Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Royal Gorge Park Campground Review - Cañon City, Colorado

Royal Gorge Park Campground
3315 Co Rd F30
Cañon City, CO 81212
(719) 269-9028
Website
Fees:  Free up to 72 hours



Wow!  What a great find this spot was!  First off, this isn't a full hookup campground.  In fact, this is a no hookup campground.  Literally not much more than a glorified boondooking spot.  It's a little bit off the beaten path, but totally worth it for the location and the views it presents.  This park does have a 72 hour maximum but due to the off-season time we arrived, we planned on staying at least a week (We got permission for this from the rangers).  We did end up having to cut our stay a few days shorter than we expected (darn wildfires threatening!), we thoroughly enjoyed this spot!

Notes:  Be VERY careful as there is a crest of a hill as you approach the campground that if you have a rig with low ground clearance, you may either drag or seriously damage your equipment!  At the crest of the hill, take a left instead.

Not a bad spot for a few nights!  Quiet and overlooking Cañon City.
There are no hookups at this campground - it's completely dry camping but there are some pit toilets so you don't have to worry about filling your black tank.  With a short stay of the normal 72 hours, you shouldn't have that problem anyway!  There is hiking around the area as well as the Royal Gorge Bridge just down from the campground as well as the Royal Gorge Route train tour (we highly recommend this one!)

The Royal Gorge Bridge has an interesting story.  In the early 20th century, two very rich men (from Texas) one being an architect and the other an oil tycoon, made a bet that a bridge could not be built across the Royal Gorge.  The oil tycoon bet the architect that it couldn't be done.  After a short period of construction with no injuries, the Royal Gorge Bridge was built at a cost of $350,000.  The architect collected his winnings, as the story goes, of $1.  Royal Gorge is also known as the bridge to nowhere as there no destinations that it connects!  This is definitely worth a visit. 

Royal Gorge Bridge from below

The Royal Gorge Route railroad is a few minutes down the road from the campground.  The railroad runs the length of most of the canyon alongside the river offering dramatic views upward, especially under the bridge!  Get the least expensive seats.  Once the train starts moving, people get up and move everywhere.  Plus, there are a number of open viewing cars for taking pics, etc.  

For the location and the price, this campground really can't be beat.  It was so great, in fact, that it made the list of our top three campgrounds so far!  Neither of us were really sure just how many campgrounds we've been to (including boondocking spots), but it's well over 100 now in just over a year and a half.  If you get through this area, or are anywhere nearby, at least check out the Royal Gorge Bridge and/or the Royal Gorge Route.  Either was was completely worth seeing!


Enjoying the scenery!

Bridge on approach

Caretaker's residence

From the viewing car
Kids out for a run

Old wooden waterline alongside the river


Another really cool thing to do (not for the faint-of-heart) is the Skyline Drive.  Located just outside Cañon City, Skyline Drive is a narrow, one way road that snakes its way across the top of the ridge.   Some amazing long scenic views can be had from one many of the stopping points along the 7.6 mile loop.  But beware, they are small - especially if you're drive a one ton dually pickup truck!

Along the way, there a number of pull-offs with lots of history, etc.  Be wary though again, especially if you are driving a large vehicle.  Let's just say that one step too close to the edge might be your last!



Fossilized Dinosaur Footprint

View from the driver's seat - a bit precarious!






Take a ride along the Skyline with 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!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Protecting your dogs while RVing

fWhen you live in a home, condo, or apartment, you have the luxury of knowing the area you live and what dangers your pets can face.  You quickly learn the places to go and the places to avoid.  When you travel a lot or live a life of the road like we do, a bit more research and awareness is a must! While we only have dogs with us, I think this info could be useful for any pets.

Foxtails - According to TheBark.com this nasty plant has been reported in nearly every state west of the Mississippi (especially California).  In late spring and early summer when the plant heads dry, the bristly plant awns are determined to find their way into your pets nose, eyes, ears, mouths - anywhere!  The awns are barbed in such a way they can only move "forward" which means it could end up anywhere inside together with all of their bacteria causing untold damage.


Snakes - In an urban setting snakes are rarely thought of by most pet owners.  For us, being out in nature is what makes us all the happiest.  Having a strong "leave it" (or similar) command is essential not only to keep your pets safe, urban or not, it's a tool that can be used to teach your pets to avoid potentially dangerous (or even fatal) situations.
Carnivores - Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My!!  Maybe not so much the lions and tigers, but we had a run in with a bear one night while tent camping this past summer in New England.  Any animal can tempt your pet into a game of chase and we have even heard of instances of exploring dogs bringing back animals to camp.  The easiest way to prevent this is to keep your pets on tethers or leashes (never the retractable kind!).  We do use tethers when needed, but not all of the time.  This is against our own advice, but we are fortunate to have one extremely well trained dog, Nyx, that knows her "boundaries" invisible or otherwise. Our boy Moose, still being very much a puppy isn't completely trustworthy so he more often than not is tethered.  We do enjoy letting the kids explore and play just as we do, but we only take calculated risks.

When we are at home in the RV, we use folding exercise pens (we currently have five so we can create a large yard) so we can allow the dogs to run around and play without tethers.  We've had no campground issues using them and most people are impressed that the dogs don't just jump or walk over the fences.  This was accomplished also using boundary training and was in fact where we started.  When away from home, they are trained to about 30 yards radius in which they can explore freely.  If they don't keep to this, they have the command of "too far" which isn't a recall, just to let them know they aren't allowed to go any further.  We have a solid "come" as well and use this if they aren't keeping to their boundaries or it's time to go back on leash.  We also use "behind" while hiking so the dogs will stay between us if we are on a trail.  Proper and consistent training will go a long way to ensuring that your pets stay safe.  We've had some people ask why we are sometimes so strict with our dogs.  It's not because we are trying to be mean!  In fact, it's the exact opposite.  We need to know that if a situation occurs where we need our dogs to listen i.e. something dangerous, that they will listen without hesitation.  This is for their own safety (and don't worry, we give them plenty of love!!!) and allows for them to have much more freedom!



Altitude Sickness - According to vetinfo.com, altitude sickness does not affect all animals, but can manifest over 8,000ft (2,400 meters) above sea level.  The symptoms can be but are not limited to: Excessive drooling, vomiting, dry cough, swelling of feet or face, dizziness, or lethargy.  Currently, we are in our second season at over 10,000 ft and neither of our babies have had any issues.  To our credit, we did spend quite a bit of time acclimating at higher elevations before coming to our current elevation.  For instance, before coming to the mountains, we spent nearly two weeks in Denver (5,280') so that we, as well as the dogs, could get used to the altitude.  One very important thing to remember at altitude is that your pets will require more water than usual so make sure that they are always well hydrated.

Fleas & Ticks - Bravecto prevents both, is recommended by the FDA, our primary vet, and all of our breeders.  So naturally, it's what we use.  Each treatment lasts 12 weeks and keeps our kids free from both of these pests no matter where we travel.  It is also much easier and cleaner to administer than Frontline or Advantix since it is administered orally.  We always found the liquid meds to be messy and less than effective.  If you do have the unfortunate circumstance of having a tick on your dog, don't panic.  While it is important to remove a tick quickly, panic will neither help you or your dog.  Ensure that you have rubber gloves, tweezers (or tick removal tool), rubbing alcohol and antiseptic wipes in your pets' first aid kit.  If you don't have a first aid kit, make sure you get one after reading this!  It's imperative for your pets' health and welfare!


Veterinarians - They are available nearly everywhere, but good ones are hard to find and a bit more research is needed.  We belong to several Facebook groups that have members all over North America.  Using reviews and recommendations we can find not only a quality doctor, but one familiar with Great Danes.  We keep all of our kids' records (both paper and electronic copies) from all vets in a file with us so we can easily access any requested info.  Having all the information on hand makes the veterinarian's job much easier and the quality of

Terrain - Cactus, sharp rocks, steep ledges, ice, snow with a crust on it, sand, asphalt - if you wouldn't want to walk bare foot on it, your pet probably doesn't either!  We make it a habit to do a foot check every day to ensure no slivers, cuts, or anything else that can harm them.  In addition, both of our babies each have a set of Muttluks dog boots.


Our dogs are our kids, so their safety is paramount to us.  While traveling does present special circumstances, there is no reason (with the proper preparation and education) that your pets can't be even more healthy and happy than if they stayed in the same place all the time... It's your job as their parents to ensure that your pets are well-trained, well-behaved, and that you are properly prepared in the event some happens that threatens your dog's health.  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!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tahoe Valley RV Resort & Campground Review - South Lake Tahoe, Ca

Tahoe Valley RV Resort & Campground
1175 Melba Drive
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
(530) 541-2222
Website
Rates:  $222 per week electric only



Summertime at Tahoe Valley
After leaving Park City, Utah  this past (2015-2016) ski season, we moved on to the last leg of the "Epic Pass" tour.  We started in Breckenridge, Colorado and skied Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Beaver Creek and Vail - all on the Vail Resorts Epic Pass.  From there, we moved on to Park City, Utah and rode Park City and The Canyons resort.  From there, it was off to Lake Tahoe, California where we were meeting with friends that skied Squaw Valley every other season.  Since Heavenly, Kirkwood and Northstar are all within close proximity to Lake Tahoe and we got to see and ski with friends in Squaw Valley, it was the perfect way to round out our season!

The Office and Camp Store
Enter Tahoe Valley RV Resort & Campground.  Located in South Lake Tahoe close to Heavenly Ski Resort (yes, the Sonny Bono one..) we couldn't ask for a much better place in terms of location.  We were also about 40 mins south of Squaw Valley, so the commute wasn't horrible to visit.  The campground is located right in town but tucked away off the main road, so you don't hear traffic or any other street noise.  We visited the campground in late February 2016 in which time we simultaneously had 60+ degree days followed by insane amounts of snow (over 2 feet during our time there).  Needless to say, it made for an interesting time!


Looking across Lake Tahoe
The fickle weather conditions wouldn't have been an issue at all if there had been concrete slabs on the sites. Since there weren't, between the days of alternating warm and freezing, it made it very difficult to keep the RV properly leveled, etc.   Also, since it was just dirt parking on the sites, every time the snow and ice melted, we were greeted with a nice big puddle of sloppy, muddy mess.   The dogs loved playing in it - Momma and me having to clean them... not so much.  It probably wouldn't have been an issue had there not been such alternating weather temperatures, but that's the way it happened for our stay.


Second, not that there wasn't any kind of warning, but the fact that the water was completely shut off during freezing temps was a little off-putting.  Reason being - it's not nearly as easily to pull up everything, hitch up your rig, and refill water/empty sewer in the winter time.  Not to mention, it's cold!  For $220/week, we would have appreciated the ability to use the water providing we supplied our own heat tape, which we gladly would have.  Unfortunately, that wasn't an option.  We even offered to sign a waiver stating that we would replace the water bib should it freeze due to the fault of our equipment.  Again, completely understandable, but for an RV resort open and located near world class skiing, we would have like to see full services offered.

Lastly, we found it a bit difficult having mail delivered to the office.  We aren't sure if it was the fact that they weren't properly equipped or didn't know how to handle packages, etc, but most other places we've stayed have no issue with long term renters having mail, etc, delivered to the park if they are staying longer lengths of time.  Again, granted, we didn't stay for more than ten days, but we did have to have some things for the RV shipped and it was the best option.






Those are really the worst things.  All in all, the park had a lot of things we really enjoyed and would have liked to stay longer.  Because of the lack of water hookups and no option for sewer either, we opted to leave earlier than we had originally intended.  The park itself is in a great location and, as we found out during our stay, is under new management.  We are hoping that improvements have been and will continue to be made.  We haven't been back since, so we don't much more at this point.
Our crew at Squaw Valley



















We had the opportunity to meet and talk with the new manager prior to our leaving and he seemed like he was very anxious to make improvements to the park as well as their reputation.  After bringing to his attention the items from this post as well as a few other suggestions for revenue-increasing improvements, he assured us that he would be taking our suggestions to the ownership of the property and hopefully getting some changes in motion.  We are eager to revisit again (maybe not during the winter) and see if the other seasons are more in line with what we expected. We suspect they will be much better prepared during the normal peak camping season....


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!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Medical/Dental Tourism: Libbys on the Loose goes International - Jacó, Costa Rica


The great thing about living the nomadic lifestyle is that it's very easy to just.... go - sometimes at a moment's notice.  The ability to be completely spur-of-the-moment has a way of presenting opportunities and sometimes even savings.

For the past few years, regrettably, we admit that we've both needed a good bit of dental work, but just simply didn't take the time (and didn't want to spend the money - no dental insurance) to get the work done.  On top of that, it's insane what dentists in the United States charge for some of their procedures.  I (Eric), according to at least two dentists in the Orlando, Florida area, needed two, possibly three implants, two crowns, and a number of fillings.  All told, anywhere from $6000-$7000 or more.  With Jeanine's medical bills for her back, it simply wasn't in the budget.  In addition to the work that I needed to have done, Jeanine also needed a couple of fillings and at least a crown.  By the time we factored in everything that we would need to get our teeth back to where they should have been, we would have spent well over $8000.  So, like many things, we had to put it off until later.

Since going full-time, we've found that as long as we have a great internet connection and are able to make and receive phone calls, we can be just about anywhere and still able to complete our work and personal responsibilities.  This opened up our ability to spend longer amounts of time internationally providing we had the aforementioned necessities.  We did a lot of research into different areas taking many different factors into account:

  •   Transportation costs - this was broken down to whether we should park the trailer long term and have our dog sitter stay, or travel with the trailer (most likely Mexico) and take the dogs with us.
  •   Cost of accommodations - whether we flew and rented a place or drove and paid camping fees. 
  •   Cost of procedures  -  if we weren't going to save that much money, it didn't make sense to make the trip!
  •   Safety of area - sure, we want to save money, but not at the cost of our safety!
  •   Quality of work/care - we wanted to have our cake and eat it, too.  We wanted dentists that were qualified based on the same standards as US dentists.
  •   Where? - we knew that we were going to need at least 15-20 days (so the dentists had time to fabricate what we needed) wherever we went so we thought it was smart to make it somewhere that we actually wanted to go. 
Taking all of these things into consideration, it really came down to two places - Los Algodones, Mexico or Jacó, Costa Rica.  Our first thought was, since Los Algodones was so close to the border, it would be easy for us to "swing by" on our way back from the western US.  The only problem with that idea was that we wouldn't be able to do that until fall 2017 at the earliest (without being significantly out of the way).  Another thing that we found out was that, despite having the lowest prices, Los Algodones didn't have the best track record in terms of facility quality or the quality of the care received.   This ultimately ended up being the reason for our decision to have our dental work done in Jacó, Costa Rica.


Our house in Cocoa Beach was scheduled to be sold and closed on the 15th of August so I started looking at the fall to see if we could squeeze a trip in after the closing of the house (plus a wedding in Pa) but before we planned on getting back on the road in the middle of September.  This gave about a four week window with which to find something that might work for us.  Fortunately, given our past and current work in the travel industry, I knew that it was prime season for cheap travel!

Some of the best Ceviché we've ever had!
Typically, the way that I search for travel is to get a gauge of what the accommodations are going to cost.  Airfares are usually pretty similar for the low cost carriers, so there isn't going to be much variation in the costs.  Plus, when you're looking at spending at least two weeks, the cost of accommodations plays a much larger factor in the overall costs.  We aren't usually the type to stay in hotels, but occasionally, it is nice to have everything taken care of.  That being said, not in Jacó!  Hotels were outrageously priced.  Not in the way of hotel pricing, but in costs in general.  The least expensive (that wasn't a crappy one!) was nearly $100 a night!  We were planning to stay for two weeks and wanted to spend money on our dental work and experiencing the food, drink and culture of Costa Rica.  

Airbnb has always been hit or miss for us.  For shorter stays in major cities, there's no comparison.  But for longer stays ie two weeks, we usually do much better on VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner).  After looking at many places, we decided on this listing in south Jacó.  Known as a Tico style home, it was perfect for what we needed - inexpensive and close to the beach.  On the downside, no air conditioning.  But it was during the rainy season which usually cooled things off, at least as far as our experience living in Florida taught us.  It was also a very reasonable taxi fare - about $5 roundtrip from Premier Dental Jacó  where we ended up going to get our dental work completed.   At just over $400 for two weeks and only a five minute walk to some of the cleanest waves I've ever had the pleasure of riding, this spot was perfect for what we needed.  




Sunsets like this only a 5 minute walk from our tico!
Next up was the task of finding a flight.  Since we were going to be back in Florida after the wedding in Pa, I knew I could have my pick of just about any major airport as we had friends, family, or an office (the company we work for) near all the largest ones.  I knew I had a two week +/- to work with since the place in Jacó had availability and we planned to leave Florida mid to late September at the latest.  SpiritAirlines always had great flight deals between Orlando and most east coast city short trips, but I never knew that they had flights to Central (and South) America.  We would be flying into San Jose then either renting a vehicle, taking a bus, or finding private transportation to Jacó - about 45 minutes to 1 hour away (we'll get to that in a sec).  Since we would be parking our RV at Manatee Hammock Campground, the first airport my search started with was Orlando International.  While finding flights on par with normal pricing at $350-$400 round trip, it was still more than we wanted to spend.  We were really trying to stay under $750 for flights, accommodations, and transportation.  While this seemed like a daunting task, we had to start somewhere!  We ended up flying out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for $130.  Each.  Roundtrip.  So that's $260 for both of us leaving August 29th and returning on September 12th.  After this score, it looked like it was definitely going to be in budget!  Well - almost.  On the search for transportation, my first thought (given past experience) was to simply rent a vehicle.  This was all well and good and I actually got really excited when I first started to look and saw that vehicles were as low as a few dollars per day!  The insurance was the catch.  From what we gathered, it was about $40 per day... and mandatory.   We were pretty sure that we wouldn't need a vehicle once we got to town.  The beach was close and the downtown area of Jacó was about a 15-20 minute walk from the tico and we didn't plan on travelling to any of the


2016 Spirit Airlines Route Map


surrounding areas.  So, after weighing the options, our Airbnb host offered round trip transportation for $100 including any stops for groceries, etc we wanted along the way.  We also thought that was a great way to gain a lot of insight inside local knowledge as well.  We could have taken the bus, which was significantly cheaper, but it would take 3-4 hours as opposed to just under an hour.  Since Jeanine had another back procedure a few days before departure and was ordered to rest for two weeks (the other reason for the trip), riding on a bus for that duration of time didn't seem to make sense.  So yes, the cost exceeds our original proposed budget, but for the sake of Jeanine's back's health, we opted to spend the extra money.  

So, to do a quick travel budget recap:
Flights for Jeanine and Eric from FLL to SJO   $260
Airbnb stay in south Jacó for 14 days                  420
Transportation to and from SJO                           200
                                                                            $880


Yep, we went over our travel budget.  But, like mentioned, it was a calculated and necessary additional expense.  So now on to the best part, our savings on dental work.  Fast forward to our third day in Jacó:  we just finished our initial consultation the day prior and completed our panoramic x-rays to find out that the amount of work we were quoted in the US was significantly more than we really needed!  The breakdown as follows:

Eric:              
                          US Needed + Cost       Total                         Costa Rica Needed + Cost         Total

Implants            3 at $1800 each            $5400                       0 at $850 each                             $0
Crown               3 at $750 each              $2250                       1 at $400 each                          $400
Fillings              6 at $200 each             $1200                        7 at $50 each                            $350
Cleaning           1 at  $100 each             $100                          1 at $50 each                              $50
X-Ray               1 at $225 each              $225                          1 at $50 each                              $50
                                                               $9175                                                                           $850

Jeanine:
                         US Needed + Cost         Total                        Costa Rica Needed + Cost        Total

Crown               1 at $700 each                $700                       1 at $200 each (Onlay partial)   $200
Fillings              3 at $200 each                $600                       3 at $50 each                             $150
Cleaning           1 at $100 each                  $50                        1 at $50 each                               $50
X-Ray               1 at $150 each                $150                        1 at $50 each                               $50
                                                                 $1500                                                                        $450

We loved Dr. Núñez!
So there it is.  Initially, when we first started looking and doing the research, we never considered that we were advised to get work done that we didn't actually need to have done.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  The largest cost savings didn't come from the difference between the services provided - it came from having work done that needed to be done, not what could have the most profit made.  Maybe that's being a bit cynical, but numbers (and thousands of customers) don't lie.  Factor in the cost of transportation, accommodations, and dental work and it's just under 20% of the total cost of what we were told we needed by dentists in the US.  Oh yeah - we also got to spend two weeks in one of the most beautiful destinations in the world filled with some of the friendliest people, black sand beaches, and glassy walls of waves regularly.  Didn't seem like a bad deal to us either!
So now you know the expenses comparatively speaking.  The only other thing to look at is the cost for goods, services, etc, ie cost of living in Jacó vs the US.  Turns out that most things service oriented are quite a bit cheaper whereas foods, products, tangible items, etc, are on par or slightly more expensive.   There was a bar / restaurant just down the street from our place that we could easily have lunch or dinner with a few beers for about $15 US.
Jeanine's  onlay crown - sadly no diamonds!
Eric's crown

For the day to day living, we would spend slightly more than we do in the US since we didn't have as many things on hand to cook with such as spices.  We did tend to eat out for more meals, but we always tried to seek out the less expensive options. For example, you could get the typical Costa Rican lunch which was a protein, usually chicken, steak, or fish, accompanied with red beans and rice and a side salad for about $5 US.  Trust us when we say that it's filling.  If you walk away hungry, you ordered the wrong thing!  Taxis were very cheap as well.  We found that we could get around for about $2-3 US dollars to most places in town.

Return of the pearly whites!

Don't miss Jacó Fine Meats for all your carnivore needs!
As far as everyday life, most of our days were spent working, reading, surfing the internet/watching Netflix, or just swinging in our hammocks.  Our Airbnb had a small spring-fed pool (we emptied the water every few days and refilled) that was refreshing albeit shallow.  We found that setting up our chairs in the pool was the right combo of refreshing and warm!



Around town, we found many shops and restaurants that we enjoyed.  You'll definitely want to check out Jacó Fine Meats for the best bacon in town.  Bonus: if you ask nicely, he might just season up and marinate a piece of meat for you!  Tell Craig we said hi!  There is a great farmers market every Friday with tons of local fruits and veggies.  You'll also want to check out Hotel Poseidon.  We went there for lunch and drinks.  If they have it, get the Tuna Poké!  It was incredible!  

I was going to take my surfboard, but decided against it after looking at the baggage fees the airline was charging.  Even though they classified it as sporting goods, I would have had to pay $170 roundtrip to take mine.  Before  committing, I spoke to our Airbnb host who directed me to Carton surfboards just around the corner.  I was able to negotiate on a great board (and swap it out to try others) for $150 for the entire two weeks!  This worked out perfectly since I ended up changing boards three times before settling on one for my size and skill level.  I got in some great surfing and definitely recommend Jacó for all surf levels - beginner to advanced.  If you're looking for something a little larger,  just take a short drive (or taxi) south to Hermosa Beach.  Shoulder to head high glassy waves are not uncommon!

That pretty much sums it up.  In total, after all things included.  We spent just under $3000 US for two weeks in Jacó, Costa Rica.  This includes all of our dental work, food, drink, accommodations, entertainment, etc.  We couldn't be happier with our decision!  In the end, we got a two week stay in one of the most beautiful places in the world, all of our dental work completed at a fraction of the cost and no compromise in quality (I would call our dentist more of an artist after having her clean our teeth - no hygienists here - and handcraft our temporary crown in seconds), and is now a place we will plan to return to on an annual basis to have our checkups and cleanings done.  In addition, Eric does plan to have the implants done in the future, so the difference in costs will more than make up for the upcoming years' trips.

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, October 13, 2016

My First Solo Road Trip - by Jeanine

The original plan this past spring was for Eric and I and the kids to depart Cocoa Beach, FL on May 16, 2016. We had spent the previous two months working on our house to sell, entertaining visitors, and selling off more of our belongings.  We had been doing vacation rentals with our house since February 2015 when we went full-time.  We were doing great with the renters until we found a zoning issue that wouldn’t allow us to continue to do weekly rentals, instead only able to offer rentals with a minimum of 30 days.  The number of people that are able to take 30 day vacations is much smaller than those on week long vacations.  This led us to selling our house, which we closed on August 15th.  

While we were in Florida, we decided it was time to have some maintenance done on the fifth wheel.  Our landing gear was weak and sounded like it skipped gears while being raised.  We had a slide off center that needed to be shimmed and our brakes didn’t seem like they were working.  The first repair place that had availability was Camping World of Cocoa, Florida.  Upon their inspection, our landing gear needed some welding, a new transmission, and a new motor.  In addition to this and our slide being adjusted, it turned out that our trailer brakes were nearly non-existent.  

When we bought the rig in 2015 we had a 90 day warranty on everything from RV Direct of Titusville.  We stayed our first month at a campground nearby and for the first few weeks a tech would be sent out at least once a week to repair something.  After that we started moving around a bit and we discovered that our braking was terrible.  We took it back to RV Direct two separate times before our 90 days was up and both times we were assured that the trailer was fine and it must be the truck.  At the time, with the truck we’d had at that time we believed that to be true.  After being in the Charlotte/Asheville area all that summer, on our way back to Florida for some body work on the Fifth wheel after an incident with a tree that truck’s transmission began to fail.  Rather than deal with a costly repair, we sold that truck and got our current "Beast".  We spent all winter in the mountains and once again in Florida this spring we decided that there were still some brake issues.  We went ahead and had Camping World take care of the slide and landing gear (which took them an obscenely long three weeks and later found out we were billed for parts that weren't replaced and service not performed but that's a whole other can of worms) we took the fifth wheel back to RV Direct.  In the end, it took another two and a half weeks to get all new hubs, drums, backing plates, and magnets.  At the end of the first week, Eric ended up having to fly to Pennsylvania to help his parents.  


Because the fifth wheel wasn’t ready yet, I had the idea that it would be a good opportunity for me to have a trip on my own (we believe that us both being familiar with setup, tear down, and towing of the RV is very important)!  RV Direct, while it wasn’t the fastest repair (as it seems to be the normal for the industry) they did do most of the work and replaced all the parts at their cost because we had been their twice while under warranty and it was very clear the brakes had been in that condition before our purchase.  They even let me stay on the lot with the dogs and plug into their building!  During my delay, I had no running water since we had never planned on a delay and didn't want/need to drive 1,000 miles with full tanks, so I learned how to get by with 2.5 gallon jugs.  I also had issues with the front a/c and the refrigerator kept giving me a NO HC code and wasn’t cooling.  I ended up using the rear a/c and had to have Eric walk me through resetting the fridge via FaceTime.  I did end up having to toss some food but was able to save the majority.  

My co-pilot
Another advantage to having stayed at the repair shop is that all the guys decided to give me backing-up-the-trailer lessons!  I have been pulling trailers since I was 11, if not earlier.  I had not however, since we started, backed up the fifth wheel!!  I knew the basics were the same as far as when you want your trailer to go one direction or the other and what way to turn the steering wheel and how to use the mirrors, but having the connection to the truck be several feet forward of a trailer hitch made it much different to turn!  If you don’t have someone to teach you, I would definitely recommend asking around for someone to teach you (in a large empty parking lot) or to attend a CDL class.  

I was originally planning on driving 4-5 hours a day and take my time, but with all the delays I didn’t have any extra time in order to meet up with friends in Lake Placid before they departed.  I ended up driving around 6 hours that first day (I didn’t get started until early afternoon) and stayed at Camp Lake Jasper RV Resort.  I got a great pull through site (even though I do know how to hook / unhook the truck and trailer) and hooked up the electric and water for the night.  I was very proud of myself until the following evening after arriving at Eric’s parents house in Pennsylvania to discover that when I had hooked up the water to fill the tank, I had forgotten to flip the lever that allows the water in!  

In all, I am very glad that I did the trip.  I learned a few new things and I gained a ton of confidence.  There just is no substitute to just doing it solo!  I know that  Eric and I won’t always be together as we have some individual adventures planned in the future, and as my parents taught me from a very young age – it’s always important to know how to take care of yourself and to show courage when you are unsure or scared.

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, September 29, 2016

RV Full-Time Living: How to Save Money!

Last winter, while riding the lift in Breckenridge Ski Resort, I (Eric) was having a conversation wherein the usual question was asked "Where are you from?"  You'd think by now I'd have a polished answer, ready for anytime this question comes along, especially because it comes along often!  My initial response is usually Cocoa Beach, Florida, but now that the house is sold, we have little attachment (with the exception of friends and the time spent there) and it's not as easy to say as it used to be.  So where does that leave me to answer?  Usually I fumble around and say what I used to do and what I'm currently doing, not where I'm from.  In all that and my long-winded (it was a slower lift!) conversation with  this fellow powder lover, it ended in "What are you, like Warren Buffet's son or something?".  After collecting myself from laughter, I realized just how lucky we are to be able to live this lifestyle.  But to do so doesn't always come at the easiest price.  But with just a little time and legwork, you can easily start to save dollars and stretch your budget!

Fuel

One of the most expensive costs associated with full-time RV travel is fuel.  Average RVs in the 30+ foot range like ours average anywhere from 5-12 mpg +/- which is a bit insane when you think about it!  This is especially true when fuel costs can fluctuate so much based on seasons, holidays, politics, and geographical location.  But much like a home, it's an expense and part of living.  Account for it and budget for it and you won't have a problem.  That being said, there are ways to extend your fuel dollars.

1.  Credit Cards/Rewards Cards/Gas Cards - Companies are willing to incentivize you if you spend
money using their medium of payment.  A great example of this is grocery stores.  There are many grocery stores that offer deals with fuel companies and discount the cost of each gallon of fuel commensurate with how much you spend on groceries. You're going to spend the money on groceries anyway, right?  Why not stretch those dollars at the pump.  Check every grocery store and gas station for rewards cards, points cards, etc.  Another way you can benefit from the same thing is by buying your groceries with a credit card that offers rewards.  Rewards may come in the form of cash back, prepaid fuel cards, prepaid credit cards, and other types of incentives used to get you to use their products.  You can also pay for the fuel with a credit card that offers rewards, too.  Figuring out how to stretch every fuel dollar will get you that much further down the road.





2.  Ease off the pedal - When we pull our fifth wheel, we barely break 65mph.  We've found it to be the best combination of safe speed while towing, stays steady with the flow of traffic, offers great fuel  economy for our combination.  Granted, we could save even more fuel by going slower, but there's a limit to how slow we like to go.  60-65 is the min we can go long term without pulling out our how or having it blown off by everyone flying by you like you're standing still.  Experiment with different speeds and consistent weights to ensure accuracy and to find out what speed your setup offers the best fuel economy.



3.  Shed pounds - Less weight, less to get it and keep it moving.  This is an easy way of saying you'll get better fuel economy with less weight in tow.  As you'll hear from most full-timers, if you don't need it, get rid of it.  In fact, we have a standing rule in our RV -  if we haven't used it in the past 6 months (winter/summer clothing, gear, etc excluded), we get rid of it.  The full time lifestyle doesn't really allow for as many of the creature comforts that sticks n bricks homes afford.


4.  Gas Buddy App - by using the GasBuddy app from either the Apple App store or Google Play store, we have been able to save hundreds of dollars in fuel costs over the course of our travels. You can also use the website GasBuddy.com to accomplish the same thing, but you'll need to know the zip code of the area you're seeking fuel.   The way it works is like this:  You sign up for the app (or on the website) and confirm your email - the usual.  Second, you open up the app and set it to the type of fuel - we use diesel, so those are the results we wanted to see.  Next, select the option for "find gas nearby" and it will list the different fuel station options in your area and their respective pricing.  We've found this to be VERY useful while traveling on interstates.  A majority of the fuel stops directly off the highway have the highest prices due to their proximity and convenience.  By driving just a few miles (usually less than 2) off the interstate, we've been able to save as much as .50 per gallon!  When you have 77 gallons worth of fuel capacity, the savings add up very quickly!




Camping Costs

Campground costs are probably the next of the larger expenses associated with full time RV living.  There are a broad spectrum of full-timers out there.  From those living out of a car or van to those living in million dollar + class A land yachts, and all of those in between, the same comes along with campground costs.  You can stay in an oceanfront spot and park directly on a white sandy beach if you want to pay over $100 a night.  Or you can stay next to a crystal clear lake with a snow-capped mountain as a backdrop for free.  To each their own.  We fall somewhere in the middle.

1.  Boondock/Moochdock - No camping is truly free.  Even if you're not paying for utilities, etc, or have all the resources you need at no cost, there are going to be at least a little bit like fuel into town or propane to run fridge, generator, etc.  Boondocking is loosely defined as free or dispersed camping.  These types of places would be National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Water Conservation Districts, all the way through Walmart parking lots and Interstate rest areas. Moochdocking is when you are parking in their driveway and staying in your RV (and using your friend's utilities)   This often becomes available when fellow full-timers offer up their homes (if they still have homes) for this purpose.  While this is a great way to spend time with friends and save money, it's not truly the spirit of full-timing, in our opinion.  We don't always moochdock, but when we do, you know it's with people we really like!
2.  Long term camping - Just like hotel stays, typically the longer the stay at a campground, the lower the cost.  You may be surprised at how inexpensive it is to stay in really great areas around the country.  The downside (to some) is that you would need to be in the same place for weeks, not days! In addition, many campgrounds that offer monthly rates do not include the cost of electric, which is usually metered.  Make sure you account for this expense in your budget.   Depending upon your budget, employment, and financial status, this may be a great way to save money while getting a true feel of living in the area you're in, not just visiting.  On top of that, you may be able to gain employment and earn more income when in the same area for extended times.

3.  Workamping - Have you been to a campground that has a 'Camp Host'?  Camp Hosts are normally persons who work in exchange for heavily discounted or free camping and usually an income.  Again, this is another way to earn income while reducing monthly expenses.  If we plan to go on a more expensive trip or plan to spend more money in upcoming months, we will plan to stay and either workamp or work a part or full time gig (in addition to remote jobs) to save money.

4.  Club Memberships - Check out Good Sam's club, Thousand Trails, and other similar programs to save money on camping fees.  We got a great deal on Good Sam's because of Eric's veteran status and really liked the savings that we got at Camping World. The real value comes in staying at campgrounds that offer discounts for those programs.  Good Sam's, on average, saves us 10% off the nightly fees, an average of $3-4 per night.  No, it's not a lot of money, but if you plan a trip cross country where a lot of your stops include hookups, these savings can add up very quickly!  You can also check out HarvestHosts.com  Harvest Hosts are a network of Farms, Breweries, Wineries, and a variety of other types of places that are (mostly) free to stay.  There aren't usually hookups and the hosts prefer to limit stays to one night.  They may make exceptions.  In addition, HH do expect that you make a purchase of some sort which is perfect for us!  We love to get our foods clean and as close to its source as possible so, again, we may as well contribute.  It's win-win and the membership is only $45 a year!  This easily pays for itself very quickly!  We've stayed at some crazy cool Harvest Hosts!

5.  Elks Lodge - We became members of the Elks Lodge for many reasons, one of which being that it's a great way to meet new local people when traveling.  We've found that the best resource is almost always local knowledge.  People who live in the area typically know where the best places to eat, drink, etc. so it gives us a little bit of a leg up in that regard.  In addition, the Elks are the second most charitable organization (behind the US government) in the country - we like to give back and help out when we can.  Lastly, there are many Elks Lodges throughout the country that not only offer overnight RV parking, but some even offer full hookups!  This is definitely a great way to save some money on your stays while simultaneously living like a local.


Food/Drink/Entertainment

What is your motivation for travel?  Is it to simply see the country and its sites or do you want to immerse yourself and become a part of each area you visit?  For us, this is one of the main motivators - to see how others' cultures, etc, differ from what we're used to.  In order to do that, you can't stay cooped up inside the RV park or spot the whole time.  You've got to get out and explore!

Fortunately, most things pertaining to the outdoors don't cost a lot of money or are free.  Hiking, fishing, hunting, rock climbing, paddle-boarding, etc don't cost anything once you have the equipment.  But there are many other things that will cost more money but that are necessary if you want to get a fully immersive experience.  There are, of course, plenty of ways to save money while still enjoying the area you're checking out.

1.  Restaurants -

  • Don't order as much food.  We've found that by ordering an appetizer and one meal and splitting everything can save a significant amount!  
  • Skip the alcohol - the markup on alcohol is insane at restaurants.  If you absolutely must imbibe, go during happy hours or early bird 
  • Check out this article on how restaurant menus are built to help you spend more of your money! Menu Hacks!
  • If there are free refills, order one drink and share
  • Check online for discount coupons i.e. restaurant.com


2.  Groceries -

  • Clip coupons - for the price of a Sunday paper, you can save hundreds at the store by cutting coupons.  
  • Farmer's Markets - these are one of our favorite ways to both save money and help out the local economies.  You can generally find the freshest produce, dairy, and meats by finding local farmer's markets
  • Use apps like Ibotta, Checkout51, and Grocery IQ.  All of these apps will either help you save money, or keep you from overspending by sticking to the grocery lists (we've also found Grocery IQ to work great for other types of lists i.e. hardware store)


3.  Bars -

  • Happy hour!  Take advantage of happy hour drink pricing whenever possible!
  • Early bird and late night deals are sometimes offered on drinks and sometimes appetizers
  • Instead of going to traditional bars, try going to breweries, wineries, and distilleries.  Most times, you'll find that the quality of the product (and sometimes clientele) are much better with the pricing being the same or many times less
Last thought:  Remember, just about anything is negotiable!  It never hurts to ask if someone is  1. willing to accept less if paid in cash   2.  willing to barter or trade for labor   3. willing to take less than what the product/service is being offered.  The more you can save while traveling, the more you can do while you travel.  The more you look for deals and get comfortable asking, the easier it comes. The full-time lifestyle can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it, but it certainly can be made cheaper by employing some, or all, of these tactics!  Good luck!

Do you have any tips or tricks to help save money?  Share below in our comments!

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, July 28, 2016

Harvest Hosts Review - Carman Brook Maple & Dairy Farm - Swanton, VT

Harvest Host:
Carman Brook Maple & Dairy Farm
1275 Fortin Road
Swanton, VT 05488
802-868-2347



For the full-time RVer, there is no substitute for a great place to stay at a reasonable cost.  We discovered Harvest Hosts early on in our travels.  Needless to say, it's been an incredible way for us to try new things and meet (some of the most warm and kind) people along the way.  

I (Eric) grew up with a Mennonite family who babysat me for the better part of my childhood.   The first farm the family had was a fully operational dairy farm.  Falling in love with dairy was not only unavoidable, but at this point, it would be unthinkable!  If you haven't had the pleasure (and don't have an aversion to casein) of raw milk, you have to give it a shot!  Reminiscent of wines carrying the flavor of the grapes and region they are grown or meats having the earthy flavor of the grasses the game grazed on, raw milk is much the same - each has its own unique taste.  Unfortunately, this farm isn't allowed to sell any of their milk as they are part if a co-op, but if you ask them to sample, they may oblige you a taste :)  
Great level parking alongside one of their storage barns
One of the other very neat parts about staying at this farm is that they are also a working maple syrup farm, too.  There is a stand of maple trees not too far of a walk from the sugar house where you can see the work in action depending on the time of year.  They have plenty of maple syrup and plenty of other forms for purchase in the retail shop! 
Also found in the retail shop - a selection of their own holstein beef and veal products.  We made sure we stock up on plenty of these!  They plan on expanding their meat operations and selection in the future.                                             






We had the opportunity to talk with one of the sons on the farm.  He's recently started catering weddings and other events in the area so if you're in the market, definitely drop them a line!  While we didn't have any of his foods (he had just catered a wedding a few days prior to our arrival), we can certainly attest to the fact that any of them would be true farm-to-table style!  Not only were there a plethora of fresh meats, but a garden that any fellow green-thumbed person would envy was between the home and the sugar house! 

There are also a few caves that can be accessed by walking about 10-15 minutes to the backside of the 700 acre property.  Also on the property is a stone quarry that can be found just past the caves.  
While visiting, we almost got to witness the birth of a baby calf!  Unfortunately, we were about 12 hours too late.  We did get to meet the (very uncoordinated) little guy and he was surely full of energy - and hungry!

Last, but certainly not least, is the freedom that our babies got to run around!  Moose and Nyx had a blast playing with the cows in the expansive (watch out for cow patties!) pastures.  Who knew Great Danes were herders?!  The other neat part is that the family has two adorable dachshund doggies. While they are full of barks, don't let that scare you away, they are both sweethearts and very affectionate!
Thank you so much to Carman Brook Maple & Dairy Farm!!! - we appreciate your hospitality and hope to stay with you again...

Home and accompanying garden
Another view of the garden
One of the many large pastures
Dairy Barn
 
Last shot of the garden - we were truly envious!
Tractor Barn
Moooooo!!!
The newborn calf (on the right)
Chickens that (sometimes) lay eggs
Ok seriously, we have a problem with garden envy!
Perfectly cute little hosts!
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!