Monthly Archives: June 2015

My Kingdom for an Oil Change

It seems like a simple request. I just want to get Cousin Eddie’s oil changed. He’s big but still just an F-450 under the hood.

Rejection

I called the Ford dealer in town but they don’t have a lift for it. I called an RV sales place in town and they do services but not oil changes. I called Jiffy Lube but they won’t touch it, either. Neither will Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club.

Acceptance…Sort Of

I called an RV place in Council Bluffs. They do service, too, but not oil changes. They did give me the name and number of the guy next door who does them so I called. He wanted to charge $120 for the labor and materials. Really? I could take a regular F-450 to an oil change place and get it done for $40 but since it’s an RV the cost triples?

I’ll Just Do the Damn Thing Myself

I got off work that day and decided to hit YouTube. I found a guy doing an oil change on the same chassis. This will work and is simple enough to do, even for me. Now if I can just get underneath the damn thing…

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Cousin Eddie Takes in a Ballgame

Just a day at the ballpark

Just a day at the ballpark

One nice thing about where I work is we have a true team atmosphere and the company pays for time out of the office as a team.  Once a quarter or so we get out and do something fun for the afternoon or for the day.  Recently, we went to an Omaha Storm Chasers game and took time to do some tailgating and games beforehand.

The Setup

The game started at noon so I went out at 9 and got it set up.  Werner Park has an RV lot near the back and the spots have electrical hookups.  They also had a porta potty in the lot so I didn’t have to worry about the black tank.  I got backed into the spot, put out the slide and got the awning out.

A couple others brought tables and games.  I had extra chairs for the people who forgot.  I got the grill set up.  Since the hose we bought to hook up a big tank to the grill didn’t work I used the small portable propane tanks.

There’s Room for Everyone

It started out cloudy but soon the sun was out and it started to get warm.  The awning did a good job of keeping everyone in the shade. With the windows open the RV didn’t get too warm when I was in there.

This Is a Great Way to Spend an Afternoon

Having the RV worked well for us.  We had a good home base for when we took off to play games and hang out with when cooking up lunch.  RVs don’t have to be just for camping.

Feeling Cooler

I don’t know about y’all, but heat builds up in Cousin Eddie like you wouldn’t believe.  We about roasted while at Worlds of Fun when it got up to 100 degrees.  I wanted to get Reflectix before but now it became a priority.  While we were running errands we picked up a couple of rolls of Reflectix from Camping World and tonight I got most of the windows covered.

Reflectix

Reflectix

Reflectix

Reflectix comes in a roll that’s about 2 feet by 10 feet. Camping World sells some precut pieces to cover a single window but for the same cost we could get an entire roll.  It cuts easily and with two rolls I was able to do the windows by the dinette and couch and two of the three windows in the bedroom.  We don’t have windows in the cap so all we have left to cover are the windows by the entry door.

How To Fit It

I watched a video from Xplorer Steve on YouTube and he got it to fit in some grooves around each window.  I looked at ours but we don’t have those grooves all the way around.  Instead, we have the strings that keep the shades from flapping around.

The corners of the windows

The corners of the windows

I decided to cut it wide enough to fit behind the strings.  It’s tall enough to fit behind the shades and when I pull them down they keep the Reflectix in place.  I have some Velcro strips to try if this doesn’t work.

Reflectix in place

Reflectix in place

Fitting In

It fits pretty nice right now.  We’ll see how it is once we go down the road and the vibrations start.  But I could feel a noticeable cooling effect with it in place.  And once we get the third window covered in the back we should be able to sleep in a little later on the weekends.

Inside View

Inside View

Outside View

Outside View

My Advice for Alicia

After our trip to Worlds of Fun, we checked out of the RV park there and drove across the street to Waffle House.  My wife loves Waffle House but we don’t have one in Omaha so we stop at one every time we travel out of town.  We had to park in the side parking lot and take up the whole parking area.  Our waitress, Alicia, just loved the RV and asked us all kinds of questions.  She talked about getting an RV like ours and it seemed like she had a dream of travelling the U.S.    She was busy so we didn’t really talk, but if we had time here’s some advice I would give her.

Determine If It’s a Goal or Just a Dream

What’s the difference between a goal and a dream?  A goal is a dream with a deadline.  The one thing that dooms people from following their dreams is when they end it with, “one day.”  I want to travel one day.  I want to live overseas one day.  Saying things like that is pretty much saying it’s nice but not important enough to follow up on.  Set a deadline and you are on your way.  We talked to her in June and she could be on the road the next summer or even sooner.

Set A Deadline and Sub Goals

Let’s say she wants to be on the road by next Labor Day.  She’ll need to have her trailer or whatever by the spring so she can have time to practice and get to know it.  That means she’ll need to have the money to purchase it.  She’ll have to determine where that money is coming from.  Some ideas are to work a second job, work extra hours at the job she’s at, start a side hustle and have a yard sale to get rid of things she won’t need on the road.  Funnel all extra money like birthday money, Christmas money and tax refunds to the travel fund.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Print off a picture of an RV — any RV.  Print off a picture of the beach, Mount Rushmore or whatever she wants to visit.  And write down her deadline: “I will be on the road by Labor Day, 2016”.  Put them somewhere that she will see them every day.  Something like the dresser mirror or the front door so she sees it each time she leaves the house.

Objections Are Just Problems to Be Solved

There will no doubt be plenty of doubts to pop into her head.  Some of them will come from her and some will come from friends and family.  Most people will let these derail their dreams.  Instead, take them on as challenges.  When she hears fears like how safe it is for a single woman to be on the road, or what about getting into an accident, how will she afford to live on the road, she’ll be using a lot of gas, it’s an opportunity to learn.  Lean on the community and get answers.

Do Some Research

She really liked Cousin Eddy but he’s 31 feet long and gets some poor mileage.  For one person that’s a lot of RV.  There are lots of options available and by taking the time to do some research she can come up with something that fits her needs.  She could go with a full size van converted to do camping; a true camping van Class B; tow a small trailer; get a pickup with a truck camper; or use a full size van to pull a small travel trailer.

Ask Questions

RVers are the most helpful people out there, hands down.  Go tent camping and chat up some RVers.  They’ll show her how things work, what to expect, how to fix things and show her ways to do what she wants to do.  Go to RV shows.  Kansas City has a big one in March.  And since there’s this handy thing called the Internet, ask questions of Google and YouTube.  Find some bloggers you like (ahem) and subscribe.  How to watch TV?  How do you get Internet?  What about phone service everywhere?  Health insurance while on the road?  Banking?  How do you make coffee?

Come Up with a Plan

Alicia no doubt has some plans for her travel.  She might want to visit some national parks, the beach, southern California or New York City.  If she wants to be on the road full time she doesn’t need to come up with a timeline for every destination.  It’s a lifestyle, not a vacation.  That’s an important point.  It’s a lifestyle.  It’s not vacation.  She can take her time to get to each place.  Since she’s a waitress she can get a job just about anywhere she visits.  She can look into working as a camp host, start an online business or work temporary jobs like the Amazon fulfillment center for Christmas.  Come up with a budget and travel slow.  She can use less gas traveling than she does while living in town.

Baby Steps

She could get to travelling while she still has a job.  I assume she drives a small car or pickup.  She could buy a teardrop trailer or even a motorcycle trailer and do some weekend trips.  Start with trips to state parks nearby and work out the details of how she wants to camp.  If she forgot anything it’s not a big deal to drive to a store or just do without.

Just Do It

Make a decision *today* to do it.  She doesn’t need to have all the answers right now.  She just needs the determination to achieve her goal.  And so do you.

Worlds of Fun Village

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Long ago, I adopted my daughter from China.  My starter wife was pregnant at the time so my mother went with me.  I keep in touch with some of the people I went there with and once in a while we get together with the kids.  This past week was one of those times.  We set up an opportunity to meet in Kansas City at Worlds of Fun and since they have an RV park it was the perfect opportunity to take Cousin Eddy and get in some camping.

We initially set a reservation to be there Tuesday night but had the chance to get there Monday.  The staff was helpful and got us a site.

Park Setup

The park office is in a building that has a small store, bathrooms with showers and a pool and hot tub.  There are lots of RV sites, some back-in and some pull-through.  Each site has a concrete pad, picnic table, some small trees, a trash can and full hookups.  The park has wi-fi and each site has a cable hookup.  The Village, as they call it, also has cabins for rent.

The whole village is on a hill with the office near the top.  The entrance is on the Oceans of Fun side.  Some of the roller coasters back to the park and I thought it might be a little loud but I didn’t really hear them when we were inside the RV.

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Our Experience

The staff was helpful and the sites were clean.  The weather was hot, up to almost 100. Our breaker tripped a lot.  We talked to the office and they sent in someone who looked at it and said a connection was loose on pedestal.  He fixed it but our breaker tripped a few more times in the night.  My wife told them on our way out it wasn’t fixed so maybe they fixed it after we left.  We met a couple of other people while we were there but no one else mentioned having problems with the breakers.

The pool was open until 10 p.m. and we did some swimming each night we were there.  They had a lifeguard posted the whole time and it had plenty of chairs.  It was pretty empty, though.  I guess most people were at Worlds of Fun.

The store was stocked with the basics like charcoal, lunch meat, ice cream and the standard souvenir pieces.  Prices weren’t bad for Worlds of Fun.

Camping at Lake Anita, Iowa

When some friends of my wife’s at work learned we bought an RV, they got all excited and invited us to a campout with them at one of their favorite parks.  We set a date and started making plans to take Cousin Eddy on his first big road trip.

About the Park

Lake Anita is a state park in Iowa that’s just over an hour east from Omaha.  It has some primitive sites and some electric-only sites. You can fill up with water at the dump station.  And, as the name suggests, it has a lake.  It allows boating and fishing there.  The campgrounds are on a hill and the park has three tiers: the first is at the top of the hill, the second is midway down the hill and has the bathrooms, and the third is at the bottom and on the lake.  The bathrooms have showers as well.

Our Site

We had a fairly level site but should have used some wood to level it more.  The site was electric only.  We were right across the road from the lake and we had a dock and a small peninsula close by.  The hill started about 10 feet past our site.  We did have to walk through water to get the electric plugged in, though.

Lakeside site at Lake Anita, Iowa

Lakeside site at Lake Anita, Iowa

Our Group

We were meeting Judy and her husband and Bill and his wife.  They each brought adult kids, their spouses and kids.  And five big dogs.  All in all, we had seven sites reserved along the water.  Debbi knew Bill, Judy and her husband.  I had met Judy and her husband once before.  They were all experienced RVers and very helpful through the weekend.

First Night

We gathered up the kids and the grandson and headed out one Friday night after work.  It’s been raining a lot lately so the site was a little muddy.  My wife slipped on the mud while helping me back into the site.  Our firepit was full of water, too.  But we were on the water and the weather was beautiful.  We brought a raft for the kids to use on the lake and borrowed an air compressor from one of the people parked next to us.  We visited for a while and met the people we didn’t know.  We fixed up some dinner and visited before the rain started coming down.  It really poured.  The good news is we know for sure we don’t have any leaks.

Next Day

We had to turn on the furnace during the night but slept pretty good.  We fixed coffee but discovered we’d left the carafe at the house.  Lucky for me, my wife figured out how to jury rig it and we had coffee.  The temperatures really dropped through the evening but we had only packed for warm weather.  Judy had some extra clothing so we had some sweatshirts and hoodies to wear.  Bill came with plenty of firewood and he and Judy both had big coffee pots brewing all day.

The kids did plenty of rafting through the day.  I brought fishing poles that are pretty old but forgot to bring the new line.  Sigh.  We fixed chicken on the grill but it was difficult to fix over the fire we built.  We finished it in the microwave and fixed s’mores over Bill’s campfire.

Last Day

We got up to a beautiful morning. Judy invited us over for breakfast with her clan.  Those people know how to camp.  They had three grills going, the 30-cup coffee pot brewing and plenty of tables and chairs around.  Scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon and pancakes.  Mmmm….

We said our goodbyes at 11, packed up the RV and dumped our tanks.  For some reason the freshwater started spewing out the fill after we dumped the tanks.  I didn’t know what else to do so I just let it go.  We were gone by 12 and stopped for gas on the interstate before coming home.

Lessons Learned

We learned a lot this trip but most of it boils down to Be Prepared, Dummy.  We didn’t have much time to prepare the day before and we were in a hurry when we left.  We didn’t look at our list and wound up leaving without a number of things.  We didn’t have a spatula, the carafe for our coffee, warmer clothes in case it turned cold and some other stuff.  We didn’t test the compressor before leaving and we figured we’d have time to fix the fishing poles but forgot the extra line.