Tag Archives: RV Living

It’s Gettin’ Hot In Here

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Pop quiz… what’s the last thing you want to hear when you walk into a camper on a 93 degree afternoon?

Answer: “Uh Oh”.

Especially when it’s exclaimed by the person walking into the camper first.

It helps to have a little back story to give the expletives that followed some context.

We have one rooftop air conditioner in the Turtle, and normally it’s enough to keep the main part of the abode cool. We run a fan in the bedroom at night and it keeps it pretty cool. We knew we were going to need the second air conditioner in the bedroom eventually but were getting by without it for now.

Until about a week ago when our one and only unit starting having some problems.

The compressor wouldn’t cut off, or would only cut off for a few minutes before coming right back on. Obviously if anything runs constantly it has a risk of burning up, but the fan was still working and blowing cold air, so we tried to limp along for a little while until we could figure out the problem.

After a little Googling I decided it was either the thermostat or the control board on the unit. Since the thermostat was a cheaper and easier fix we picked one up and I installed it… no dice. So now we had to figure out whether to get the board fixed or replace the whole unit, and if we could do it ourselves or would have to take it in somewhere.

A few phone calls and a trip to Camping World later we realized mid June is not the time to go in for repairs, because apparently everybody else got there in early June. Or maybe it is the time and we’re just a bit slow… either way it wasn’t happening.

By now we are turning it off and on at the breaker. Since we don’t want to let it run all the time we play a fun game of turn-the-camper-into-a-meat-locker shortly before bedtime and then cut the unit off so hopefully it stays cool overnight. It’s worked so far, but I think I’ve come close to hypothermia once or twice… Marty disagrees. We’ve been running it quite a bit during the day too, because the June weather is really uncooperative when it comes to air conditioning problems. Needless to say I’m expecting an overly exciting electric bill this month.

We had decided to order a new unit online instead of paying the extra money at a dealership, and had been told the install was a piece of cake so we weren’t going to spend that money either. I just needed to do some more research and decide which type of unit we wanted… there are way too many options out there. Ducted, non-ducted, 13.5k, 15k, Dometic, Coleman, Low Profile, Heat Strip or not. There should just be something called “The RV Air Conditioner”, you could throw it in your cart at Wal-Mart before the canned cheese and fuzzy dice. Because that’s what people buy at Wal-Mart ya know. That and spandex. Lots of spandex.

Anyway, back to the story. On Sunday we headed south to set up at a flea market for a balmy seven hours. We had a tent and there was a breeze so it really wasn’t that bad, but I was definitely looking forward to a good shower and watching the next episode of Breaking Bad on DVD in the cool. Until I heard the “Uh Oh” and I instantly knew what had happened.

We had left the unit on that morning, so the dogs didn’t suffocate, and although it wasn’t the first time it must have been just hot enough to freeze it up completely. We didn’t get home until around 3 o’clock, so I don’t know when it quit cooling but it was much hotter inside than out by then. Luckily it hadn’t gotten hot enough to do any damage to the dogs, but were still really happy to come outside and hang out in their tiny fence.

We spent another three hours sitting outside while we waited on the great thaw to happen. Now don’t get me wrong, we love to sit outside. But when you’ve been sitting outside all day, and are noticeably sticky with a slight dusty aura, nothing sounds better than a recliner and cold air. But it was the approximate temperature of the fourth layer of hell inside, so we settled for shade and a little breeze instead.

At this point it became pretty clear we didn’t need to waste any more time researching and otherwise procrastinating. It was also at this point I remembered we had bought an extended warranty when we bought the Turtle. That’s very unusual, because I’ve been known to get pretty irritated when the guy at Best Buy pushes the extended warranty for my laptop, hard drive, or DVD box set. I don’t like salesmen or extended warranties, so that’s dangerous ground right there. But it seemed like a decent idea at the time, since we know right next to nothing when it comes to the components of this rolling apartment.

So I dug around in my files and found the cards for the Xtra Ride policy we obtained a mere 4 months ago, and was able to figure out that the air conditioner was indeed covered. I tried calling the claims department that day, but it informed me if I was making a vehicle service claim I needed to call the 24 hour automated claims line. Great! I hang up and try that number, where I find out the company has a great sense of humor, because I got the exact same message I had just gotten, telling me to hang up and call the phone number I was already calling. Fun stuff.

The unit finally thawed, and we were able to put the dogs back in and go out to eat dinner, because at this point nobody was willing to turn on anything hot just to make food. I kept all my paperwork out and started my phone marathon Monday morning.

In good news, the warranty adjustor that I spoke to was really helpful and friendly. He basically said if the board was bad in the unit, which we think it is, they would pay parts and labor to replace it. He also said if we wanted to have a new unit installed instead, which we do, they would apply the money towards that and we could pay the difference. I was afraid we would have to pack everything up and go camp in the parking lot of a service department for two or three days, but he said they would pay for someone to come out and do the work, so long as they were certified.

Thus ensued a second phone marathon, where it became painfully obvious that we need to learn more about these things and start a mobile RV repair service around here. I managed to find a grand total of one. One repair shop that will do on location repairs and is certified to do so. And they are over an hour away. And even better than that, they were closed on Mondays.

Luckily they picked right up this morning when I called, and are coming tomorrow to give us and the warranty company an estimate on the repairs. We have a couple of other small electrical problems that we’re hoping might be able to slide in under the $100 deductible, but if not we’re still going to get them fixed while we have someone here… because that’s evidently a bigger feat than you would think.

My question today is this, if you live in or just have an RV, what type of air conditioner do you have? Do you love it or hate it? We had heard that the Coleman’s were very quiet, so we were leaning that way, but the repairman has thrown a wrench in by saying that is the last unit he would ever pick. What do you think?

Meanwhile, Back At The Park…

IMG_20130616_075628_799Sometimes, when you live amongst a lot of other people, things happen during the course of the day that you didn’t plan on. Sometimes those things can be a hindrance to whatever you were doing to begin with, and sometimes those things can be a really funny series of events that leaves you feeling like Gilligan on his three hour tour.

Yesterday evening we ate dinner surprisingly early – about 6:30. That was actually our normal time BC (Before Camper), but now we apparently don’t eat until at least 8:15. We’re wild like that.

Since it was early and had clouded up and gotten nice and cool we thought a little walk was in order while dinner was cooking on the grill. Marty had already gotten a shower and we just planned to take a little stroll and check out the new folks that had moved in.

We made it down our row and halfway up another when we noticed Don, the owner, opening all the sewer caps in our row and shaking his head. We wandered back over and he asked if Marty could take our sewer connection off so he could see if it was stopped up, because he thought his pump might have quit working.

Four minutes later we were running water from a hosepipe (garden hose for you damn yankees) down our sewer hole, which was indeed backed up. Three minutes after that Marty was knelt down rewiring the sewer pump. From shower to sewer repair in less than 15 minutes. It happens.

Then, after a thorough hand washing and our early dinner, we headed back out to finish our walk. We chuckled a bit as we passed an older lady attempting to walk an extremely unwilling tabby cat, or maybe the cat was taking her for an outing, it was hard to say.

Since I’m still hunting for my missing turtle, and the field next to the campground has started to dry up, we headed over there next to investigate. A little after dinner pond scavenging. It didn’t turn up any results, but I did see a real turtle and a baby rabbit, so I’ll take that as a win.

From there we headed back out, up one row and down a second, and met an older man sitting on a picnic table outside his motor home. He turned out to be the other half of the lady the cat was walking, and he stopped us to tell us about his harrowing drive in. Evidently the cruise control stuck on him just north of Birmingham and he had to get over to the side of the interstate and cut the engine off to stop it. Scary stuff. We stayed and talked to him for a bit, and the still visibly upset tabby cat howled at us from his leashed confinement the whole time. The cat lady came back out and we all chatted for a bit about their past campers and kids and things that people chat about on cool evenings in the campground.

Then I saw the tabby cat, sans leash, wander past us. She was quickly apprehended and releashed, and we chatted a little longer. Then, because cats are insanely tricky, she broke free again and this time decided she wasn’t going without a fight. Within a few minutes we went from having a nice chat to the four of us crawling around a large shrubbery looking for a decidedly freaked out cat. We surrounded the bush, which was actually three bushes grown into one, and making clucking noises and soothing here kitty sounds we hunted for their escapee. I spotted her in the middle bush but scared her off, then she reappeared in bush number three… kind of like a prickly shell game.

It almost worked, but she eluded us and shot out of bush number one, running across the campground with a rather older lady scooting after her. The rest of us stayed back, hoping not to scare her up a tree. It worked, and with minor clawing she was apprehended again and detained inside the motor home. This pretty well ended the chatting so we headed off, laughing at the fact that hunting for a cat in a shrubbery seems like something I would get us into.

Retracing our steps we headed back up row two, and ran smack into a talker. There’s one in every campground, the guy who always has a story to tell. They’re not to be confused with walkers, who you want to avoid at all costs because of the obvious face eating tendencies.

We’re standing there, talking to the talker, when a little silver car pulls up and just sits there. I think he was on the phone, but we didn’t know that at the time and he seemed to just be lurking there like a poorly planned drive by. He finally looked over and asked if we knew of a couple who had just sold a farm over on Blue Creek. Marty, who I’m sure wasn’t expecting the question from a random stranger in a Taurus, said the man might have to ask the owner. After a few seconds of intense thought I pointed out that we ourselves had just sold our house on Blue Creek Road.

As it turns out we were indeed the couple he was looking for, because I had spoken to him a few days before on the phone after posting our Kawasaki Mule for sale on Craigslist. I thought he had changed his mind, but it turns out he just lost my number, but did remember where I said we lived. I don’t just go around telling strangers where we live all willy nilly by the way, but he was a local, only living a couple of miles from the campground, and I didn’t tell him any details other than that we were here.

As we talked we learned that he had driven a school bus with Marty’s dad for years and knew him very well. He was a really nice guy, had been working for the local school district for 23 years, and was trying to convince his wife that he needed another toy to play with. We talked him into it and he’s supposed to bring us the money for the Mule and trailer today.

If it weren’t for the sewer fixing, pond scavenging, cat hunting adventure we had been on we would have already been inside when he pulled up at 8:15 at night, and no one would have known who he was looking for. We might have missed out on selling the Mule to a really nice guy, and having a funny story to tell. Add seeing a turtle and rabbit and I call that a good night, albeit not that unusual here.

Any funny campground stories of your own? I know they’re out there, because I’ve found we end up at least a few times a week in some situation we couldn’t have planned on. It really spices things up a little!

Don’t You Miss Your House?

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The reactions we’ve gotten since we sold our house to move into the Turtle have been mixed. Split down the middle between those who think we are crazy or broke, and those who would love to do the same thing.

We’ve made other choices along the way that people apparently think indicate our current lack of sanity as well, like selling my paid for car.

No matter how they feel about it though there are certain things it seems everyone is curious about, because we get asked the same things regularly. Things like…

Don’t You Miss Your House?

The short answer is a simple no.

The longer answer is, yes we loved our house. We built it ourselves, it was a beautiful wood sided house on a lovely tree covered hillside. We had 5 acres of shaded land and a gravel circle driveway, a nice shop and a building for the band to practice music in. A screen porch with a hot tub and outdoor TV was the last addition we made a few years ago. Who wouldn’t have loved that?

But with a house comes a multitude of responsibilities and chores. Cleaning and resealing siding, weeding and replanting beds, new gravel for the driveway, decluttering the shop and yard, cleaning the gutters, mowing the yard, mopping the floors, keeping rooms decluttered and clean even when you aren’t using them, treating the water in the hot tub, paying for 3 satellite boxes that you don’t use all the time, planting and harvesting the garden, dusting and cleaning the things you’ve bought to fill the rooms you aren’t using… I could go on and on.

The result of all that is very little relaxation. You try to sit on your front porch and enjoy the afternoon, but instead you end up thinking of all the things that need to be done. You decide to hang around the house on a lazy Sunday to do a few things and before you realize it the entire day has been given to cleaning and taking care of things, and you haven’t even had the chance to enjoy them.

There were many days that I would have big plans for enjoying the day, but first ‘I’ll just clean the kitchen real quick’. That leads to mopping the floors because they really need it, and now Marty is mowing the yard so I should go clean out the beds so they look nice, and the next thing you know it’s 5pm and I’m tired.

It’s just a fact that with more stuff comes more responsibility. Our days are our own now. We still have to work of course, but the other stuff, the maintenance and cleaning, doesn’t take up the rest of our time anymore. We bought a small boat, and if we want to go to the lake for the morning we will. We’re planning short camping trips without thinking that we really should be doing something else. We can sit outside and relax without those nagging little voices.

So back to the simple answer. I loved our house, but not nearly as much as I love my peace of mind, my relaxed evenings, my possibilities for the future. And on top of that, I love my new house. It’s cozy and comfortable, with everything I need in it. I don’t regret the trade a little bit.

Isn’t It Hard Living In Such A Small Space Together?

This one probably varies from person to person. But for us it’s not much different than how we lived in the house.

We used around a quarter of our 1500 square feet before: the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and den. The other areas were used occasionally at best. We’ve had to change things up a bit, like coming up with new morning and night routines because we went from two sinks in the bathroom down to one, and learning how to cook in a smaller area. But after two and a half months things are flowing along pretty smoothly now.

You obviously have to both be on board with the move, but having a narrow doorway or smaller closet shouldn’t be grounds for not being able to live with someone, in my opinion anyway.

I have been surprised though how many people have the initial reaction of “Oh there’s no way we could live in that together, we’d kill each other!”. I’m seriously starting to wonder how many couples actually like each other.

Luckily we do like each other, because I wouldn’t advise living in 350 square feet with someone you don’t like. In fact I wouldn’t advise living anywhere with someone you don’t like, but that’s not a topic for this post.

What Do You Do If It Storms?

Obviously in light of Monday’s flooding the answer to this has changed a little. Before Monday my biggest worry was high wind or tornadoes, which aren’t that uncommon in Tennessee. Depending on where we’re parked though flooding is something that may come up from time to time. Most campgrounds are pretty flat, and a lot of them do have some kind of water near the sites.

What we do if it floods is the same as someone living in a stick house, we leave. The advantage we have in that situation is we can then move our house to higher ground so the same situation doesn’t happen again. In fact Saturday we’re moving, again, to the next row over (so we can face away from the evening sun), and that site has even less risk of flooding than the one we’re in right now. Had we had more notice we could have even moved before the flood ever happened, but what happened Monday was a flash flood. It came up too fast for us to do anything. If we had been parked beside a river that started to rise more slowly though we would have been able to get out of harms way.

As far as wind and tornadoes, of course it is a valid concern that a high wind or tornado could take us out, and we pay attention to the wind more now than we did in the house. If the weather warrants it we’ll leave and go to the main building, or even a friends house if we have enough time. This is no different than living in a mobile home, which so many people do. We know the limitations of the Turtle, how much wind we can take before needing to leave. We have good radar and weather alerts on our phones, we pay attention, and we take it seriously. That’s really all anyone can do.

Do You Miss Your Stuff?

This one’s a lot like the house question, and the answer is the same. Actually, I miss my stuff even less. I can’t even remember half of what we’ve sold or given away over the last few months. It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate when you have the space to do so.

We didn’t go full throttle minimalist either, we kept the things we thought were most important to us. To make the cut they had to either be well used or well loved, and the result is that I now know where every single thing I own is. I appreciate the things I kept more than I ever did, and I don’t feel any nagging guilt from knowing I have so many things that I never even look at, much less use.

It does come with a few complications, like if something breaks we’re less likely to have a suitable replacement stuck in a closet somewhere. On the upside though we can usually buy a little bit better something to replace it with if we need to.

Are You Just Going To Travel Full Time?

Not yet.

Lots of people do start traveling full time when they make the move, and while that sounds awesome the rest of our lifestyle isn’t conducive to that right now. There are kids to be near and yards to cut, so for the moment at least we won’t be leaving for an extended period of time.

This part of the conversation normally includes a confused look, where the person I’m talking to is trying to figure out why I would move into a tiny moveable house without the intention of traveling… why not just stay where I was at? I refer you to question one.

Truth is, we do plan to travel and have more fun, and are already doing so more than we ever did before. In the last 9 years we have been on less than half a dozen real trips, not counting the time we spent working on the road. If we weren’t spending the weekend working on someone else’s house we were working on our own. There just wasn’t time to go.

So far this year we’ve already reserved campsites for two trips this summer and are planning two more. We’re going tent camping over the July 4th weekend and visiting a national park in August to check out a giant yard sale they have in the area. We get to go to the lake with the boat now, or take a day trip around the state to see something new. We plan on taking two or three short trips a month, because with the tent or the camper it costs us virtually nothing to stay several nights in a new place. If we even want to stay a month in a different place we can and will.

Travel doesn’t have to be a full time thing, you don’t have to leave for months at a time and move around the country. You can take lots of shorter trips, go hike or see waterfalls, explore neat little towns and find hole in the wall restaurants, find a festival that’s three hours a way and make a weekend out of it. I’m sure other parts of the country are the same way, but I feel lucky to be in an area with so many state parks, lakes, and things to see. The hardest part is deciding where to go.

We were planning a cross country trip that I had hinted at in some posts, but the circumstances around that didn’t work out. It was a bit of a ‘working’ trip to move someone out there, and now they’re staying here, so we weren’t upset. And now we can take the money we would have put into that and use it for our other adventures… and a boat, which we obviously already bought.

How Do You Get Your Mail?

Ours is quite a bit easier than someone traveling full time. We just pay for a post office box, which is a little over $20 a year. There are services available to people who aren’t in one place for an extended period of time, places that will receive your mail and then forward it to where you are, or scan it in and email it to you. We haven’t had to deal with that yet, so I can’t offer any advice there. If we have bigger packages coming or need a physical address we use the campground address for now.

What About Internet?

Ask me this one later, because this morning my internet situation isn’t the greatest.

Most campgrounds provide some sort of WiFi, but it’s not always very reliable and with multiple people using it at one time the speeds can be slow. Because I work online we use a Verizon Wireless MiFi to have broadband internet, and normally it suits my needs just fine. We do have data limits though, and this month we’ve gone over those once already and may use up the overage allowance as well. This is an abnormality, if it becomes a regular thing I’ll up our plan and avoid the usage fees. Because of the limits and slower speed we can’t stream TV, which is disappointing, but not a deal breaker… we do have satellite after all.

It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s the only one I know of that will work where we are. I’ve seen other options similar to Verizon but without data limits, but they don’t offer coverage here. For now this works fine for me most of the time, but if I find a more reliable high speed option I’ll be all over it.

I can already think of several other questions we get on a regular basis, but this post has gotten lengthy already so I’ll save those for a part deux.

If you full time or live ‘differently’ are there questions you get asked a lot? Do you get mixed reactions or are you just known as the guy that lives in a van down by the river? Don’t you miss Chris Farley? I do…

Row Row Row Your Camper…

So, how was your Monday? Mine was more eventful than usual. More eventful than I would have preferred really.

It started out perfectly normal, a little laundry, a little work. Catching up on things that had fallen behind over the weekend. Marty had gotten his work done early and come home, and a friend had stopped by for a bit. I don’t think she planned to stay as long as she did, but then it started raining. Then it started raining even harder, a torrential abnormal rain, something we hadn’t seen before. We all sat inside watching the rain, waiting it out and subsequently watching the creek rise… really fast. Way faster than it should have been. It was a pretty amazing sight to be honest, the water rushing and swelling in the creek.

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The creek starting to rise

I had started taking pictures out the windows when we noticed the site next to us had started to hold water as well… a couple of inches had crept onto their car tires. That’s not unusual really, that site has a tendency to hold water in any rain, so it wasn’t a huge red flag.

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Site behind us taking on water

In hindsight we should have done things a little differently, but no one expected what happened next. The creek is deep and rain fed, it rises and falls on a regular basis, and stays well within the confinement of it’s walls. But still, it was rising so fast. Within what felt like 30 minutes it had risen higher than I’ve ever seen it. And then it happened.

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I don’t remember taking this picture. The creek has broken over, this is our front yard.

The creek in front of our site broke over it’s banks. It was a couple of inches of water when we noticed it, and our company decided to make a break for it before the road was covered any more. As she left there was a steady flow of shallow creek water flowing over our site, and it was at that point we realized we had to go…. now.

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Within minutes of starting to flood

I changed out of my shorts into a pair of jeans, because apparently my refusal to wear shorts when it’s raining knows no bounds. I tried to pull on sneakers but Marty hollered from the kitchen that we needed to hurry, so I threw my flip flops back on instead. Realizing there was no way I would leave my animals, and not knowing what was about to happen, Marty grabbed one dog while I grabbed the other and the cat.

This whole process probably didn’t take 30 seconds, but when we stepped out the door of the camper we met a foot of dirty rushing water. I don’t remember seeing anything except our rug floating on top of the water.

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Going back to help

I was scared I would be trapped, that my bug was too low to the ground and would float instead of driving out. As we ran to separate ends of the Turtle I heard Marty yell that it would be fine and to hurry, so I somehow yanked open the car door with an animal in each arm and flung them inside, backed up just enough to turn and quickly found the shortest path to high ground. I’m pretty sure that path was diagonally across the grass, but at that point in time I couldn’t see it, and I also didn’t particularly care. All I wanted to do was get to the gravel before the car started floating, and it was probably 150′ from where I was. So I took the path of least resistance, both literally and figuratively… the water was rushing the same direction I was going.

I pulled up to the main building before Marty, who had driven his truck and mowing trailer back alongside what used to be the creek, using the posts on the side of the road to guide him. We left the dogs in the car, and not really knowing what else to do we took off back into the water to see if our neighbor needed help, since he hadn’t left his site. By this time it was above our knees and flowing hard across the whole bottom half of the campground. My flip flops made it slow going, and I was really wishing I had opted for sneakers and shorts instead of my jeans.

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Some of the breaking waves

It was still pouring rain at this point, and the water just kept rising. It’s hard to fathom that much water in one place, much less rushing as fast as it was across the park. I don’t know if describing it, or even showing the pictures, does it justice. We waded back to our neighbors camper to find out he either hadn’t noticed the water coming up or wasn’t sure what to do, but by then it was too late to do much. Marty was able to drive their car out before any damage was done, but when they tried to drive the motor home out it stalled from the water rushing into the engine. They rode out the rest of the flood inside, hoping the coach didn’t get caught in the current and start to float.

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The water at its deepest

In the process of wading around I ran across a few of our things as they floated by. I pulled one of our bikes from under the front of the neighbors coach and tried to take it to our boat, which was somehow still sitting behind the camper, but it was too fast and too deep and I had to let it go. I tripped over our wire dog fence and thought for a minute I had done some serious damage to a toe, but it turned out to be fine. By then it was too much and I had to leave before the water started to push me away. Large chunks of wood that were holding down our rug started to pass me and I headed to high ground again.

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We didn’t park in the river…

We stood and watched the water rise for what felt like forever, but I think it might have been less than 30 agonizing minutes. It rose to within inches of the floor of our camper, lapping up six inches on the side facing the creek. We didn’t know yet if it had gotten inside, or how much more it would rise before it started to fall, and I thought for sure at least the basement had to be full of nasty water. For a brief moment my adrenaline dropped and I started to break down, but I regained my composure and remembered even if it had flooded it was just stuff that we could replace.

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Our yard after the water started to recede

We were able to wade around and stand on the porch of the cabins that sit behind our spot, where I took video of the water rushing only an inch or so below the porch floor of the little house. It was breaking in waves, foaming and rushing through and around everything, like we were instantly in the middle of a swift moving river. It was dirty muddy water, full of things from the hills and houses up the road.

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Gravel island

And then it started to drop. The rain stopped, and the water started easing away as quickly as it had come in.

We were finally able to make it around the stalled coach to our spot, which sits slightly higher than the land around it so it had become a small island by then. Marty was able to go around the front of the coach but the force of the water being sucked underneath it was too much for me and I had to find another route.

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Furniture jammed under the trailer

We made it to the gravel island that used to be our grassy front yard and surveyed the damage as the water still ran around us… the grill and picnic table had been washed against the Turtle, which itself had been shifted a foot or more but still sat on it’s blocks. The boat, amazingly, didn’t float away. It filled with water and sat steady, moving only a couple of feet. Our chairs, table and rug had jammed underneath the camper, folding up and lodging themselves against the underbelly. Somehow even the motor for the boat, which had been sitting underneath the camper to stay dry (I know right?) had caught itself on an outrigger and managed to not float away.

Then we were finally able to make it to the door. I tentatively opened it and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Bone dry! Our basement still had to be flooded I thought, but everything in it still sat just like nothing at all had gone on outside. Thank goodness for good gaskets. Say that three times fast.

I think it took a few minutes after the water had receded for me to fully comprehend what was going on. A friend came by after the water was gone to see if we needed help, but I was mostly just wandering around in the gravel yard, trying to remember what everything had looked like an hour earlier. Trying to remember what was sitting where.

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The view after we moved

In the end we only lost trivial things, we found our bikes on the other end of the park lodged in the tree line, although I think they might be trashed. We pulled out another neighbors cooler and propane tank from the same place. We haven’t found the grandbaby’s big wheel, one of our propane tanks, our doormat, and the yellow flower pot that my rose once lived in. Nothing that will make one bit of difference in the long run. We were able to get ourselves and the animals out, which is all that really matters. And as an added bonus we were able to save the cars.

I think the thing I wish I could find the most though is my turtle candle holder. It was this little cheap ceramic guy with a colorful shell, with little colorful jewels buried in it. I bought it in Orange Beach the same year we watched the sea turtles hatch on the beach, sort of as a way to commemorate the event. I had written the date on the bottom and everything. I always kept it sitting on the table at the house and it’s sat on our table since we moved. He had a spot for a little votive candle on the top of his shell, and oddly enough his candle was laying under the camper unscathed. Every time I’ve gone outside since yesterday (was that really just yesterday?) I’ve looked in every pile of grass and gravel for him, but I think he’s probably long gone now. Not that I’ll stop looking.

So… that was our Monday. Not what we expected in the slightest yesterday morning. It was actually a really nice day with only a 30% chance of any rain at all. Apparently that 30% was all right here. We had 3.75″ of rain in less than 90 minutes. After walking around today it looks like the water at it’s deepest point, where it ran under the interstate bridge, would have been above my neck.

More storms moved through last night and we stayed up to watch the creek since it was already swollen. But today we’ve moved to a different spot, I’m finally clean and dry, and we’re hoping to actually get some sleep tonight.

We think we may move back to the corner lot when it gets leveled back out, it really is the best spot in the place for us, and supposedly what happened yesterday has only happened one other time in the history of this campground. I have to admit it makes me a little skittish, but I now have a more healthy respect for what we had considered a shallow wet weather creek, and I know what to watch for. I don’t want to sacrifice such a great site because of a freak weather incident that might not happen again for as long as we’re here.

What do you think? Would you go back? Did you have an exciting Monday or did you get to finish your laundry?

Camper Cookin’ Vol. 1 – Depression Cake

I’ve been thinking lately about how my cooking habits have changed since we moved into the Turtle. I don’t have as much counter space or cooking area, and when the weather is nice we cook quite a bit on the grill instead of inside. We still eat most of the same things, but how we prepare some of them has changed.

So I’ve started collecting recipes for one dish meals, foil pack recipes for grilling, and low prep dishes. I thought it might be helpful to share some of these as we try them so you can enjoy too! This will probably be an occasional series, as we try something new I’ll post the recipe and my review of it.

This one I can’t take credit for, I found it floating around on the internets, but it is so absolutely perfect for whipping up in a tiny space that I had to share it. It’s a recipe that reportedly became popular during the depression due to the necessary rationing of milk, eggs, and butter. I don’t know how true to the period it is because I’ve seen other recipes that called for boiling down raisins and other fruit instead of adding sugar, but this one is so easy that I’ll definitely be making it again.

This cake is made in one dish, with ingredients you probably already have, and turned out better than any box cake mix I’ve had. I was really surprised at how easy it is to make and how moist it turned out. I’ve tried made from scratch cakes in the past, and usually they are more trouble than they’re worth, so I always go back to the box. This one took me about 8 minutes to put together including taking the pictures. Unless you include the 20 minutes I spent refilling our propane tank, because we only run out when I’m trying to cook something and Marty isn’t here.

By the way, I hope you’ll excuse the poor photography… I took these with my phone and was in a hurry to get done and put together some sausage and veggie foil packs for dinner. I’ll share those next time!

Depression Cake

1 1/2 c. All Purpose Flour
1 c. Sugar
3 tbsp Cocoa
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp White Vinegar
5 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 c. Water

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Mix the dry ingredients together in an ungreased 8×8 baking pan. Keep mixing until it turns a nice chocolate brown color.

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Dig out 3 dents in your dry mix, two small and one larger.

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Pour the vanilla and vinegar into each of the smaller dents and the oil into the larger one. Enjoy the creepy cake face that occurs at this point.

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Pour your cup of water over the whole shebang. Say buh-bye to your creepy cake face. If you’re really feeling funny make screaming noises as he disappears.

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Mix it all together, smushing any little pockets of dry stuff until it’s all nice and moist.

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Taste the batter, because it’s quite delicious.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes and test with a toothpick, if it comes out clean you’re done. Mine came out perfect and didn’t need any extra time, but ovens vary.

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Ice, top with powdered sugar, or just eat plain like we did.

Enjoy!

The End Of An Era…

I guess the guy working the back door at Goodwill was understandably a little overwhelmed when we let down the trailer door.

After all, he seemed to be working alone, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and who has a yard sale on Sunday anyway?

People that don’t want to load all their stuff up again, that’s who. People having their second multi-family yard/moving sale in one month.

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Dozens of empty totes

We didn’t have as much stuff this time, but it was still enough to fill seven folding tables, one 10 foot clothes rack, a piece of plywood balanced on sawhorses, two tarps on the ground, and multiple totes just opened up for your digging pleasure.

We started Thursday evening setting everything up, and ended up with a pretty good looking yard mall comprised of five pop up canopies and an improvised clothes rack. Friday morning we opened for business, and it was just a big blur of eating and selling until Sunday afternoon. We hadn’t planned on continuing into Sunday, but honestly we never do. Once you’ve unloaded everything and arranged it in the yard it’s hard to not succumb to the ease of just leaving it out one more day, hoping for a few stragglers to stop by and give you a little more money for things you don’t want anymore.

Saturday afternoon in a valiant attempt to load back up as little as possible we decided Sunday would be dirt cheap day, with everything being priced at $1 or less aside from one small tarp of things we knew could be sold online for more.

Signs were made, Facebook posts were issued, and the plan went into action. We did okay on the $1 sale… I think if we had tried it on Saturday it would have been a bigger success. You just don’t get a ton of traffic at Sunday yard sales in the south, and you do get the occasional dirty look. But I don’t think we were quite there yet Saturday.

By about 2 o’clock Sunday we were all completely worn out, so when a heavy shower popped up suddenly we decided to call it a day. We had already gone through and pulled out anything that would be worth selling online, so after one more quick walk through (I did rescue two shirts I might want for my fall 33) we boxed and bagged up the rest to donate.

That’s when I started having mixed feelings. At first I thought it was about letting go of everything, because now it would all really be gone instead of sitting in boxes in the trailer. But looking around I realized it wasn’t about the stuff, I had gotten rid of it all for a reason.

It took me a little while to realize where the mixture of relief and unsettled was coming from. But once I knew that it wasn’t regret for letting go of so much I was okay to just keep packing boxes and trying to figure it out.

Part of what I came up with might sound a bit greedy, but I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way. It was a little hard to let go of the potential money we could have gotten if we kept everything for ‘just one more yard sale’ instead of giving it away.

That’s what we’ve done in the past, we’ll get through on the last day and decide that we have enough good stuff left we should just let it sit and have another sale later, in a few weeks or months. The problem with that is at a certain point your return on investment starts to shrink. With lots of $10 and $20 items there was a good return for waiting and doing it again. But when you’re down to things that might have sat dormant through all the previous sales, and you’re selling them for $1 or less, you’re spending more energy loading, unloading, packing, arranging, cleaning and storing stuff than it’s worth. It becomes as much of an energy drain as taking care of all that stuff was to begin with.

Secondly, it also feels a bit like the end of an era. The end of our big yard sales, no more hanging out and socializing all weekend with friends while we sell, no more sitting under a shade tree while people hand us money. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a ton of work and I always end the weekend exhausted, but there’s something really fun about it too. Without all the excess stuff we’ll have to find other reasons to hang out… I think a celebratory cookout might be in the near future.

But most of all it brings to an end the last five months of selling off our excess stuff. We really started in January focusing on getting rid of it all, we’ve sold tons on Craigslist and Facebook, negotiated furniture into the sale of the house, and had yard sales to sell the small stuff. It’s been a huge focus of the first part of this year, and it’s nearly over. It’s almost a bittersweet feeling.

We still have a few things left from the house to sell… our mattress is too big to fit in the Turtle so it has to go, and a leather loveseat is waiting to be re-listed on Craigslist, plus one small tote of items I pulled out of the yard sale.

But for the most part, it’s all gone. We’re down to what we really need or want, and there are no more areas where things sit unnoticed waiting to be decluttered. If it’s in the Turtle or in a tote in storage I know what it is and why it’s there.

I have my 33 clothing items here in the closet and one large tote in storage waiting for the next swap, that’s it for clothes and shoes. All the dishes and cooking stuff we own fits in our kitchen, and the same goes for the bathroom, den, and outside stuff. In storage I have long term files and business paperwork (2 small totes), one Christmas tote and one tote of fall decorations, my wrapping paper, a few odds and ends like a small desk I refinished by hand and a large antique basket that I don’t have room for but don’t want to let go of, and two totes of heirlooms and truly loved things. And oddly, that feels like a lot. Even though it’s probably less than an eighth of what we had at the house.

We looked around yesterday and realized we can now fit everything we own that isn’t in the Turtle into our 6×12 closed in trailer, maybe with room to spare.

It’s a bit of a weird feeling, as this is the first time in my adult life that I’ve had so little, but at the same time it’s exciting. It’s like starting with a clean slate. I don’t have to worry that I’ve lost or forgotten something, I have everything I need and most of it is in use at all times, and if I desperately need something in the future I just imagine I can find a store that sells it. It’s sort of like another small weight has been lifted now.

So that’s how we ended up pulling up to Goodwill on a Sunday afternoon with a trailer full of boxes and bags. We filled three of their rolling carts and piled the rest inside the door. It wasn’t all ours, I’d say it was more like 50/50. But it was still enough to make you a little sick thinking about all the money spent on stuff.

What about you? If you’ve gone through this process or are going through it now have you had similar feelings? Do you miss anything you’ve sold?

Thoughts From The Campground – 2 Months In

View From Across The Road

View From Across The Road

Tomorrow marks two months from the day that we left our house on the hill and spent our first night at the campground.

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The View From My Corner Office

I wanted to commemorate it with a post. I’ve been thinking for two days about the last two months, how things have changed, the adjustment we’ve gone through, how life is different now then it was then. I wish I had some deep insights or a great story of transition, but honestly it’s just not there.

The main thing people say when they see our new place is ‘I bet this was a big adjustment’. But it hasn’t been. It feels like this is where we’ve always been… maybe that’s due to my terrible short term memory, but I prefer to think of it as a sign that we made the right decision.

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Our New Site

Things have changed, nearly everything actually. We relax more, clean less, sit outside enjoying the view more (especially since the site move!), watch a little less TV, stress less, and enjoy our weekends a whole lot more with less to do around the house.

We’ve talked about it a few times, and neither one of us can think of anything we miss from the house or the stuff we’ve sold. That might seem harsh, considering the new owners kept one of our dogs, but we’ve been back over several times and he seems so happy over there that it makes it okay.

I loved my house, but I think all in all I love the Turtle just as much, if not more. We don’t have any unused space, except for a few cabinets and drawers we haven’t filled with anything… there’s no upstairs to clean even though we only use it a few times a month, the refrigerator can be cleaned in a matter of minutes, and the den is just damn cozy.

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Pretty Little Mobile Rose

For a few minutes the other day I missed my four rose bushes, we moved so fast I didn’t even think about them until a friend mentioned hers was starting to bloom. That was an easy fix though, we went to Lowes and bought a little knockout rose and a pretty yellow pot to put it in… problem solved. Now I have a mobile rose.

This last week has been a bit of an adjustment for me, not having to go into an office for 8 hours every day. It’s been a good adjustment though, I had forgotten how much can be done before lunch when you aren’t tied to one spot. I’ve been working on websites, catching up on paperwork, getting back into using coupons, and sleeping an extra 30 minutes every morning.

I’m excited about the future and the opportunities that start opening up when you start making changes. I have a lot of plans for this summer, so many things I want to do to the Etsy shop and the blog now that I have time. And we’re still not positive about the big trip I’ve teased about, but if it goes through it should happen in the next couple of weeks… I’ll share the details of that when I know for sure.

But for now I’m going to take the next three days off… I’m going to go to yard sales, eat a lot of grilled goodies, and enjoy a long weekend with my husband. I hope you all have a great weekend too, rest, spend time with your family, eat a lot, and have a Happy Memorial Day!