- 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.
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:
- Timing. If 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.
- Planning. Plan 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.
- Apps. Find 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.
- Think of where you can stay. Do 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.
- Websites lie. Don’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.
- Safety first. If you feel uncomfortable, find the closest Walmart/Cracker Barrel/Rest Stop and STOP.
- 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.
- 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.
- Enjoy. And once you’re there, enjoy your stay. Explore the area!
- Drunken Lullabies February 25, 2017
“Here and now is all we’ll be
So it’s this present state of grace I offer thee.” – Flogging Molly, Present State of Grace
You know you have a good day when you look at each other and say “We experienced the most fun we’ll ever have. Time to stop RVing. We’ve done it all.” That was the feeling when we went to see Flogging Molly at Red Rocks.
We were first introduced to Red Rocks the ampitheatre when Dave Matthews came out with the “Live at Red Rocks” album. It looked kind of cool. It was a great album. Since then the concept of Red Rocks was just that – a concept. Nothing could have prepared us for the venue.
We found out that Flogging Molly was playing in the Denver area and got tickets. We saw them in Orlando and had a good time (although the tightness of the venue and crowd made it impossible to move), so figured why not. We really love the band and had never been to Red Rocks, so sure!
I have a band t shirt to which many people ask “What is a Flogging Molly?” Well, they’re a Celtic Punk band that started out in 1997 and had 6 album releases. Dave King is the lead singer of a band comprised of 6 others, including his wife Bridget Regan (awwwww, and it isn’t a Paul/Linda situation either, both equal each other in crazy amounts of talent). If you’ve never heard of them, get thee to iTunes and buy any of their albums. Drunken Lullabies or Speed of Darkness is a good start.
For those of you who never heard of Red Rocks Ampitheatre, run (don’t walk) and go see a concert there. We were told to park on the “upper level” versus the “lower level”. Why? The stairs, by God, the stairs! As we walked toward the venue, a deer watched us from overhead. The lights and rock formations were unlike we’d ever seen.
This concert was the reason we wanted to travel – to experience those breathtaking moments you won’t forget. Maybe it was the band who had crazy-high energy. Maybe it was the location. Maybe it was the perfect Colorado weather. Maybe it was the first-row center seats (which we didn’t sit in, but the location was great). Our only regret was that Red Rocks does not allow real cameras, and therefore all pictures are fuzzy. We had bumps and bruises the next day, not from moshing, but simply bouncing and dancing around like lunatics.
May we take this moment to make formal apologies to Flogging Molly’s PR group. They had stage-side cameras pointing out to the audience which were placed right in front of us. We are fans. We own albums. We listen to their music. We own their merch. But we knew only every third word to the songs, not because we aren’t fans but we just aren’t good at lyric memorization. Perhaps our bouncing around like lunatics made up for it?
It seemed our reaction to the venue was the same for everyone. The band seemed to love it as well. As we all sang along at the end, swinging our beers in the air, with the Colorado wind lightly blowing throughout the venue, the lead singer announced “My beautiful wife just whispered to me that she feels like she’s in a Whitesnake video.” The audience guffawed because yes, anyone with hair beyond their ears would know exactly what she meant (and she’s witty and talented – no wonder why Dave fell for her).
So while we won’t stop RVing as a result of the concert, if we had to, we’re ok with it.
“‘Cause only life, yeah only life has loneliness to sell
So celebrate, yeah live your life, live it and raise hell
The true prophet never spoke
He just smiled and saw the joke
And this present state of grace we creatures need.” – Flogging Molly, Present State of Grace
- Review: Mail Forwarding February 22, 2017
What: Mail Forwarding Service
Where to Buy: Depending on domicile. We’re reviewing St. Brendan’s Isle and Escapees
Once you decide on a domicile and you’re full-timing, unless you have a family member willing to be the point of contact for your mail and have them send it (which may not exactly foster good will between yourself and the family member), you should look into mail forwarding services. We used two services over the year. The difference between them are night-and-day.
Overview: This service has both Texas and Florida. The pricing structure is varied, depending on the level of service you want. The basic service ($195) includes the annual fee, postage deposit, enrollment fee and a cancellation fee (which seems a bit presumptuous).
If you opt to not have class or special sorting, you will not get the (brand new) scanning service. You will not be notified if/when new mail comes in so you need to be on top of things or schedule a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly send if you want to see your mail.
Our Experience: You could not pay us to use this service again. It was beyond horrible for us. They sent our mail to the wrong customer (ok, mistakes happen). What’s worse is they didn’t let us know about the fact that they lost it and did very little to get our mail back. We asked for our mail to be sent to us with 2-Day delivery and received their verification it would be sent. After 5 days, we had not received the mail so we reached out. No response back. Finally we called again after 7 days, only to find out that they sent the mail to the wrong person and had no idea where the mail was. They thought the mail was sent to a particular customer, but did not reach out to the customer to see if that was the case nor did they send that customer a label to send the mail back. They neglected to tell us anything, and only told us because we continued to prompt them for information.
After a lot of words from us, we also insisted we be provided with a daily update. No update was provided. Finally we received a call that they received our mail back and there seemed to be a question how the mail should be sent. Considering we waited a week plus due to their mistake, you’d think good customer service would tell them that they should send the mail Next Day Air at their expense. That was asking too much. We asked for tracking information and none was sent. The unapologetic and lackadaisical way they handled their mistake was appalling. It felt like we were dealing with volunteers who would rather be doing anything than doing the job of mail forwarding. It was unprofessional at best.
Would Recommend: No. Wait, on second thought, NO.
UPDATE: After writing this review, a VP from Escapees reached out to Kim, claiming that the mail was delayed because some of the mail was addressed to Chris and the service was only for Kim. Actually, none of the mail was addressed to Chris and 100% was addressed to Kim so we asked them to check their sources. However, we did point out that if that was the case, then this should have been conveyed in the first place. The explanation made no sense because return to sender for Chris wouldn’t have lost Kim’s mail as well, but maybe there’s some fancy USPS action going on there. Maybe Mastercard is offering us a free pony if we sign up now through junk mail. We reiterated that the issue was the customer service and lack of transparency. In addition, they indicated they did comp the shipping of the lost mail to us. As we don’t get an accounting of this, we will accept their statement and stand corrected on that point. This incident occurred approximately four months ago and this is the first time anyone reached out to us to explore the miscommunication. We are certainly willing to work with them, but the information we’re being given is inconsistent with their own information they provided to us months earlier. If they had said a few months ago “Yo, Bozos! You did this wrong!” we would have worked with them and this post would have read “This is how newbies can screw things up”. They said nothing to the kind at the time. For the record, Chris doesn’t use the address, nor does he give it out, and he’d actually be hard-pressed to provide it to anyone without calling Kim first to ask for the address (to which she’d say “Why are you giving out that address?”). We appreciate their reaching out and hopefully things have improved since this incident. We still do have the service and the one other time we had mail sent to us it arrived without issue.
St. Brendan’s Isle
Overview: This service allows for marine travelers as well as RVers to receive their mail. The “Travelers Special” is a monthly fee of $11.99 per month which includes all mail forwarding. There is also a scan option of $7.99 per month.
Our Experience: We opted for both the Travelers Special and the Scanning Service options. This service has been invaluable to us. We were notified via email when new mail came in. The postage fees to get the mail to us was extremely reasonable. The scanning service was very valuable as we were able to view bills and not have to waste postage fees on mail we didn’t really need to see in person.
We have also had large packages delivered here without issue. The price of $240 per year may seem steep, but considering the terrible experience we had with Escapees, we knew the reliability and consistency of this mail forwarding service was worth every penny. In addition, mail scanning with Escapees would bump up the base price so the price is practically even. St. Brendan’s Isle. Everything has been handled professionally and we found the service is perfect for our needs. We never really had to “think” about our mail. All the hard work is done by them.
Would Recommend: Yes
The Bottom Line
If choosing between the two mail forwarders, without hesitation we would recommend St. Brendan’s Isle. We are giving Escapees a chance as they did reach out to try to remedy the issue and will update as things progress.