Thursday, September 12, 2013

Things to Think About Before Hitting the Road

By the time we began our travels in May, 2012, we thought we had the RV life style pretty well all figured out since we had lived in an RV for about two years before we actually hit the road. We stayed in the well appointed Theme World RV Park just five miles north of our Sticks 'n' Bricks abode we left for retirement in an RV. Even so, we discovered several issues we were unprepared for.
We enjoyed the pool at Theme World RV Resort
Medical Issues: In readying for the nomadic life, we had gathered concise health records and lists of medications, doctors instructions anad some medical equipment. I have some health issues, so got a battery operated blood pressure machine, cheap but accurate, and a nebulizer, also capable of running on battery. 

I use Wal-Mart Pharmacies and they will forward your refills to whatever area you're in as you rove around the country, and that worked fine until I needed narcotic pain meds. I have some severe spine problems and am having surgery this fall. Meanwhile, I use narcotic based pain meds and the doctor calls them in each time. A mere inconvenience until we reached California who requires the prescribing doctor to be CA licensed and to hand write the prescription! No calls, no FAX. I had to find a local doctor who could read and understand my complex scans and records and who was willing to take on a new and temporary patient. I lucked out, but it was getting dicey as I was down to 8 pills before I got a new prescription. 

Space Considerations: When we started the nomadic portion of our retirement, we lived in a 40 foot coach with a full basement... very roomy. Last December, we traded off the coach for a rig ten feet shorter with minimum storage underneath. What a challenge to get rid of so much stuff! We are still overcrowded and trimming down every unneeded item. Probably the most space is taken up with books and family photos and keepsakes. We were sorting some even today. I hope to scan all the photos and upload many to share with family. 
Moved out of the tan rig into the white Hurricane... lost 10 feet!

Homebody Leanings: We traveled pretty steadily at first. Boondocking as well as stopping in RV parks, Wal-Mart parking lots, repair shops and even an Air Force base. It was great to visit friends and relatives, but the constant travel was tiring on us and our pets. Cooking meals was harder and our constant breakdowns made us tired (and poor!). We longed for a place to settle for a while. So, we spent some time at our daughter's place in Cedar City, Utah, then ambled on down to Vegas where we became Lake Mead volunteers for six months, and finally, we came on up here to northern California for a summer as camp hosts basking in the shade of the magnificent madrones, a tall and quirky tree of this area. 
Settling in for the summer as Camp Hosts under the madrone trees.
Money Needs: Of course, constant travel costs money.. far more than we expected! It is more costly to eat, too. Fuel and propane are a major expense, and lodging is much higher by the night than by the month. Again, repairs were eating us up. So, workamping made sense. A season or two here and a season there, anywhere in the country, it seems. Just check out for all sorts of government listings. For some light work and a little time, you get to live free in wonderful vacation spots all over the country!

Faith Frustrations: We discovered that finding congregations of like believers was almost impossible. Fellowship with other believers is extremely important to us and will be a factor in all our future volunteer placements. 
Encircling the synagog with the Torah scroll. All participating.
Electronic Communications Woes: We have not found consistent phone service, which is not a big surprise since we tend to stay out in the boonies most of the time. We did switch to Verizon and have had better service from them. We also gave up on smart phones, being quite content with our dumb phones.

For now, we will do one more stint as volunteers, going back to Lake Mead for the fall. I will have my back surgery and we will later head back Florida way, traveling and visiting a while. Then, once more, we'll find a volunteer gig somewhere near a Messianic congregation... and visit friends and family along to way to it, then spend a delightful season making new friends in a new and interesting place.

It's a wonderful life living free and easy in an RV.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Big Cats, Big Fires

Forget chronology, there are urgent things going on right now, so we'll skip over other events and jump right to the big stuff. Big cats and big fires!

Looking across the mountain at the 10,000 acre Coral Fire
The fire, locally called the Coral Fire, is 9 miles from us and zero percent contained. Started by lightning just a few days ago, over 10,000 acres are ablaze and there are almost a thousand firefighters here who traveled from all over to fight it. The firefighter who brought us our daily report tonight was from Michigan, for example. These selfless men and women are camped out in tents at varying local staging areas and some stayed here for a time.  Choppers, fire engines and other equipment have also come pouring in to our rescue.
One of the staging areas for imported firefighters from all over
Another fire above Orleans continues to burn out of control as well, and the smoke from these and smaller area fires hangs on the mountains and gathers in the valleys looking like London fog but burning eyes and noses, scorching throats and turning tongues to leather.
The smoke is everywhere!
Lest talk around Boise Creek campfires be too focused on the fires, one of our campers spotted a cougar and caught a fairly good iPhone photo of it. The big cat prowled through two campsites during the previous night, or so the occupants thought. Both heard a larger animal walking fairly close to their tents. 
Cougar! Taken from a campsite without telephoto lens.
The mountain lion's visit was not a total surprise to us. I have been seeing cougar scat for about two weeks. This is a good year for them, and their numbers are up, hence these very territorial critters are staking out new claims, marking out new Home turfs for themselves. In studying them, we find they normally tour all the nooks and crannies of their stomping grounds about once a week, so we'll be on the lookout for this one again.... and I'll try to get more pictures.
Giving Heather a goodbye hug
Two members of our Forest Service Recreation team form Orleans have moved up the ladder, as I mentioned in a previous post, and now we have also said goodbye to Heather. We're sure gonna miss her! Stephanie has arrived with her willing spirit and quickly fit right into the team of Recreation Technicians we work with.
Stephanie and Bingo... Instant rapport!
In other excitement, we locked ourselves out of the motorhome and learned a valuable lesson about our door/lock setup. 

There are two red plastic toggles on the inside of our door. One locks the dead bolt, the other locks the door latch. It seems I inadvertently flipped the latch toggle when I went out the door, and the keys, of course, were in the house!

Our windows were open, thank heavens, so Richard saved the day with this heroic yet precarious break-in. Safety First is definitely not his motto, but I wasn't complaining.

And I will close with one final misadventure, which was also a lot of fun... We got lost.

It all started when we went to help a Forest Service worker, Diane, who was working with a group of teens building a fence for a remote dispersed camping area. She needed us to take some timber up to the the site.
Diane, Richard and kids loading logs for Aimon Ranch camping area fence. 
It was a beautiful drive and we had followed Diane up there before, so we told her we'd meet her up there and just drove on up while she ran an errand.

Somehow, we missed a turn and wandered all over that mountain! Radio reception was spotty and cell phones worse, but we got through at last, then also met a local who gave more directions, and finally, we arrived at Aimon Ranch, our destination... but, since we were over an hour late, Diane and her charges had left already. There was a happy ending, they came back, we delivered the logs and headed down the mountain, stopping at this creekside oasis on the way. Such a beautiful way to live.

Of course, because of our radio transmissions, everyone in the Six Rivers Forest heard about our wanderings, so we get to take a bit of good natured ribbing... all part of the fun.
 Bye Bye until next time....

Monday, August 12, 2013

Becoming Camp Hosts

We left Lake Mead with little time to spare, much less any extra funds, so we decided to visit family later, when we had more of both time and money. We did however, make a stop at Yreka, CA, to see friends we knew from Florida. Randy operates an RV repair shop and Mary Jane manages a book store. They own both businesses, so have a lot on their plates, but they made time for us, and Randy and his crew did much needed maintenance and repair on our motorhome... at a very, very reduced price. We loaded up on books, too, saving money there as well. 
Joe and deer friends enjoy Shabbat
We parked the motorhome for a few days at Randy and Mary Jane's beautiful home in the shadow of Mt. Shasta and celebrated the Shabbat with them and another couple. Later, on our way over to Boise Creek Campground, we met them all in Redding at a small congregation who was hosting Bill Cloud of Shoreshim Ministries. Such a blessing! 
Our car looks like it belongs in this verdant setting.

Sheneesa pumping water to our tank
We arrived at our campground in mid-May and had two weeks to prepare it and ourselves for guests and get settled in. We didn't have potable water for another month, so Forest Service workers hauled water to us, but we had this shady, luxuriant forest haven all to ourselves.

During that time Sereena, Heather and Sheneesa brought us supplies and taught us the ropes of camp hosting for the National Forest. Pretty simple stuff... mostly common sense and people skills.
Shabbat by the sea with new friends.
Our location is about an hour inland from the Pacific coast where it is much cooler than here. We do our shopping in Eureka about once a week. It took a bit for us adjust to the smaller town after living near Las Vegas last fall and winter. The thing we miss most is a meeting with others of our faith. There are no Messianic congregations in the area. We found one couple who lived right on the coast and shared a delightful Shabbat with them just before they were leaving town for extended travels. Yom Kippur is only about a month away and we don't know yet what we will do.
Richard laying in the sun, er waxing the rig.

There had been no host last year and the campground had become popular with vagabonds and vagrants, so early on we had vagrants and others sneaking in, not paying, leaving big messes... but we maintain a pretty visible presence and tour our 17 site campground often. With the help of a few visits from the Forest Service and Sheriff's deputies, the problem was soon under control, leaving us some time to lay in the sun, wax the rig and generally act like vacationers.
The Forest Service truck makes our job so much easier in every way.
In addition to a morning and evening census and fee compliance checks, we clean and service the bathrooms, gather the trash, clean the firepits and maintain the grounds. It really doesn't take a great deal of time, so we offered to be of more help. Now, we have a Forest Service truck loaded with supplies and tools, and we service the restrooms at a river access site as well as haul off the trash from there and the local campgrounds (ours and one other). We also bring them their supplies since the Recreation office is almost an hour away... We notice that having an official truck here on site cuts the number of homeless, etc.

Sereena got a permanent position. Yay!
Part of the reason we got the truck is that the Recreation arm of the Six Rivers National Forest was undergoing some changes. The head man Bob had applied in another state, and got the job. Then Sereena, who was seeking a permanent position with the National Forest, found one, so that just left Heather and Sheneesa to service nine campgrounds, including the two sites and river access in the Lower Trinity area where we're located.

So, we got off to a good start going from totally green to fairly well seasoned hosts who have experienced most campground issues... No injuries yet, and no brawls, no one we could not handle... If it comes, we'll use our radio and help is only two miles away in Willow Creek.

We're having a blast!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Time - Space Warp

I am amazed to see that my last post was five months ago! I enjoy writing the blog and love interacting online, yet I put it off, thinking I'll do it when I have more time, am more rested, have more to say or better pictures, etc. All of that misses the point of charting the everyday, yet unpredictable life of the full-time RVer.

So, with penitent heart and renewed passion, I return to the record: We will do a literary time-space warp and end up in northern California in mid-summer.

Our last post was mid-winter. There was even snow not far from Las Vegas. We drove up to Mt. Charleston and played in the white stuff. 

Before the cold slipped away, we went online to looking for a placement in northern California or southern Oregon. There were several, but we ultimately hooked up with the Six Rivers Nat'l. Forest for a camp host position that has turned out to be primo!
Home Sweet Home until the end of September 
 But we don't want to leave out some things in our lives before we came up north... Like the wonderful Passover celebration held by our synagog, Lev HaShem where we were joined by our delightful granddaughter Tia. We have sure missed our congregation since we find no like believers in this mountain place... more on that later.
Tia, Iona and Richard, Passover, 2013

 We were also blessed with guests not long before we headed north. "Guests?," you say, "How can someone who lives in 250 square feet have guests?" We weren't sure about that, either, until our sweet Florida friends Ruddy and Merida from Congregation Beit Yisrael flew in to spend four fantastic days with us.

The four of us did just fine in our little motorhome. They are full-time RVers as well, living in a 5th wheel about the size of our rig. They taught us a lot about making the space work. 

Doing plenty of outdoor living is key, and being super proactive about cleaning, too... especially the floors. So much more dirt and grit gets tracked in when you live "out in the wilds." We now keep a little folding work table outside and use our external plug in for the crock pot, etc.
Ruddy and Merida enjoying a morning on our patio.

 We have cruised the Strip many times over the years and during our fall and winter stay at Lake Mead, but we needed to see two special sights before leaving.

First, we wanted to revisit The Little Church of the West where we renewed our vows after 30 years of marriage. Our kids were not present when we first wed (long and funny story for another time) but most of them were there 30 years later. Our cool Florida friends took this picture.

Next, we have seen Elvis all over Vegas but never an Elvis wedding. Well, we caught a lucky treat, Elvis in a pink Cadillac driving a newlywed couple... all vintage, and totally copasetic! What a way to say Bye Bye to Vegas.

But there was one final farewell. Like bidding adieu to Lev HaShem, Tia and new Nevada friends, taking leave of these two great guys was tough. The Bosses... we say that lovingly and very tongue in cheek for they pretty much told us what needed done in a general way and turned us lose. It's nice to be trusted that much! David, Chief of Operations, invited us back any time to visit or stay and be part of the team for as little or as long as we wanted... Nice, and we'll be back!
Mike and David
Well, this has proved to be long enough to tire me out and there is much left to tell of our travels to the north, so soon, very soon, we'll post again.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Life Rolls Down Many Roads

Although not necessarily fully organized and efficiently stowed in our new home, we are pretty well settled in to our personal camp site and going about the routine of work and play and life... Did I say routine? Well, really there's nothing routine about life with the Hoeppners, as you will see. 

We very much like our new (to us) rig, but we are still grieving a bit over the Safari. There is no comparison, really, and even today, as we were going about our recycle route, we spied a Safari at an overlook and had to pull in there to have a closer look-see. No one was around, so we just circled it admiringly and went on our way.

Daughter Stephanie and granddaughter Tia
We did manage to get in contact with the person who bought our Safari... Yes, it sold immediately. Well, of course, it was gorgeous! A local pastor bought it and plans to live in it after he retires... Cool!

We were blessed to see two of our children recently. First, daughter Stephanie came through during travels from California to Utah. We didn't have much time to see her since she was only here a short while, but it sure was a special treat, anyway.

Also, our oldest son, Norman, came through on the truck he drives. He is a Certified Driver Trainer for a large Salt Lake City truck line. He too, didn't have much time, but we managed to share a meal together and enjoy a delightful couple of hours visiting.

On the way home from our visit with Norman, our car seemingly lost its transmission. There we were, suddenly coasting ever slower in the middle lane of a very busy freeway... on Saturday night... in Las Vegas! Cars were whizzing past us on both sides at 70+ mph while Richard desperately tried to move toward the semi-safety of the right shoulder. We were adrift and powerless and fast becoming a sitting duck... er, make that: toad.

Our Ford warrantee includes towing, so we called and were soon told help was on the way. Yay, Ford!!

An hour later, we were still sitting against a wall on a narrow shoulder... on a curve! Late night Las Vegas traffic was in a hurry and half drunk. Many times, we were only missed by inches. 

We called again. They are coming, it's a busy night. Yeah, tell us about it! 

Over two hours later, we watched as the Little Green Toad was dropped off at a Ford dealership and the tow truck drove away... It was late at night and we were there alone. 

Granddaughter Tia to the rescue! Three in the morning and we're 50 miles away, she doesn't care, she's there for us. What a trooper! She came for us and loaned us Eddie's pickup. Eddie is in Korea and won't be driving it for a while... still yet, we are so blessed!!

A few days later, we were back in the Little Green Toad. The transmission was fine all along, but the computer had gone berserk and in an evil attack, disabled the transmission. Hmmm? Hope they were able to rehabilitate the computer so that never happens again!

Vegas excitement never ends. The food and the wine and the money flows 24/7. But it is the food that really beckons... The town is full of buffets; some are fantastic and very reasonable. The other night, we went to a casino for a nice buffet dinner.  Just as we began our desserts, pandemonium broke out. Amid loudspeaker instructions to stay calm, lights were flashing, alarms were going off and tourists were yelling and taking pictures of the smoke coming up the escalators. 

We, like some of the locals, continued to eat our diner. There was no where to immediately go, anyway. The Bingo room was open, so we went on in until all the panic was over. It seems a slot machine had caught fire and scorched part of a wall.
Here I am looking like a tourist. 

 Yes, we are enjoying our stay here but are about ready to move on. We have been signed on with the Forest Service to be camp hosts at the Boise Creek Campground in Big Foot country near Willow Creek, CA. We will be leaving here at the end of April.

We are expecting our first Hurricane motorhome house guests! Ruddy and Merida, dear friends from Florida, will be coming in early March. They live in an RV, too, so will be comfortable here. We are so excited to see them!  

Maybe by the time they get here I will have this motorhome and everything in it all organized.... Nah, that's a pipe dream because when I can't recall where things go, I end up putting them in a new place, and the confusion starts all over again, hehehe.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Our New Digs

Motorhome shopping is fun and frustrating. I researched local motorhomes for sale and made list of ones we should check out. Ideally, we wanted a length between 30 and 35 feet, no slide outs, a tight turning radius and a no split bath floor plan. We looked and looked and did not find anything that fit all our criteria, especially the no slide out preference.

We were tired of looking, so I prayed one more time that we would find the right motorhome. Then, just as we were about to settle for a 34 footer with a slide out, we spied a new arrival at Johnnie Walker RV. And it met every single one of our requirements! It was a 31.5 feet Hurricane by Four Winds, had a complete bath in a separate room, a very short turning radius and... NO SLIDE OUTS!!!

Fifteen minutes later, we were test driving it. It drove and rode great and we even pulled a U-turn in one maneuver right on a two way street... We signed the papers the next morning after some time in prayer that night.

Trying to fit all we had in that 40 foot Safari with it's big basement and abundant inside storage into a 31.5 foot "regular" type motorhome with limited storage in topside and below... is futile! We parked the rigs side by side right there on the sales lot and spent three rainy days and nights there trying to make the transfer. It was the weekend, so one day was our Sabbath and we did no work. 

Tia sweetened our chore with homemade Creme Brulee. Her first attempt, and it was some of the best I have ever had! The only competition would be our daughter Athena's beau, Brian. 

Sorry the picture is so oddly colored. I tried to adjust the color but only made it worse. Those walls are white, not the garish yellow you see here. 

Finally, we drove our new home out to Lake Mead, packed to the rafters stem to stern. I followed in the car which was crammed full, too! Once hooked up, we unloaded some things to the patio, stowed the ladder under the rig and began to try to put away what we really needed and bag up the rest for the needy. 

Meanwhile, we got back to work here in the park. Thank heavens the folks we work for are flexible and laid back. We have kept our recycle containers cleaned and serviced, but we have certainly not put in the required hours while we were staying 50 miles away.

Workday lunch break. We are so blessed to spend our days like this.

Back to work... Our workplace is a play place. What a fun way to live!

Time to relax and the family all fits on the sofa. Note Jasper and Bingo are becoming friendly...!?

Bingo's new haircut.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Bittersweet Time

As you recall, we had the Safari in the shop for various repairs, with a thousand dollar price tag, I might add. But the work was well done and we were quite pleased with the service and care we got at Johnnie Walker RV in Las Vegas. When the work was done, we picked our rig up and drove out to our camp site at Lake Mead National Recreation Area where we volunteer. Since we were pet/house sitting for our granddaughter at that time, we just parked the motorhome without plugging it in or hooking up water and sewer.

Then the weather took a turn for the colder, breaking records, no less, so we went down and plugged in to power so we could run some heat to protect our new water heater and old pipes. Just then, the inverter blew and the dreadful, acrid stench of burned electrical components and wiring filled us with real fear. Blessedly, our home didn't burn to the ground and very little damage was evident. Indeed, the next morning, after trickle charging the batteries that had been completely drained, we drove our beloved Safari back to the shop. The estimate for a new inverter and to rewire, etc. was over $3,500!

Then Tia came home from Korea. She couldn't get a flight out at her planned return time, so was there an extra week. So good to see her! So then it was time for us to return to our home (and avoid the 50 mile commute to our volunteer duties)... but we had no home to go to!! Our house is in the shop awaiting our decision about whether to fix it or replace it. So we are still homeless, camping out at Tia's. She is so very gracious and welcoming, but we do not like feeling homeless one bit... even though we feel quite at home here.

Time for some serious prayer and consideration. We love our wonderful Safari, but it is far from new and had sat for many years before we bought it. Not being very handy or savvy about repairs or modifications, we have depended on repairmen and mechanics. For the most part they have been fair and open with us, but even so, the expense is killing us and seems never ending.

Weighing the cost of upkeep and the fact that our rig is too big for many of the places we would like to volunteer, we began to look at smaller, newer Class A motorhomes. SO HARD TO DO!!!

Meanwhile, the two Jaspers reluctantly tolerate one another so they can share our bed and help Richard deal with the stress of homelessness. You can see he is just beside himself.

After days of looking, we made the difficult choice to let the Safari go and move into a newer, smaller coach. Tomorrow morning, we close on a 2007 Hurricane. It is only 31.5 feet long, considerably shorter that the 40 foot home we are comfortable in. We will be parked side by side in the dealer's RV park so we can move our things into the newer home. It will be a bittersweet time.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Working Vacation?

Here's Tia at the airport as she leaves to visit her military hubby in Korea. We have been staying at her house caring for their pets while she's away.

Our grandfuzzies are a Rottie, a Coon Hound and Jasper, a camera shy grey cat as cranky as our own cat Jasper.

Of course, we brought our critter crew to stay, too, so it has been a frolicking good time for all.... Well, maybe not the cats.

This house/pet sitting arrangement is working out as a blessing for Tia and for us. I love it when everybody wins! Our car needs some warrantee work and we can just leave it at Ford and use Tia's car for a day or so.

Also, our Safari  needed several things done and was in the  shop for more days. Since we are not living in it right now, this is a perfect time. We prayed and asked for leadership as we used "RV Service Reviews" to help select who to have work on our baby. Based on "Excellent" reviews, we chose Johnnie Walker RV Center in Las Vegas. Al Spurlock took care of us and was kind enough to work in an unusual way with us.

Since we bought our Safari a year and a half ago, at a very bargain price, I might add, there have a number of things we've needed to have fixed, some small, some pretty expensive, at least to us. Some things have simply gotten worse with full time use... like our sagging steps.

We had a new step motor installed last summer and it is fine, but the step mount and a metal plate associated with it are cracked... Finally, had it all dismantles, welded and reinstalled with additional and replacement bracing.

The mysterious leak that finally got really bad turned out to be the water heater. We had already learned about anode rods from the Safari email group we belong to (Look it up on YahooGroups)... but our water heater was shot, needed replaced. All I can say is, although I love pour coach's design, the person who placed that water heater under the lazy susan cabinets needs to spend the rest of their life working under there!

Now, what was unusual about how Al worked with us? As I said we had a prioritized list of things we wanted/needed done, right down to fixing a cabinet door latch. Al was happy to oblige us by calling with the total bill as each job was complete so we could decide whether to proceed to the next. Okay, but our phone does not get signal many of the places we are, such as at work at Lake Mead. He was more than cool and the work was so reasonable, we got everything done under estimate!

One or both of us have made trips to Lake Mead to take care of our recycling duties there, but our work is easy... Guess you could say we are on working vacation where ever we are. My sweetie know how to relax here or there or anywhere, as these pictures show so well.
Here is Richard in our motorhome. Usually Bingo is on his lap.
Here is Richard at Tia's house. Dogs with him is his ideal ;-)
No, he hasn't been drinking... just tired and happy.