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  • Park it March 20, 2017

    Let’s just recap our last thirteen months.

    States: 13
    Pennsylvania
    Virginia
    North Carolina
    South Carolina
    Florida
    Georgia
    Alabama
    Tennessee
    Arkansas
    Missouri
    Kansas
    Colorado
    Utah
    Nevada
    California

    Campgrounds: 20

    Some of these states were pass-throughs, but we found neat little parks that if the circumstance ever warranted, we’d stay there again. Others, not so much.

     

    campground

    To make sure our extended stays were as positive as possible, we did our research. We mainly use RV Park Reviews and Google. Read the reviews carefully, because they are very subjective. For example, if you like to have campgrounds being remote from the world, but someone rates a park 5 stars because it is close to everything, you have different needs and standards.

    There are also some basic questions we now ask when we stay at a campground for more than a couple of days:

    1. We have a 45′ Class A + tow. Can your park handle big rigs with wide turns? We always press on is the “big rig friendly” claim almost all parks make. Some do not consider the drive to and from the spot they state is big-rig friendly, or low-hanging branches that can scratch your coach.  A reputable park will tell you when you ask the first time “There are some turns but we have a good escort to get you to your spot”.
    2. Really? Really really? It sounds silly, but for the safety of your coach and your stress level, ask again. Stress again the size of your coach and that it is a Class A (if you have one). Handling a fifth wheel has some maneuverability – Class As are less forgiving.
    3. How is your cell service? This is something we didn’t think to ask until we were completely without cell service. Then, after a tiring day of driving, we had to transfer our service over to skype and spend time on that rather than relaxing.
    4. What is our spot number? With the campground map and Google Earth, you’ll be able to understand if the spot makes sense for you. It also stops the “bait and switch” some parks will try to pull, guaranteeing you the super premium deluxe super spot and then give you the “wah waahhhhh” spot.
    5. Does this spot have any known issues with satellite ? Does the satellite need to be located somewhere specific on the coach to get a signal? Again, we didn’t think to ask this until we were completely without signal. We were told that one spot had great service, until we arrived, got set up, and nothing. Only after questioning were we told that the sattalite will only work if it is in the very front of the coach.
    6. Can you see and/or hear fireworks from this location at all? Dog owners, beware! There are a lot of parks that forget to tell you about the fireworks. We were shocked at how many insist they are dog-friendly but then have fireworks that sound like firebombs overhead, even at times shaking our very sturdy coach. We were also shocked how dog owners would give these parks high reviews. For our dog Piper, it was traumatic.
    7. You say you’re “pet-friendly”. Where are dogs allowed to go and where can they relieve themselves? An important question. There are campgrounds who claim they are “pet-friendly” but don’t allow dogs to walk (even on leashes) on any of the grounds! This means you’d have to carry Fido to the approved area. I don’t know dogs who listen to reason and rules and sees grass as “a place to go”. You can argue with the campground as to the definition of pet-friendly or you can just take your business (and the dogs’ business, as it were) elsewhere.

    There are other criteria you may have, like close to shopping or civilization, or just the opposite. We like paved and grassy in comparison to gravel (doggie paws don’t like gravel and they equate “grass” with “a place to go potty”, so lack of grass is difficult). We like civilization to be close-by (10-15 minutes) and like access to bike trails. We have our top 5 but if you were to ask if we’ve yet visited the perfect place – that’s still down the road and we’ve yet to stay there yet.

  • Bye, Dear Friend March 8, 2017

    Being on the road with pets is always a challenge when it comes to vet care. However, when it gets beyond needed the care of a vet – saying goodbye – it’s even worse. You go through the emotions of the goodbye – someone who has been your companion for a very long time starts to deteriorate. Then you need to trust that your decision is the right one. For our girl Nala, we had made the decision. Right after Thanksgiving, she started to go outside the litter box. After the obligatory vet visit, we found out she was in kidney failure. We were told that given her age, with treatment, she could last two weeks or two years. She was still a kitty, we felt, that had some meowing to do so we gave her a chance to fight. Three days of 12 hours of fluids later, her numbers were looking really good.

    Nala Girl

    Nala Girl

    She went back to eating, drinking and being a good girl in the box. But then…things started to deteriorate after about 4 weeks. She went on a hunger strike, she started peeing everywhere (even laying in it), and while her appetite came back we knew it was the beginning of the end. They gave her 2 weeks to 2 years and we got 4 weeks but it was worth every day more we had with her. Tests confirmed our fears. We knew it was a matter of time. Her personality was leaving, she lost her meow, and despite eating like a champ she did little else but sleep.

    Even though we knew it was the right time, it killed us to make the decision. We had asked our vet about the procedure and they explained how they’d bring her in back and give her a catheter. Then they’d administer the first solution to make her drowsy and then the second which would put her to sleep. This sounded horrible to us. Nala wasn’t exactly a vet kitty (what cat is?) and bringing her in back – even for a second – just wasn’t right for her or us.

    Our girl sleeping

    On the eve of the New Year’s day, we called Lap of Love which is a hospice and euthanasia mobile vet service available in 30 states. There, we found Dr. Toby (also known as Dr. Toby Goldman, DVM). We spent three hours with her. She even sought out Chris, prompting him to pet her…and then she peed uncontrollably. First on the seat, then on Ally (we think she was finally telling Ally what she thought of her). She couldn’t control herself at all. It killed us – she wanted to be pet, she wanted love, but her body just couldn’t do it anymore.

    Lap of Love does both hospice and euthanasia so the key is to review the pet’s case and understand where they are in the process. It was clear that despite her wanting petting and food, it was time. With the fire roaring, Nala sleeping in “her spot”, surrounded by her favorite toys and the people who loved her, Dr. Toby talked us through the process. When we felt we were ready, the first drug was administered. Dr. Toby told us we were doing the right thing…something we knew, but something that is always reassuring to hear. He spoke with a pleasant and quiet voice to both us and Nala. He gave us 15 minutes or so with her being aware(ish) and we spent the time just being with her – speaking to her (telling her she was a pretty kitty and soothing her by saying her name slowly – something she loved hearing her name as “Naaaaaaalaaaaa”), petting her, reassuring her. She was ready. We were as ready as we could be. Then the final drug was administered. She was gone.

    Unlike with kids, you are pretty much guaranteed to outlive your pets. It’s part of the deal you have with them when you take them in. The hope is that you can give them the most peaceful passing they can have. We found that Lap of Love provided Nala with that.
    Nala's Christmas twin

    Nala’s Christmas twin

    This is the eulogy we wrote on Facebook:

    Today we lost a beautiful soul. It is with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to our Nala. She was a Siamese who had piercing blue eyes – probably the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. She was always the hostess and charmed everyone she met.

    She was mischievous and a night owl; she never met a twist tie or Christmas ornament she didn’t want to destroy. She would often “catch” dog toys (the small squirrel was her favorite) and announce to all who would listen that she caught it all by herself. She was a graceful goofball and a gentle soul who acted as our grief counselor…and during this time of grief it makes us miss her even all the more.

    She had 16 (almost 17) good years, but it still feels too soon. She came to us as a mischievous puffball kitten and left us as the most loyal friend. Rest in peace, Nala Girl. We will miss every single thing about you. May you cuddle up to Bailey and have a toy squirrel near you at all times.

  • The places you’ll go! February 27, 2017

    We started off on a sunny day on December 22nd, 2015. We were so positive and happy to go, not only starting our new way of living but also seeing family for the holiday. Then the pounding, non-stop rain followed us all the way through Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Mistake number one is that we severely underestimated the actual travel time. It took us about 8 hours, between the rig, stopping for the pets and the weather, to just get to Harrisonburg VA. After we saw the fifth bad accident, we decided to stop for the night. Mistake number two is that we didn’t have an app loaded that told us which Walmarts accepted RVs. We called one local Walmart only to be told they didn’t accept RVs. Luckily there was a Walmart that did allow RVs that wasn’t far away at all. It was our first real night in our new life. Honestly, it was quite comfortable. We stayed for 8 hours at the Walmart, a major retailer, three days before Christmas so it was plenty secure. We had food right there at our disposal if we wanted it.

    We took off the next morning, refreshed, at 6 am. It was still pouring rain. Mistake number three was that we didn’t have a sufficient trucker navigation app. We took the Waze route which was incredibly hilly. It also had low bridges and although we fit, we fit by a couple of inches. We found ourselves ducking, hoping it would somehow help. Because of the rain and the holiday it took us another 8 hours to make it to North Carolina. We arrived at Raleigh Oaks RV Park exhausted and relieved. This was Smart Move Number One: we did our research into RV parks. This place was probably the best place for us to stay in our first real roadtrip. The people were amazing and didn’t even charge us for our no-show for the one night because they appreciated us considering safety first. It was a great experience between the large sites, amazing staff and location to our family.

    kimchrislaunchcropped

    At our first campground after a hellacious trip

    So what did we learn on our first real road trip?

    The thing people neglect to tell you when you start RVing is that the drive takes double the attention and double the effort and makes you doubly tired. We started in Pennsylvania on our big trip and have every intention to be in North Carolina that sameday to spend with Kim’s family for the Christmas holiday. Bwahahahaha! First, as an RVer, you want to avoid roads like 95 if you can. Second, that means your drive will be longer. Third, a 8.5 hour drive (taking 81) is not the first real drive you want to take. Finally, you need to think about weather. Some general best practices:

    1. TimingIf the weather is good, estimate approximately 1.5 hours for every hour google maps or Waze will state the time it will take (since Waze and Google provides traffic, this is regardless of traffic). If the weather or road conditions are bad, just figure it will take 1.75 to 2 hours per hour (or more, depending on traffic). Take your time. For us, 4 hours on these apps is our max. We know it will mean 6 hours and even if we can do it, the pets cannot.
    2. PlanningPlan your trip. Going on Google Maps or Waze and trusting the path is fine isn’t enough. It would be easier to not have to do this, but when you have a 45′ rig, it is much safer to plan.
    3. AppsFind good apps and use them. We use a variety since we haven’t found one that does it all.
      •  ○ Smart Truck Route. This app tells you (based on the entries of your rig) what routes have bridges and roads that can accommodate, tells you where Truck Stops are, Walmarts that accept overnights and warns you when there are sharp turns and/or steep grades. The downsides of this app is sometimes the navigation is a bit off sometimes. We got stuck in a very small Walmart because the app stated there was a Loves Truck Stop (there wasn’t). Use the earth function so you can zoom in to exactly where you’re going. It sometimes leads you in weird directions and may opt for a roundabout route than direct for no real reason (for example, having you take backroads to the Loves Travel Stop rather than taking the exit directly taking you there), but it still functions well.
      • ○ Waze is great to tell you about accidents, warns about traffic and as far as finding locations is spot on. Waze does NOT tell you about steep inclines, narrow roads or low bridges.
      • ○ Google Earth. We also use google earth to see first-hand where we’re going – what the roads look like, if they are one, two, or three-lane, et cetera.
    4. Think of where you can stayDo your RV Park research. We use RV Park Reviews and sometimes use Google reviews. Read these very closely to ensure the comments address what’s important to you. Have a contingency plan.
    5. Websites lieDon’t trust the park website. They use tricky angles to make their park look much bigger/better/prettier than it actually is. Also use Google Earth. It tells a story.
    6. Safety first. If you feel uncomfortable, find the closest Walmart/Cracker Barrel/Rest Stop and STOP.
    7. Don’t panic. If you find yourself in a jam, stop and think logically. We were taken down a road that became a dirt road. It was obvious that we were not on the right road. We didn’t panic. We unhooked our tow vehicle, planned out how to turn around (a lot of back/forth/turn/back/forth/turn), had two small kids watch every move we made and we got out fine. We became a story those two kids probably tell to this day. It took a 30 minutes out of our planned trip but we didn’t dig ourselves deeper into the hole we found ourselves in.
    8. Know yourselves. There may be other people who can do 18 hour roadtrips and wing the route, but you don’t have to be them. With two humans, four pets and one big ol’ bus, we found out quickly that we need a bit of planning.
    9. Enjoy. And once you’re there, enjoy your stay. Explore the area!