and disliked taking them) and they were only causing damage. The potential for addiction and the "fuzzy head" feeling was something that I couldn't continue to deal with.  The opiates were really only just a band-aid to the real problem - a temporary respite from the constant pain.  There had to be another type of more natural treatment.

Dr. Sean Goddard
Eric and I attended a wedding in Orlando in November 2014.  Two of our very close friends were finally tying the knot!  After the ceremony, I sat with another friend of mine that I hadn't had the chance to catch up with for a long time.  After telling me about everything that was going on in her family's world, she asked me how everything was going on with us.  I don't usually like to talk about when I'm in pain, but since she was a mom twice over (and an all-around great sensor of "energy"), she sensed that something was bothering me.  After my explanation of what was going on, she told me about a friend of hers that had been doing wonderful things for people that suffered from the similar problems to mine.  

Getting my "Myers Cocktail" vitamin therapy
Since my diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disease with bulging discs and a torn annulus, I have been doing a lot of research into what it is and what the options are.  Degenerative Disc Disease is one of the most common causes of lower back pain and weakness.  While disc degeneration is a normal part of aging, in many people it is not something that affects their lives.  It is also something that is not normally diagnosed at my age (36 at diagnosis, 32 when I started my treatments for chronic pain).  In most people, the pain subsides relatively quickly, usually within 3 months.  Since the start of the chronic pain, I have tried chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, active isolated stretching, medical massages, neurosomatic therapy, and steroid epidurals.  I am currently undergoing stem cell therapy along with prp injections, pemf, and vitamin therapy.

Degenerative disc disease pain is generally associated to be caused by inflammation and abnormal micromotion instability.  The use of stem cells in many ways is a growing field in the United States. Stem cells have been used for many years in other counties with great success.  It is still in clinical trials but there are providers like The Osteopathic Center in Miami that have used them with success for many different reasons - they are able to harvest a person's own stem cells and administer them back into the affected area.

Stem cell therapy is also known as a "regenerative" therapy because it is using your own body's most basic material to repair or replace damaged material.  There are a few different types of stem cells, adipose cells (collected from your fat), amniotic stem cells, and bone marrow cells.  At this time, I have undergone two bone marrow stem cell procedures.  (If you are considering a procedure like this, you will definitely need someone to drive you and also plan for someone to care for you for a few days afterward)  I was awake during the process (a local anesthetic was used) and it can be very painful.  So if you have pain medication, I definitely recommend taking one and learning to meditate beforehand.  Meditation has gotten me though many procedures!

PRP or Platelet Rich Plasma injections are used to speed the healing of damaged cells and tissues. Many professional athletes such as Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, and Kobe Bryant have used this therapy when healing from injuries.  Blood is drawn and then put in a centrifuge to separate it.  The platelet rich plasma is removed and injected back into your body in the needed area - all in one
appointment.  Like the stem cell procedure, the PRP injections can also be painful so you will need to have someone to drive you and most likely will need a few days to recover.

PEMF or Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field can naturally influence electrical changes on a cellular level within the body.  It is FDA approved and helps to regenerate damaged and diseased tissue, repairs torn tendons and speeds healing of  bone material.  It improves circulation by opening and dilating the arteries and capillaries as well as increasing the cellular level of oxygen absorption by up to 200%. While I can't say that it does or does not help my back, I also suffer from plantar fasciitis and I use this therapy for my foot and have had much fewer instances of pain in my foot.

As of May 2015, I have been doing approximately six months of these therapies that I started the end of last year.  While my pain has not completely gone away, my dependence on opiate-based painkillers has decreased dramatically.  While I do still have bad days and sometimes weeks, the number of them has also gone down.  It took a very long time for my symptoms to progress to the point where they got unbearable.  The stem cell and PRP therapies can take a minimum of a few months to up to a year or more to have their full effects realized.  While I see improvement, I still have enough issues that it affects my everyday life.  I plan to continue the treatments at the Osteopathic Center, but am also seeking out other options.  I will do a follow-up in a few months on those as well as where I'm at in the healing and recovery process. Wish me luck!

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to: Rent your home

Have you thought about how you're going to afford to live on the road?  There are many factors that must be taken into account if you wish to be a non-retired full-time RVer (or retired).  If the resources are not available to you through employment, savings. or other means, you may have to seek out other sources of income in order to help pay for your everyday needs.  One way that this can be accomplished is by renting your home, if you own one.  Whether it's short term rentals so that you can get away for weeks at a time, or longer term so that you can travel unrestrained for longer periods - months or even years.

Renting your home is a decision that should not
be taken lightly. It's not just your house, it's your home.  All of your valuables, memories, and personal touches lie within the walls of your home.  If you are already at the point where you are trying to decide whether or not it's the right thing for you (renting your home), the assumption is that you aren't willing (or don't want) to sell your home, but also that you don't earn enough income to live on the road and pay for your home at the same time.  Most people are not in the position to pay for their home, work from the road, and live on the road all at the same time.  If you are one of those lucky people, we envy you!  We, however, fall into the latter category along with the majority.  We do not earn enough money from our primary employment to be able to pay for our RV, our home and its expenses, and traveling via RV and its expenses - so we had to think a little outside the box.

Our first thought was to simply sell our home.  Fortunately, we are in a great equity position and the market has been a seller's market for the past year or so and continues to grow strong.  While this was the fastest and easiest solution, it wasn't what we wanted to do - we still love our house and didn't want to give it up.  It's a great home in a great location - and plenty of people want to live (or vacation) where it is.  It was really the perfect storm for renting though we didn't know that at all when we looked at its purchase.  But with renting comes risk and we were concerned about the protection of our assets.  What if someone broke something? What if someone stole something? These were valid questions, and still are even after having done many rentals.  Any new undertaking usually involves some sort of risk, but providing you do your research and due diligence, the risk becomes more a calculated risk.  The more information that you can arm yourself with, the better the odds are that you will not have any major issues.

"I can't believe you're renting your house!" It's an exclamation we hear time and time again.  We agree that it's not a normal thing to do - renting your primary residence.  This is especially odd when you are still living in the home part-time.  "Why would you want to rent your house to strangers?!" you ask.  We say "Why not?!"  All of your personal items and valuables can either be stored on offsite storage, or to a room/closet, etc, that you designate.  As far as the cleanliness, etc, of other people,  I bet if I were to ask someone if they would ever sleep on a mattress that was used,  the most heard answer I would get is "No way!"  Ever stayed in a hotel?  I'm pretty sure they don't sterilize the mattresses after every guest stay.  Granted, they do wash the sheets, pillowcases, etc, but not the pillows or mattresses.  Before you discount the idea of renting your home completely, think about more than just "having someone else in my home".

Ask yourself why you can't (or won't) and what your reasons are.  Do you not feel comfortable having "strangers" in your home? This is not unusual. The question that you should ask is "Is it more important for me/us to realize our dreams, or to rent our home?"   Often, we hear that "I don't want someone sleeping in my bed" or "sitting on my couch".  Again, any time you stay in a hotel room, fly in a plane, or sit down in a restaurant, someone was there before you.  Many steps can be taken (we will go through many of them) to lessen the probability of bad things happening with renters.

Zoning restrictions
Don't get tied up in zoning/property issues!
Just about anyone can rent their home (if you can't, there's something really wrong with the municipality where you live!).  The question is: how long can you rent and how often will you be able to rent it?
  1. Daily
  2. Weekly
  3. Monthly
  4. Annual or long term
Unfortunately, in many cases, it won't be your choice to make the determination of how long you can rent your home.   Factors beyond your control (unless you considered renting when you purchased your home and already know that you are in an area that is zoned for any length rental) will more than likely determine your ability to rent.   cities have zoning (especially for single family residential home areas) which prohibits short-term or "transient" housing.  You will usually find this in towns that have tourism, but also maintain a local, family-focused vacation area.  The reason for this is due to the fact, like many other businesses, that homeowners are not responsible with whom they allow to rent their home.  If you do decide to rent your home, please ensure that you are not doing it just for the money as this will lead you to nowhere good.  Your house, its location/neighborhood, your possessions within it (furniture, etc), and your neighbors/friends, should be held to the utmost importance.  Without all of these things working together, you would not be able to rent your home anyway!

Market Research -  Is your home in an area that people want to live or visit often?  Are you in a tourist destination?  If so, you can pretty much guarantee that there are people that would want to rent it.  If you're not, this doesn't mean that you can't or won't be able to rent, it just means that you may not be able to rent it out for the length/s that you desire or make as much as you'd like, but at the end of the day, if you can get it to pay for itself, you're not only eliminating an expense, you're getting someone else to contribute to paying the equity in your home.  This is advantageous for many reasons!   But, just because your home is in an area that people go, it doesn't necessarily meant that you'll be able to list it and all the sudden you get it rented.

A few things to consider first:
  1. Use, or to start your marketing efforts if you are gearing more towards vacation rentals.  If you are looking for more long term, we suggest listing with a property manager or agent that can assist you.  Since we focus more on vacation rentals,  personally, we prefer VRBO and Homeaway because they offer a yearly membership program wherein a flat rate is paid (with advertising included) that precludes you from having to pay a commission with each booking.  This is especially helpful if your home is able to fetch higher pricing by having a vacation rental rather than long term rental.
  2. How often (and how much) can you get for your home?  How many months out of the year would you need to rent it to break even?  Do you need to rent for a certain number of days, weeks or months in order to do the things you want?  These things are all important factors in deciding if, and for how much, you can rent your home.Are other homes in your area renting?   
  3. How many bookings do they have?  How long are the rentals?  How far in advance are people booking.  Look at their past reviews.  Do they show multiple reviews for past months?  This is a good indication that their property rents well.  Our rental home in Florida - people reserve a year or more in advance, especially during spring break and holidays.  Would someone want to rent your home?  Make a list of things that you like to do when you vacation.  Is your home conducive to these things?
  4. This is a hard question for a lot of people to answer. Of course, your home is probably what you like and what you want.  Question is, do other people?  This is determined a lot by location, but it also has to do with whether or not your home is in rent-able condition, is appealing to renters, and has the amenities that renters seek out when looking for a home - especially in a vacation property. 
Insurance - Depending on the type of rentals that you plan to do (daily, weekly, monthly, annual), you will need to ensure that you contact your homeowners insurance and inform them of your intention to rent your property. Depending on the rental length, area, age and condition of home, insurance rates may increase by a small or substantial amount.  In addition, depending on the age of your home, the insurance company may ask that improvements to electrical, plumbing, structural, etc, be completed prior to writing a policy for rental use.  In addition, you'll want to ensure that you have adequate liability coverage in the event of a "slip and fall" type accident.  This is generally covered by your homeowners rental policy, but you will want to make sure that you both understand the policy and what it covers as well as having an updated copy of the policy on hand.

Tax exemptions - If your home resides in a state that offers tax breaks or incentives such as "homesteading" as Florida offers, you will want to ensure that there are no issues or tax implications to renting your home that may cause you legal troubles.  You may have to give up certain discounts in order to comply with city, county, or state laws.  don't cut corners.  It will end up costing way more in the long term by trying to "skate around" the laws to save a few dollars than by getting in compliance (and remaining in compliance) with all tax law.
The biggest thing here is

Pictures and Descriptions - Think about when you are planning to take a vacation. The most successful way to get your home rented is to have the ability to make a person "feel" as if they are able to experience your home rather than just look at pictures. Pictures are a great way to show the features of your home, but no matter how good the pictures,  they are only as good as their respective descriptions. We've seen so many listings that simply have pics without descriptions. Not only do the descriptions help with SEO, it allows for looking at the pictures and knowing exactly what is being photographed.  For instance, we had a picture of a dolphin swimming in the canal behind our house. We didn't have a caption saying what it was or pointing out that it was a dolphin's fin in the water. Those looking at our ad just assumed it was a picture showing off the new dock!  A picture is only worth a thousand words if the person looking it at knows what you're trying to say.  Captions work.

Video - For a fully-immersed experience, a well-filmed and edited video is tough to beat.  To be able to do a virtual tour of your home, you can give potential renters a true feeling of what it's like to be in your home!  One of the pieces of feedback that we often receive from renters is the fact that we have so much nature and wildlife right outside of our back door (our house is near a wildlife sanctuary). Because we are so used to seeing all of these things on a daily basis, we have a tendency to take them for granted.  By doing this, we are potentially losing out on great renters!  Our third renter was a botanist from a well-known school in Maryland.  He pointed out that we have some of the most diverse ecosystems in the area which is a great habitat for hundreds of types of fish, marine mammals (dolphins and manatees), birds, and many, many other species of wildlife.  Since we've started adding video of these unique

Setting rates -  This part is always going to be tricky and there isn't a formula or any right or wrong way to do it - it's going to be a matter of trial and error.  The easiest way to compare rates is by looking at what other people in the same area are advertising their homes' rental prices.  Other factors will also affect this such as location, season, number of other rental homes in the area, and proximity to attractions.  Another way to figure out your rates is by using  Zillow allows you to look at your home by inputting your street address.  From there, you will gain great information about your home and your area.  Zillow also gives you a monthly rental estimate based on your home's area, square footage, and several other factors.   This will give you a rough idea of what you could rent your home for on a monthly basis.  Typically, in a good vacation rental area, this number is a good indicator of a good weekly amount during peak seasons.  If you are not in a vacation area, chances are that you will be renting on monthly terms, so this will be most the most helpful tool in that case.

Marketing and Advertising - There are as many different ways to market and advertise your home for rental as there are if you were going to sell it.,,, and just to name a few, are all great listing areas for rentals of 6 months or longer.  Anything shorter than that, we recommend using the services in the Market Research section of this post.  Each of these sites has a different type of advertising available for adding more exposure to your ad.  Following the guidelines set forth in the Pictures and Video section, make every effort to try to fully immerse your potential renter in your home.  What is it that makes your home special?  Show your guests that through pictures, descriptions and video, and you will have a successful listing!

Answering Inquiries - Speed is the name of the game here.   Even if you only answer back an inquiry (assuming it is done via email) that you've received it, you are already setting the bar for how you interact with your potential renters by quickly responding.  Renters are looking for responsive and helpful "landlords" - especially with vacation rentals so be prepared to be an expert in your area. Try to gain as much knowledge about your area as you can.  The more information that you can provide, the less legwork they have to do on their own.  Most people will appreciate this (and your level of dedication to them) and it will help to build rapport with your guest. Depending on the length of rental, you can tell your inquirer about local restaurants, shopping, attractions, places of worship, hidden places that only locals know about.  These types of things will set you apart from other homes.

Qualifying your renters
From the first contact with a group interested in renting your home, you will want to gain as much information about them as you can.  Ask if they mind if you do a background check and/or a credit check.  If they have an issue with this, there may be an issue - or there may not. The key is to feel every person out.  Imagine that you are inviting them to stay with you in the home. What would you want to know about them?   Some good questions to ask:
  1. Where are you from?
  2. What brought you to looking at the (where your home is located) area?
  3. Will you be bringing all of your family (this is a leading question - you're already assuming that they are traveling with family.  This gives you an opportunity to learn about the ages, etc, in the party if they are not family)
  4. What is the purpose of your trip? vacation? family getaway? party?
  5. What do you plan to do when you get here (this gives you the opportunity to help with their plans as well as finding out what type of people they are)
  6. Have you ever rented a home before?
  7. How many vehicles will you be bringing? Some neighborhoods have restricted parking
  8. Will you be bringing any pets (pet deposit, etc?)
  9. If you have a pool, you will want to know the ages of all travelers and swimming capabilities
  10. What made you choose my home?
Licensing, taxes, fees - Check with your city, county, and state tax collector to see what taxes you are required to collect.  This usually involves obtaining a business license and a sales and use tax registration (Florida) for short term or long term rental property.  You can usually check with the building department of your city for more information.  In terms of income taxes, you will need to decide whether or not you want to form a separate entity (LLC, S-corp, C-corp) to operate your rental business.  There are numerous tax advantages to doing so - check with your tax professional for specifics relating to your home and income for the most accurate information.  By setting up a separate company, you can then move your home into that company's ownership.  This will help to shield you from legal issues should any arise.

Legal -  Consultation with an attorney that is knowledgeable in real estate and the the rental market is highly recommended.  When you are writing a lease or rental agreement, the peace of mind that comes with a legal professional looking it over is invaluable.  Lawyers, thought usually pricey, can also help you with a lot of the setup of LLC, etc, if you don't feel comfortable doing these types of things on your own.

Banking - Setting up banking can be done a few different ways.  To start (and until you decide whether or not to set up your rental business as its own entity) keeping everything in your name is fine.  However, we do recommend setting up separate banking for your "Home" account.  All income and associated expenditures to your business should be from this account.  By doing this, you will save you and your tax professional a lot of time, and you a lot of money.  Most questions regarding banking and how to handle your monies are best answered by a banking professional, which we are not!

Protecting your valuables - If you have something that can't be replaced or that you can't live without, don't leave it in your home.  It's that simple.  If there is something that is irreplaceable that can't be taken from the home, etc, take a deposit commensurate with its value.  In addition, alert your renters to the fact that this item and its significance.  This will help to enforce the deposit (and subsequent loss of deposit) should something happen to this item.  The degree to which you want to protect your valuables can be as simple as putting a lock or deadbolt on a closet door or as elaborate as constructing a room to house your valuables while you're away.  In either case, protect yourself by adding a clause to your rental agreement stating "any tampering or evidence of tampering of locked personal spaces will result in full forfeiture of security deposit - no exceptions".  We personally have a $1000 security deposit will all of our rentals.  In addition, we require a $5000 insurance policy be purchased by all renters in order to cover any items on property that may get damaged, lost, or stolen. You may also consider an off-site storage unit.  Usually, you can find these as climate controlled 24 hour units giving you the convenience of getting to your possessions anytime day or night and the security of knowing they are in a climate-controlled setting.

One more thing:  This post is, by no means, a comprehensive guide on the rental of your home. Each section is just an overview of what you should encounter on your way to building your rental business.  If you would like more information, guidance, or assistance (or just a plain old opinion with some feedback), we offer telephone and/or video conferencing services.  Drop us a line and we can go over costs, etc.  And, as always please leave us a comment if you have experience in any of the areas we covered.

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Be a good RV neighbor!

One of the best parts of RV living is all the different types of people you meet.  Some of them will be like a best friend you connect with the first time, and others may dislike you upon first sight.  Most fall somewhere between these two extremes.  Most of the people that we've met in our (limited) RV travels, have been very warm and inviting.  As a whole, so far, RVers are a great community and most seem genuinely friendly.

During non-holiday weeks, while most children are still in school, many RV parks don't have many people in them.  They are quiet and peaceful and these are the best days.  Of the people who are there, there aren't many thirty-somethings.  Being one of the "non-retirement full-time working age" can come with some pitfalls.  Others can assume you are unemployed or invading "their territory", or in our case - don't like dogs (especially big ones).  Some are just loners who have a general dislike of all people for whatever reason.  Then there are many retirees who have spent years working and saving for retirement and getting to do what we're doing now.   So they feel we haven't "earned" the right to be here.  Of course, this is a silly attitude to have, and we just try to laugh it off.  But when you are simply trying to enjoy the area just like they are, it can be frustrating, too.

Neighbors can sometimes change daily, which, when they are ones you don't get along with, can be a blessing.  There's is a saying something like "If you don't like the neighbors, just wait a few days!". Then there are those you wish would extend their stay just so you can spend more time with them. We strive to be those neighbors.  We both believe in the golden rule -  treat others as you want them to treat you.

We aren't perfect, and we will always make mistakes.  Especially because we are still beginners! On one of our first outings, we unintentionally parked on our neighbor's site (the lines weren't really that obvious) and instead of coming and saying something to us, she went to the front office and so we got a notice on our door.  This was after we had already moved the truck and a few days of her making rude comments and dirty faces at us. After the notice, we went and talked to her and apologized.  We told her that we hadn't realized it was on her site (and had she mentioned it to us, we would have gladly moved).  After a long conversation we found out that just before we arrived, she had been surrounded for a week by several families camping together with children who ran amok through her site.   They parked their vehicles in her site forcing her to park in overflow parking, which was all the way at the front of the park!   So, of course we pulled in and committed the same parking mistake, so she assumed we were going to be the same as the previous group and took her anger out on us.  She ended up being very friendly and we left on great terms.  The point is that all of that could have been avoided if she would have just come over and asked us to move.

Another time we pulled in mid-week and set up later in the day.  It was nearly dark by the time we got there, so we didn't spend much time outside.   The following day was like any others for us - working outside and watching the dogs playing with the occasional barking at people (or other dogs) passing by.  All dogs bark, but of course having Great Danes, ours pretty much bark louder than any others.  So as to not annoy not only ourselves, but also those around us, we have a two bark rule. After they bark twice - no more!  We like that they alert us that someone is coming towards us and want the security that comes with that, but we don't want to have those types of dogs that yap (high-pitched bark continuously).  Could you imagine having a giant yappy dog?  The yappy dogs are usually the smaller dogs that have the requisite "small dog syndrome".  They see bigger dogs and bark like it's their job.  So, on this particular day, Nyx was barking at people walking by.  Our next door neighbors, apparently very upset with this evidenced by the wife yelling shut up a few times from inside their RV.  Instead of coming outside and saying something (we are many times immune to their barking because we are used to it) our new neighbors stomp, (Yes, I could hear them stomping inside their RV), come outside and yell shut up again (and nothing else) and go right back inside.  Now, I'm a pretty tolerant person, but I literally had no time to react.  The first interaction with me is yelling at me or my dogs?  My reaction to that sort of childish behavior?  I let her bark her big head off the next time she saw someone walking by.  So, of course, they started yelling again from inside their RV and starting banging on their windows which of course made her bark even more.  I waved at them to come outside and finally the husband did.  He yelled at me asking if it was "really necessary for the barking".  I replied a sarcastic "yes, just as necessary as it was for you to yell from inside your RV, stomp like children and tell me shut up to my face"  He then changed his tune (still being a complete ass) asked if I would stop them from barking.  I said "yes, I can" and sat back down while he glared at my back.  He eventually went back inside we didn't hear or see them again.

It amazes us that even other dog owners will take one look at us (because we have two giant dogs) and turn away with a disgusted look on their face!  I'll never understand how or why people can be so judgemental - especially about dogs!  We love all dogs, big and small (even the annoying yappy ones!).  And I can pretty much guarantee that our dogs are better-trained than most (they have to be because of their size!).  But they are still dogs and they want to be loyal and protective.  Barking is how they know to alert people that they are ready to protect their owners.

But, I digress... People walking by doesn't happen all that often during the quiet off-weeks (which, in Florida, is in May through September - except holidays) so even with the two bark rule, our dogs don't make much noise. But, if the entire campground full of dogs start barking, mine naturally want to join in - can't blame them for that!  When situations like this happen, we like to use a product called the Pet Corrector. It emits a hissing noise that sounds a lot like tribute to Cesar Millan and his unique "shh" sound.  It doesn't hurt them in any way and is more effective than yelling at them.  Yelling at them to stop barking isn't effective because to them, you are joining in the barking which means more barking!  Barking begets barking!

Here are a few things that we try to practice to be good neighbors:

  • If site lines aren't clear, err on the side of caution and park in an overflow lot if you can't fit your vehicle in front of your RV.  Or, a great way to meet your neighbors is to introduce yourself as a first-time and that you're unfamiliar with the sites.  This lets them know that you are respecting their site and gives them the opportunity to show you where the site lines are.
  • Ensure that your children are respectful of others and their space.  We don't have kids, so we can't give a whole lot more advice than to try to keep your children out of others' sites unless invited and supervised - no one likes to have their site "invaded"!  We have had people that have expected us to "keep an eye" on their children.  No, we don't want to be rude, but they aren't are children and "no thanks" but we probably aren't interested in watching them - sorry!   
  • If you have dogs, please socialize them!  The more interaction your puppies have with other people, the better they are every time they meet someone new!  This is paramount in ensuring that other RVers are not scared of or intimidated by your dogs.
  • Yappy dogs are annoying, too.  If you have a small dog, try to start them young to control their barking to a manageable amount or reasonable level.      
  • It goes without saying, but pick up after your dog!  No one wants to see it, smell it, or especially step in it, so make sure that you always clean up after your pets and properly dispose of the waste.    
  • Keep your music to a volume where only you hear it - others may not like the same kind of music that you play.  Or they may not want to listen to music when you do 
  • If you have a large gathering, invite the neighbors (or at least let them know that if it does get too loud for them to please feel free to come and let you know).  Introducing yourself to your neighbors, especially with a large group, should be on your "must do" list     
  • Respect the campground quiet times.  Loud talking, music, games, etc, should all be ceased during quiet times.  Some of us want to sleep - we still work! :)  
  • Keep your campsite neat (nobody wants to look at your mess)    
  • Dispose of your trash (bears, raccoons, and other animals can ransack your site overnight)    
  • Leave your campsite in the same condition as when you arrived 
  • If you are trailering, don't hook up your truck until you are fully ready to depart.   At many parks, you will block the road from others coming and going    
  • Inspect all of your vehicles to ensure that you are not leaking fluids.     
  • If you see someone having trouble, remember that you weren't always a pro.  See if there is any way you can help    
  • Everybody has bad days.  If your neighbor seems to be in a bad mood, either leave them alone and steer clear, or (if the opportunity presents itself) see if there is something you can help with.  Asking at least shows you're being neighborly  
  • First impressions about someone are not always the best.  Don't let a bad first impression keep you from trying to work with someone - they could turn out to be a lifelong friend!

If you have any good tips or stories that you would like to share, we'd love to have you comment or email us!

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Our first month with the Holiday Rambler 5th wheel: What we've learned

March 12th was a very busy day for us.  We took delivery of our new fiver, a 2006 36ft Holiday Rambler Presidential.  This was a huge change for us! Going from the 23ft Weekend Warrior toy hauler to something nearly twice the length - with slide-outs! The new trailer is just like a mini apartment!  During our search we had a few must haves... A rear living room with room for two recliners, a center kitchen, hookups for a washer/dryer, and a front bedroom.  Lots of slides would be a plus after the several week long trips we took in the toy hauler (read: no slides and two Great Danes).

We must have looked at (what seemed like thousands) both travel trailers and fifth wheels both online and in person.  While we found several we liked that would have been comfortable, but when we chanced upon this rolling mansion, we found the only one that just felt like "home".  It had options that we didn't even know we wanted!  Not only did it meet every one of our must haves, it also had a desk (we both work remotely), but also central vac, separate washer and dryer, four slides, air suspension, and a generator!  It truly was perfect for us and our wants/needs.

The first and most obvious thing that is new to us is towing a fifth wheel trailer!  Neither Eric or I had ever done this.  It's a little intimidating, but we both have been towing trailers for years and of all kinds and lengths.  Our first order of business was choosing the fifth wheel hitch to be installed in the back of the truck.  After much searching, asking around, and brain storming, we went with the Demco Hijacker Auto-Slide.  Since we have a short bed pickup truck, we needed to ensure that we had a sliding hitch.  With a short bed pickup, there is not ample room in the truck bed when making tight turns for the trailer to maneuver without hitting the cab of the truck, so some type 
Our thoughts were that while it's a more expensive option, but the single biggest attraction is the neither of us would ever have to worry about if the trailer was in highway mode or not when we started taking corners. If you don't have an auto-slide option, this means you have to pull over, get out of the truck and change the position of the trailer so you can go around corners without the trailer hitting the truck (aforementioned).  Living in Florida all these years has taught both of us that a rain storm can happen at any time and having to get out to make adjustments is not always desirable. We have now towed the trailer several times and have found that it's not scary at all! Although it is a little freaky watching the   trailer literally slide forward and back as you turn, the peace of mind that it brings is well worth it! The ease of hookup, ability to nearly pivot it in tight quarters, and the feel while driving are all huge pluses versus your standard bumper pull trailer.

Next comes the slides (and my seeming inability to close them properly!).  There is nothing difficult about pressing a button and holding it down until you hear the clicks - for most people...  So far, every time I have been on "slide duty", I have forgotten a step, a very important step.  You absolutely must walk around the outside and clear any potential obstacles before closing the slides!  The first time we closed up the slides, we didn't have the housing for our water filter yet so we had it sitting on the bottom inside rail of one of our sides. Unfortunately,  the water filter got caught under the middle slide, but we was lucky and nothing bad happened.  The area under the slide was open enough that the filter housing got caught, but only pinched the hose - no damage.  The second time it was the same water filter (you would have thought I'd learn after the first time) and this time the slide was knocked off completely off track.  Fortunately, a campground neighbor saw our dilemma (we had no idea what to do) and kindly came over and showed us how to jack it up so we could get it back on.  Lesson learned!!  Of course, I haven't put the slides in or out since, but I have started a RV Departure checklist (we will be adding this and keeping it updated).  Rest assured, you can be sure that walking the perimeter before closing the slides is at the top of that list!

Care for our new home on wheels was also something new for us.  We'd only had the toy hauler for about 6 months and used it for short trips so maintenance wasn't something we worried about because we just took it to the shop and they did it for us.  We didn't use it long term nor were there many things we were unfamiliar with since we had owned boats before and most of the systems are similar if not the same.

The roof of the RV is one of the most important elements of your rig that you will want to keep in tip-top condition.  Most Rvs have rubber roofs that must be checked/resealed every 6-12 months. You can extend the amount of time between resealing/repairing by doing ongoing maintenance on the roof - this includes keeping the roof clear of any debris that may come in contact with it.

This includes tree branches and leaves, especially if those are allowed to stay on the roof.  Not only can they stain the roof, by having debris, any water that is on the roof will have a much more difficult time draining if the path where water normally flows is obstructed by debris. Standing water is surely to cause intrusion if left alone. The easiest way to clear the roof is with a leaf blower. Since being neighborly in a campground includes being quiet (especially in the morning), we opted for a cordless battery-powered leaf blower.  It's very light and easy to carry on to the roof.  Safety first though, make sure that you are very careful getting on the roof and when you finish, doing the same when you get back down.  I use a light rope and a makeshift pulley system on the top of our RV ladder so that I can raise the leaf blower to the top of the RV without having to carry it up and climb one-handed.  Always practice safety when doing any work on the roof of your RV!

Other regular maintenance items include replacing the smoke and CO2 detectors every 5 years.

Normally, this just requires replacement of the battery in the detectors, but, for safety, they should be checked every 30 days or less to ensure that a battery isn't faulty.  It's not worth your home burning down because you failed to keep fresh batteries in your alarms.  If you have a smart phone, make yourself a reminder to check all the units in your RV every 30 days.   In addition, the LPG detector should also be checked routinely and replaced if faulty operation occurs.  You may have to take this to an RV repair facility as we are not familiar with how these are tested.

In addition to the regular safety items that should be checked, preventative maintenance such as changing the oil and cleaning or replacing the air filter on the generator.  As a rule, you should service the generator once a year or every 200-300 hours, whichever comes first.  This is ensure safe and reliable operation of your gen set when shore power is not available.

If your RV has slides, you'll want to make sure that you lubricate the seals by using automotive silicone spry on the gaskets surrounding the slides.  This should be done, at a minimum, two times per year.  This will keep the rubber seals flexible and pliable enough to make a good seal when your slides are both open and closed.  Another good item to have (though most would not consider it maintenance) is the use of slide jacks to help hold the weight of the slide and any additional weight the slide may hold.  These jacks are relatively inexpensive but most likely will pay for themselves by way of not having slide outs break down or jump off-track.

Keeping everything clean, well-lubricated, and properly tested on an ongoing basis should help to ensure a trouble-free time on the road and at your campsite.  These are a lot of the things the gentlemen doing our walk through pre-delivery inspection informed us about.  There were a lot of things that were completely new to us, others that we already had a good working knowledge prior to delivery.  We know this is by no means a comprehensive list, so please, if you have additions or recommendations, we would LOVE for you to leave us comments!

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.