Author Archives: Rat Race Retirees

A Safe Place in the Storm

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We’ve had a rough winter and early spring around here.  We got several feet of snow towards the end of winter and then got hit with a “bomb cyclone”.  Between the rain and the melting snow we have historic floods here in the Midwest.  South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri have been hit hard.  Around Omaha we have had several counties without clean water and even a town turned into an island for over a week.

Our house was okay but so many other families were left with nothing.  This got me to thinking about what my wife and I have each gone through in our lives and wondered why we were not more prepared if something should happen.

I started looking over what we have in our house.  If we were suddenly without food, water and electricity, how would we live until we got help?  Our furnace wouldn’t work, our refrigerator wouldn’t work and we couldn’t cook.  The government recommends a gallon per person per day for at least three days.

Our RV would come in really handy in a bad situation.  We would have a furnace to keep warm, a generator and solar panel to generate electricity and recharge electronics, a refrigerator to store cold food and about 35 gallons of freshwater capacity.

But being prepared for the winter means I have to winterize better.  We have a diesel and I didn’t put any winter stabilizer in it.  I also didn’t fill up the propane tank so we’d have limited heat and electricity.  Our RV isn’t level so we can’t use the refrigerator without having it seize up.

Disasters happen quickly and there is little time to prepare.  It’s best to have some food and water on hand and if you have an RV, make sure it’s ready to get up and running quickly should you need it.

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Blizzard Blues

Do you ever want to just get away with your camper?  It’s damn tough in the winter because of the weather.  Who cherishes the idea of driving a big rig on snow and ice to make it somewhere warmer?

As I write this, we have about 10 inches of snow on the ground from the blizzard we got last night.  We have drifts about 4 feet high.  We have to get out this morning and shove out our driveway and sidewalk.

This is part of the winter months that I hate.  We still owe on our RV and continue to make the payment each month.  In the winter I spend the time inside thinking about the money we’re spending and not getting any use out of it.

Maybe we need to seriously consider getting out for some winter camping, but neither of us are fond of cold weather.  The idea of sitting in our camper, even though we like it, and not doing anything isn’t all that appealing.  We are more comfortable at home.

What gets us through the winter is dreaming of what we want to do when it warms up.  We’d like to visit family in South Dakota, Indiana and other places.  Or maybe just camp somewhere local.  What plans do you have for summer camping?

Cruise Packing Tips

We didn’t do a lot of camping this last summer.  Instead, we opened a Dream Vacations franchise.  We did our training in Ft. Lauderdale and have spent our time doing training for land and sea travel.  But don’t worry, we’ll still be out camping and enjoying our RV.

We are going on a cruise this summer to celebrate our daughter’s high school graduation.  We told our son and grandson it’ll be their graduation gift, too.  It has been an education, watching YouTube videos and connecting with people that have done this a lot. I thought I would share some tips I picked up.

Because staterooms don’t have a lot of room, everyone suggests bringing an over-the-door shoe organizer and hanging it on the bathroom door.  Fill it with things that will help you feel better should you get seasick or catch a cold; things that help you with your cabin; and more.

Keep in mind that indoor cabins don’t have windows and are very dark when the light is out.  Cabins don’t have a lot of electrical outlets for charging things.  You will also have limited access to internet while on board.  You can wash your clothes on board for an extra fee.

Here is a list of suggestions that I have gathered so far:

  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe Vera
  • Clorox Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Air Freshener
  • Advil
  • Dramamine
  • Band-Aids
  • Dental Repair Kit
  • Kleenex
  • Flashlight
  • Night Light or LED Tea Lights
  • Charger or Power Strip (but not a surge protected one)
  • Walkie Talkies
  • Magnets
  • Post-It Notes and Pen
  • Dirty Clothes Bag
  • Tide Detergent
  • Cash for Tipping
  • Snorkel Gear
  • Waterproof Bag
  • Towel Clips for the deck
  • Water Bottles
  • Rain Poncho or Umbrella
  • Eye Shades
  • Ear Plugs in case you’re in a cabin near the bar, pool or theater
  • Lanyard for holding your room key

We hope you get a chance to get out to sea and explore. If you have a suggestion for this list, let us know in the comments.

Campbell Team Travel

First Trip of 2018

I work full time writing software and spend part time maintaining the software I wrote for a previous employer. They never hired someone to replace me and instead pay me to fix what comes up. The upgrade to Windows 10 has been a boon to my savings account. So when I found out I have extra vacation time to burn from my full time job, I volunteered to show up for a week and catch up on things.

My boss there has 40 acres on the Platte River and said if I bring the RV I can hook up to his power and stay out there. He would give me a ride to work in the mornings and back in the evenings. Sounds good to me.

As I wrote before, it’s been a hectic couple of months. I just barely had time to dewinterize the RV and didn’t have a chance to check it fully before taking off.

I made the trip without any real issues. The fridge wouldn’t cool down on propane so I need to look at that. I turned the water heater on when I got up and didn’t have warm water after a while. I had to leave that to look at after work. The good news is the air conditioner and microwave work, and so does the water pump.

When I got back from work I checked the water heater again. I accidentally left it on all day and it was plenty hot. The best I can figure is I turned it to heat on the electric instead of the usual propane and it must take longer. I will have to get up earlier in the morning and maybe have breakfast first.

I still need to clean the air conditioner filters, change the batteries in the smoke detectors and CO detector and a few other things. But if you’re going to work on things then this isn’t the worst place in the world to do it.

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De Winter Blues

It’s finally spring and time to get out the RV. We had a really long winter and I was really desperate to dewinterize but had to keep holding off because of the temps. In early May I figured we were finally able to get out our baby and dewinterize.

Our schedules have been crazy this last April and May so this was easier said than done. We had a graduation in Illinois coming up over Mother’s Day weekend and I needed to use the RV the next week so I had to get it done the week before Mother’s Day. I picked up a checklist on how to dewinterize and it suggested when I sanitize the lines I let the bleach sit in the lines for 12 hours.

I had a time getting out in the mornings because for some reason I kept having reasons to be to work on time so being late wasn’t going to cut it. I finally found a morning that would work and the evening before I cleaned the antifreeze from the lines and added the bleach and water. That next morning I let the water tank drain and got to fill it up with clean water a couple of times.

I dumped the tanks in the yard, which was a mistake. I must have broken loose some toilet paper from the black tank. Oops. I cleaned up what I could. The neighbor that takes care of that side of the yard isn’t going to be too happy.

I checked the tire pressure the day I was supposed to leave for my business trip. Another mistake; I should have done that earlier. The tires were all low so I took it to the RV dealer in town. I needed more propane so they added that. They checked the air pressure and agreed it was low but wouldn’t fill up the tires. I found a mechanic down the road that said he’d take a look at it. He filled up what he could but couldn’t get the inside duallies to take any air. Sigh. I called an RV dealer in Council Bluffs and they said they don’t do tires, they hire a local place close by. I called them and they said sure, bring it in. I did and they got the rims off and the inside tires filled up quickly.

I should have scheduled more time to get all this done. I also need to print out a list of steps and what I’ll need so that I can have everything together and a better plan in place.

Expenses for Our Rocky Adventure

We just got back from our trip to the Rockies and today I sat down and tallied up what we spent.

Getting Some Gas

The biggest expense, of course, was gas. We spent $335 on gas to drive from Omaha to Denver and back, with some stops along the way. According to the spreadsheet I kept for our travels we got 14 mpg on our trip, averaging 75 mph on the interstate and doing plenty of mountain driving.

Feed Me!

The next highest expense at $92 was food. It was strictly eating out and buying us and the kids some coffee before dropping them off. We didn’t include the money we spent on the food we took with us. We cooked breakfast in the RV each day and supper for two nights, and bought meals every other time. We could have done better on this point.

Staying Over

Next up was our campground expense. We only spent $56 on that for the two nights we spent in campgrounds. We could have done better on that, too, by not spending the night in North Platte.

Miscellaneous

The last expense was miscellaneous expenses and that amounted to $34. We paid to get into the park and bought a few things along the way.

Final Thoughts

We had a great trip and even though it was rushed, it was fun. We definitely couldn’t have taken it in Cousin Eddie where we got 8 mpg on a good day. And we couldn’t have fit into our campsite with Cousin Eddie. Trading off to get Sparky was a great choice and it fit us well.

A Quick Trip to the Rockies, Part 2

We woke up around 3:30 a.m. to the sound of some light rain. We slept a couple more hours and got up to walk the dog.

We weren’t in the hours to run a generator yet so we warmed up some water on the stove and used the hot water to make coffee. We made some breakfast and packed up. We wanted to get some pictures of the park before starting to head home.
coffee and eggs

We started off for the visitor center, stopping at some overlooks along the way. We were heading up in elevation and Mother Nature wasn’t in a good mood. We passed a warning sign about icy roads and then it started snowing. We got pulled over at the visitor center by the park rangers, who had closed the road past that point. They said there were too many wrecks there.

We hung out in the parking lot for an hour or so with some other people who stayed with us to keep warm. They were running low on gas.

icy conditions.pg

The rangers later told us we could backtrack and leave the park through Grand Lake. It was a roundabout way to get home but we took it. There was still a lot of nice scenery out there.

fall colors

We took Highways 34 and 40 through Grand Lake and Granby and caught I-70 west of Denver. I-70 is sure a pain to drive out there with all the traffic. The road was taking us past where I used to work when I lived out there so we stopped. I used to be a photo lab manager for Wal-Mart and the store outside Evergreen, Colorado, was my first lab. We did some shopping and looking around, and then it was time to hit the road.

walmart

We caught I-70 to I-76 and followed that to I-80 in Nebraska. We stopped at North Platte, Nebraska, for the night and got a shower. We had a quiet night there at an RV park and hit the road.

We had a quiet drive back in time to pick up the kids at 3 and head home.
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