Author Archives: Laura

About Laura

One half of The Two Who Wander. Along with my husband, Bob and geopup Izzy, I'm a retired woman enjoying the next chapter of my life.

Shake-Down Artists Have Nothing on Curious George

So “Curious George” will be the Georgetown’s name.

I had more seriously thought of “Prince George of Redondo” in honor of the royal baby (why not?) as well as our Georgetown AND where we live.  But a fellow blogger mentioned Curious George and I thought about it and decided – “I like it!”

Bob can continue to call it “The Georgetown” but you and I will know it’s Curious George – just need the monkey decal.

Okay, on to other business.  When we last left our intrepid team of Bob, Laura and Curious George, we finished up the PDI (Pre-delivery inspection) at Mike Thompson RV.  Basically by the time we left, they’d done the few things that needed doing, opened up the goodie box and gave us a $25 gift certificate which we used to buy a much longer sewer hose (a must!) and something else – I don’t know.

(Parenthetically, as Bob is very detailed and precise, some of you have probably figured out that I, Laura, am neither.  So when it comes to the technical stuff, you can expect me to be less than forthcoming and the phrase “doohickey,” “thingamajig” or “whatsis” may be used.)

Also, our very nice salesperson, gave us a gift of a couple of bottles of California Red.  I don’t drink the stuff due to allergies, but Bob likes them.

The first trip in an RV is traditionally known as the shake-down trip.  Man, sometimes they can be brutal.  I’ve read plenty of posts in forums of all sorts of crap being discovered on the shake-down trip.  Thankfully, a lot of the stuff found is minor, but sometimes it is definitely NOT minor.

Let’s examine this, shall we?

In my not so humble opinion, some RV manufacturers expect their customers to perform the very vital function of quality assurance, or QA.  Basically, having seen some videos on the manufacturing process, it’s really true that it’s half car, half house.  Okay, so in a car, manufacturing is pretty assembly line, but as we all know, building a house is pretty much custom for each house (unless we’re talking about manufactured housing).

And as we know when you have a car, you can still have problems – so bad, that in California we have “lemon laws” that give us the ability to get rid of a car that is a continual problem.  Yeah, you have to prove that this isn’t just a one-time problem, but a pattern.  It’s not an easy process.  But at least there is a law that provides you aren’t stuck with a lemon.

It’s harder when it’s a house – you sometimes are stuck with having to sue a builder or contractor, which means hiring an attorney and a bunch of experts.

And with a motorhome, you get . . . both a car (the chassis) and a house (the actual motorhome on top of the chassis.)  This hybrid nature is often problematic – as our guy at the PDI said, “Hey, these are made by people, not machines.”  Well, kindof.  Yeah.  I suspect the chassis always has fewer problems than the house part and it’s widely known that what is going to fail will not be the engine so much as the house on top of it.

So . . . I’ve read the horror stories and so we came equipped with a 100-point punch list that Bob cribbed together from lists out there plus his items he added on his own.

The good news is that at least a fair amount of the punch list items were taken care of or addressed at the PDI.  But we still had a lot of things to do in the coach on our trip to get through the rest of the list.

Now, Mike Thompson RV kindly comped us a couple of nights at a local RV park there in beautiful Colton, California.  What?  You don’t think Colton is beautiful?  Just smoggy and . . . I don’t know, hot and smoggy?  Well, you’re right mostly, but for a couple of days it was fine.

By the way, I know there are a lot of complaints about Mike Thompson RV and we had a few.  We had a bad feeling leaving their Santa Fe Springs store – the site of the very pushy sales manager.  At the time we went there, we were not that close to buying and told this guy that, but . . . you know, sales men have to sell.  I think it’s written in their book they’re handed on their first day or something.

So after that bad taste, we had almost written off the dealership and we had definitely written off another big Southern California dealership (nameless, but anyone from SoCal will have to know who I’m talking about) due to some very bad business practices.  But what happened with Mike Thompson was – we went to their Fountain Valley store a few months back and found that those guys weren’t pushy one bit.

Then we went back this last time and met Matt Mahoney.  Actually he walked up to Bob and started chatting while I was in the bathroom.  By the time I’d left said bathroom, Matt was practically pals with Bob and started showing us a few models.  By the time we met Matt on our last go-round, we were much closer to making a buying decision and so it worked.  I mean, he worked with us versus trying to sell us and even offered to drive the motorhome that we end up buying from the Colton store to Fountain Valley.  Matt walked us through the entire buying experience and he was great.

I know salesmen can really do a great job – Matt did a great job with us.  I never felt “sold” and he was about our age and stage of life (empty nester, near retired) and it was obvious that he was having a great time in the motorhome business.  You can always tell when someone likes their job – and it makes a difference.

Okay, so where was I?

I took a detour, but I did want to say – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Mike Thompson and definitely Matt Mahoney as a salesperson to seek out.  He’s normally working in the Colton location, in case you’re wondering.

 

Front door

Front door

 

So now we’re here at our front door at the RV park.  We pushed the slides in and out, we cooked food, including oatmeal both days, we used the toilets, and slept in the bed.  We tested out everything we could think of, including the entertainment system.  In fact, we found out that indeed, the sub-woofer works (accomplished by Bob blasting the beginning of a DVD’s sound and Laura screeching in reaction to the blasting.)

So far, everything works fine.

All important picture of stinky slinky

All important picture of stinky slinky

Naturally, we have to include a picture of the sewer hook-up as well as the other hook-ups.  All of this worked fine and we were definitely glad to have used the gift certificate from Mike Thompson to buy the longer sewer line.  Yep – always a good thing!

The only thing that didn’t work well on this was the doohickey to open the water filter – even though it was the right size (it got swapped out at the PDI), it was so tight that Bob didn’t want to break anything trying to force it.  We’ll have to figure that out.

This baby is bigger than my fridge at home!  GAH!!!

This baby is bigger than my fridge at home! GAH!!!

 

Now, I love the residential refrigerator.  It’s a Frigidaire, as is the full size microwave.  I think we’re going to be happy that we got this versus the absorption fridge that many motorhomes have, since there is a lot less issue with fires.  But the other side of the coin is we’re seriously considering solar panels if we want to do any boondocking (well, longer than a day or two) because this fridge doesn’t run on propane as an alternate, only electricity.  See, it’s always a tradeoff.  Below are a couple of pictures of the inside of the fridge – we didn’t exactly load it up on this short trip, but you’ll note that there is beer and AND a few items in the freezer.  I’m in love with the french door style of fridge and lust for one for my home.

Note the beer

Note the beer

 

 

Nice big freezer! That means . . . ice cream!

Nice big freezer! That means . . . ice cream!

 

Well, what you can’t see with the freezer is that it has two baskets – a shallow one and a big deep one, too.

I’m going to add a few more pictures because honestly, I’m almost done here.  I’m sure Bob will be able to write much more intelligently about a host of other issues, but . . . things worked fine and we had a nice time.  And got to stay in an RV park, which was a first for me.  I don’t count the short trip to Joshua Tree mainly because it wasn’t that crowded.  Okay, maybe I should count it.   Okay, so this was my second time in an RV park, and one with people in it!

A note on the park, though.  I’m hesitating naming them, but I’ve decided to start doing reviews of RV Parks.  Once I get a widget on the blog, I’ll direct you to that and you can read reviews.  Just suffice to say – this is probably a fairly typical in town type of park – a fair number of people live there semi-permanently for mostly reasons like they’re working nearby and have a house somewhere else, or they’ve relocated to the area.

The guy next to us was one of semi-permanent residents.  Bob noticed he had a cool motorcycle, a Yamaha RD-400, and it was obvious he’d been a frequent flyer from way back.  Yeah, he’d done a lot of drugs in his mis-spent youth.  But a nice guy overall.  He and Bob and one of the other “neighbors” had a longish conversation about this and that (guy stuff).  Why was he living there?  Couldn’t get an apartment due to bad credit?  Liked the idea of moving at the drop of a hat?  I don’t know his story but he had one, of that I’m sure.

We brought the Breville Keurig coffeemaker because we can't wake up without the java

We brought the Breville Keurig coffeemaker because we can’t wake up without the java

 

A big-ass beer for Bob

A big-ass beer for Bob

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!

When the two days were done, we drove our baby to our new storage unit. George will be staying in a sumptuous open air but covered RV storage unit in beautiful Bloomington. Much like Colton, it’s hot and smoggy. Which is why the storage is a lot cheaper than something closer to us. Here are a few pictures of the motorhome, the car and the space – it was a bit of a challenge to get him into the space, but once we were all done and George was snug as a bug in a rug, we drove home, wishing we were on the road!

We’re scheming for the next trip which is now just about a week away – MORE TO COME.

Getting George into his storage space

Getting George into his storage space

A tight fit as we have neighbors

A tight fit as we have neighbors

Categories: Life on the Road | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

What’s In a Name?

So we NOW have a motorhome – woo hoo to us!

And one of my first questions to Bob was, “what will we name her?” (note the use of the feminine pronoun).  He thought this was pretty silly.

So I persisted.  “You’ve had boats – what did you name them?”

“Uhhh . . . I named the Bayliner the Bayliner.”

This was not helpful.

I had drinks with my girlfriends.  I’d been thinking about a name on the way down to Orange County and had sortof arrived at “Woody”.  My reasoning in my head went like this:

We’re going to be taking her around the country to see America – Woody Guthrie sang a cool song about America called “This Land is Your Land” and that’s a rather cool name – so maybe Woody.

Of course my girlfriends liked Woody but mostly for the sexual reference.  Getting a woody.  Uhm . . . perhaps asking alcohol fueled middle aged and senior women about this wasn’t such a good idea.

I mentioned the Woody name and my head’s reasoning to Bob – and all he could think of when he hears the name Woody is the reference to . . . you know.  When I mentioned Woody Guthrie – well, let’s just say that Woody is out.

Next I thought of Bud.  My grandfather’s nickname was Bud.  Bud’s a cool name . . . except for the obvious drug reference (okay, full disclosure – my grandfather’s nickname came about during the 1920’s when he was an itinerant musician and yes, I expect that he earned the nickname.)  So Bud’s not quite out . . . but fading fast.  Unless we want to be known as the PAR-TAY motorhome.  Although I’m not opposed entirely, the idea of a bunch of stoned (or drunk) oldsters laying around MY motorhome doesn’t really appeal to me.

You may have noted that in both cases, I’ve managed to change genders from female to male.  That’s not coincidental, as the more I’ve been in the motorhome the more it feels masculine.  So I think I’m going with that.

Of course, we could just name him  “Puddin” and be done with it.  It’s a GEORGEtown after all and we all know the nursery rhyme:

Georgy Porgy ‘Puddin and Pie; Kiss the girls and made them cry.

Would love to read some better ideas than what I’ve come up so far . . . feel free to chime right in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Life on the Road | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

In Our Absence . . .

Bob is busily writing about our latest RV Hunting which will be posted today and hopefully tomorrow. It’s in two parts.

One problem with writing a blog that is centered mostly on our wanderings is that we’re not yet doing any big, or small, wandering quite yet.

Bob and I just retired – in October 2013. We took the three week trip in January, starting on the first, and have now been back about a month and a half (as of today). In that time, besides doing some decompressing from the trip and thinking about it and our next steps, we’ve:

  • Had family issues with Bob’s aunt and father, and my mother (some of these are minor, some, though, are pretty major);
  • Had our granddaughter’s second birthday celebration which we wouldn’t ever want to miss;
  • Gotten our wood floors ordered, had the lovely task of packing up rooms full of books and moving furniture and then had the new wood floors installed (yay!) – they are be-yoo-ti-ful;
  • Gotten our taxes done and learned what we can afford to make (basically nothing beyond what we get from retirement) to keep our taxes in line, which includes receiving distributions from any IRA’s or other accounts (because mostly our IRA’s will trigger tax payments – we only have one Roth IRA); and
  • Continued to hunt the wild RV, which Bob will write more about.

So we’ve actually been fairly busy.  In addition to what I’ve listed, Bob is continuing his novel writing and I’ve gone down the rabbit hole on a few things, along with donating platelets to the Red Cross, going to the gym and dog walking, and enjoying finishing up American Horror Story, the return of The Walking Dead, and the Showtime three-month free pass we got from our cable company.  Episodes, anyone?

Categories: Home Sweet Home, The Hunt for the Wild RV | Leave a comment

The Big Lesson Learned

Travelbyvwbus

I think we learned some things from this January trip:

The biggest one – this would have been a very different trip, perhaps a longer one, were we in a motorhome.

A Bit of Background

Last November we rented a motorhome, a 34 footer, for a short trip.  We took it to an RV park right by Joshua Tree National Park and probably would have taken it into the park had we the confidence to boondock.  But as it was our first time, we felt it was important to have full hookups and a dump station.  Partly to see how it was just being in a motorhome and partly to test out our abilities to drive the beast, do the hookups and dump our tanks.

It was a great learning trip – we cooked, we cleaned; we relaxed, read books (well, I did) and watched movies; took long walks around and watched the sunsets over the desert, and generally had a lovely time.  I did a lot of writing while there and we had time to be both together and companionably apart.  Privacy is important to me, probably a holdover from being an only child.

But renting was not cheap – we knew that going in and would not have chosen to rent for a much longer trip.  We also had one mechanical issue with the coach – the levelers never worked properly even with the rental guys trying to fix this before we left.  Their last minute fixing held us up in leaving the area and we ended up arriving at the RV park at night.  We never were able to lower the levelers properly and, although it didn’t ruin anything, it was a bit odd to be listing to one side for a few days.

So before we took our road trip in January we had the experience of a trip in a motorhome with which to compare, albeit a short trip.

A Matter of Cost

In the past, I have teased Bob a bit by saying, “every time we go on vacation, no matter where we go or how we go, we spend about a grand a week”.  Yes, that’s a lot of money, although maybe not outrageous to some.  I mean, some people can easily spend a grand a DAY and others, just a grand a month.  But over the ten years we’ve been together and vacationed, we have regressed to the mean of a grand a week.  Which, to remind you, is over and above our normal expenses of mortgage, utilities, etc.  (Note:  When we went overseas early in our time together it was more, but I wasn’t keeping track of the money as well in those days.)

Most of the costs are obvious – we need to get where we’re going and when we get there, we have to pay for some sort of lodging.  Then there are costs for tickets, souvenirs, and so on.

On this trip, with the exception of the time at my dad’s house in central Florida, we paid for a relatively modest motel each night, and we ate out at least one meal a day, opting to utilize the free breakfast at the motels we stayed at.  For our lunches, we ate Clif Bars, packets of nuts, and apples or bananas.

We had expenses for the dog, too – most of the Best Westerns charged an additional fee for her (very understandable), although the La Quinta Inns did not (I’m voting for a La Quinta Inn in most cases for this reason alone).

But food costs are a bit tricky.  When we’re home, we eat rather simply and we tend to eat the same stuff over and over.  I remember reading something about how people actually eat and that’s pretty typical.  But when we’re on vacation, we spend more because we’re eating out, and we eat more because restaurant food has that novelty factor and that deliciousness factor and that “what the hell, I’m on vacation” factor working for it. (See my comments below on the “on vacation” mode of being.)

And then there’s liquor.

We keep a fairly well-stocked liquor cabinet at home because we do like our cocktails.  We also keep a fair amount of good beer around as Bob likes his IPAs.

When I buy a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin (yes, for martinis), I buy a big 1.75 liter bottle from Total Wine or Costco, so I get a bargain.  But when I buy a drink at a bar or restaurant when we’re on vacation, I pay a huge premium.  Now, we didn’t drink everyday when we were gone (nor do we drink every day when we’re home, either . . . just sayin), but when we did it was expensive.

So it’s obvious that in terms of cost, the cost of motorhome park fees would be less than even modest motels (and way less than the nice hotels that we have occasionally been to), fuel would be necessarily more, though, and eating in the motorhome most days would lower the food and liquor cost quite a bit and still allow for nights out on occasion.

But, I hear you saying . . . but there’s the COST of the motorhome to begin with.  That’s true.  They aren’t cheap and they don’t generally appreciate in value.

So why even consider one?

What Price Lifestyle?

I’ve been pondering this for awhile now.  And I think there are a couple of aspects to the lifestyle issue.

First, there’s the pace of life as both a journeyer and a sojourner (a sojourner is one who rests in one spot for awhile) that appeals to both of us.  We have always had that wanderlust and we found ourselves always curious about both the places and people as we traveled through an area.

In the car, the pace felt rushed, even on the trip back home which took about twice as long as the eastward trip.  It was mostly about moving through, or journeying.  In a motorhome, there is this, but often you stop for a few nights or more in one place  before moving on.   So there is that sense of the sojourn as well as the journey.

But there is another issue though that seems a bit, I don’t know . . . strange or unexpected to even me.  And that is the cozy factor of living in a motorhome.  None of them are huge, no matter how large the camera angles make them seem – certainly not as large as the home we currently live in which is about 1900 square feet.  Living sanely and with enough personal privacy in a space of 300-400 square feet (or less) seems counter intuitive, but when we did it, it quickly felt warm, cozy and homey to both Bob and I.  I was surprised and didn’t expect that experience, but it was true.

Lastly, To Be a Journeyer and Sojourner

I mentioned above that the “on vacation” mode was probably one factor in our eating out both more food and not as good food due to the novelty, the deliciousness and the “what the hell, I’m on vacation” mode of being.  I’m not sure that’s how it would be in a motorhome, though.

I posed this on an RV forum and got responses which mostly were in the vein of, “Well, we quickly realized that no matter where we are, we’re home” which I realized I felt when we were renting, too.  Even though we didn’t own that motorhome, I was making dinner in it, and washed dishes and then settled in to read a book or went outside to just enjoy the place we were in.  Yes, I was on vacation but I felt, intensely, like I was also at home.

I don’t know yet how it will be to be in our own motorhome, moving about the country for months at a time.   I think that having our own bed to sleep in nightly, not having to pack up our bags and unpack them over and over, and not having to worry much about check in and check out times will all contribute to this feeling of being home, rather than on vacation.  And having normal routines and rituals will help as well.

Ultimately, what we learned is that this new life in retirement is full of things we have yet to experience and we won’t be able to do all that we want to do or go to all the places we want to go to.  Being together and finding spaces to be apart is important, and finding meaning in our lives will be a challenge always.

I think, for us, life will be in the journeying and the sojourning wherever we are.  And in this, we will always be at home.

Categories: Home Sweet Home, Life on the Road, The Hunt for the Wild RV, Travel Plans | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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