Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Busy, Busy...Almost Too Busy!

I know, I know, I promised pictures....bear with me as we get things sorted out, put away and I'll have some delightful pictures of our new rig on our first days in it at Fort Wilderness soon.

It's been a whirl wind since we arrived back in Homosassa from taking delivery. Last week we had a very nice luncheon with 22 of our on-the-road friends at Krackers in Crystal River. Gail from Gypsy Turtles had emailed me about getting together one day with a few other friends, and it just took on a life of its own from there. Its very interesting to me how my "rv lives" are starting to intersect, and the more people we meet, the more friends we have made, and their friends become our friends. And it all started from the RV Dreams rally in Sevierville TN in April 2011. We became friendly with several couples at that time, and many more as we've been workamping across the country. This has been, for me, an unexpected delight. I am, at heart, an introvert, and this has been very helpful in coming out of my shell. I'll never stop saying it, rv'ers are overall the friendliest group of folks you can have the pleasure of being with.

Medical appointments have filled in several days, for both of us and my mother. I spent a couple of days with her as she had outpatient surgery, and all went well. A by-product of us leaving our business and life in NY has been that we are in Florida for an extended period of time and are able to help her with things that need to be done. It is a complicating factor, but would have been so much worse if I were still locked into my business life up north.

We had a very nice afternoon with Phil and Rudee of Workin' Rv'ers. They were in the area for a job interview, so we invited them to stop and have lunch with us here at the house. We worked together at Amazon this year, and find we have a lot in common. Although we're not willing to abandon our coming jobs in Wyoming to join them at the Crazy Horse Memorial this summer, you never know if we might have a few days to visit this summer :-).

Al has resumed his boat operator job at the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. I don't think I'll be back this winter as there is a lot on my schedule appointment wise. He's also been very busy with some work on the new rig, as our Progressive Industries Surge Protector needed to be installed, and now that he has so much room in the basement he installed our water filter system permanently in the rig, rather than leaving it outside as we had in the old rig. It may be overkill, but if anyone has seen the particulate accumulation on the filters you would definitely want the filter system in place!

Let's see, what else.....oh, we went to Disney one day, we wanted to renew our annual passes and check on the rental property we have in the area. Being a Florida resident gives us a definite advantage when it comes to buying passes for Disney. We buy what they call "week day select" passes, which allows us to visit the parks Monday through Friday. We are subject to black-out days, such as Easter holiday weeks, Christmas holiday weeks, and from Mid-June to mid-August. So, in other words, we can't go in when its super busy or super hot. Darn :-)! It works well for us, and gives us a significant cost savings over regular passes.  Unfortunately, it did rain in the afternoon, but we accomplished our mission, had a fantastic dish of macaroni and cheese for lunch from the Wolfgang Puck Express counter, and visited the town of Celebration to check on the house we have over there that we have rented out.

A bit of a digression, but it goes to show you how plans change. Back in the early 2000's we were looking all over different areas of Florida for our "retirement home". It was also at the time when it was all "you better buy now because real estate just keeps going up and you'll never be able to afford it later". Well, we found a lovely home that we really thought would be our retirement plan, and we were able to afford it, so we bought it and then started renting it out until the time came when we would permanently move down to Florida. Luckily, its in a very good rental market, and it has been almost continuously rented since we bought it. The downside of it turned out to be that we really weren't thinking in an "older" frame of mind when we chose it. The house is not elderly friendly at all, and when our plans changed to leave NY, settle our family in Florida and be on the road most of the year doing the workamping gig, the Celebration house simply would not be a viable option for Al's mom to live in. This is how we came to settle our homebase here in Homosassa, and this house is our "exit plan" for when we need to come off the road, hopefully a good long time away from now. In the meantime, we continue to have the rental house occupied, and at some point in time when the housing market improves down here, we will be looking to sell it.

I often say this life is a "work in progress". Our plans are always evolving and changing. I have come to firmly believe, as Howard Payne says, there is no "right" way to live this RV lifestyle. Everyone's needs and desires are different. And we all find our own way to make it work. Some days are harder than others....but its that way no matter where you are. I'm still a lot happier out here on the road than I was the last few years back in our dry-cleaning plant :-). Still no regrets :-).

Next week will find us gathering at Fort Wilderness with several family members for a two week long reunion. I'm saving pictures of our new rig for when we're all set up in the campsite. And who knows, maybe some of our on-the-road friends will come and visit us while we're there as well :-).

That's it for now...have a great week!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year, Big News!

Happy New Year to all!!

We made it to Homosassa safe and sound Christmas Eve, plenty of time to celebrate all the special occasions with our family. The weather was quite conducive to good travel, and I think we did it in record time this year :-). We had the added enticement of arriving in time to partake in a celebratory dinner of sauerbraten with all the trimmings for our Uncle Ronnie's 80th birthday :-). Christmas dinner itself we spent with my mom, Al's sister and our bff Patti, and New Year's Day was a great prime rib roast cooked by Al for all our family that is down here! We all had a great time, and it was good to be together again. I did not even think to break out the camera though.

In between all that, we also found time to do a little shopping :-). Most of you know that we've had A LOT of problems structurally with our fifth wheel the last two years. I do give Keystone (the manufacturer) credit for standing behind their unit, as they have been fixing pretty much everything, but it has been a drag taking it back to the factory in Indiana for the work...it is a LONG drive from Florida :-). And it was scheduled to be back there this week....if I could have gotten there what with Storm Ion raging and sub-artic temperatures.

We had done a lot of research this fall into possible new rigs. We just thought that it was time, once the Cougar was back in good condition and we had equity in it, to trade up to a more extended-stay living built rig. We whittled our possibilities to a top three for serious consideration. One was Heartland's Landmark line, and while in Campbellsville we had the good fortune to be able to inspect one up close and personal by having dinner with Jonell and Dan who write Liv2RV. It's a beautiful rig, we liked it very much. We also spoke with Nancy and Neil Savage, whom we met up with many times since the 2011 Sevierville RV-Dreams rally, about the new Redwood that they bought. The other rig that caught our attention was Grand Design's Solitude, We had seen that the dealer for Grand Design here in Florida is Lazydays, just an hour south of us in Seffner, Florida. So, we thought we would take a ride down there one day, and check it out in person!

Lazydays is a pretty awesome dealership, as many of you already know first-hand :-). We checked into the huge lobby, and were quickly assigned a salesperson, who led us back into the inner recesses to discuss what kind of rig we were looking for. The amount of office space was astounding; they have over 120 salespeople, each with an individual office. It would take me days to figure out where I was going :-). Sonny Glover was our salesman, and after the obligatory pleasantries, settled into questioning what kind of rig we needed, and what use we had for it. Upon finding out we were looking for a larger fifth wheel built for extended stay living, he called in reinforcements for opinions, as Sonny's specialty is motor coaches. We then met Curtis Suchan, so now we have two salespeople to take care of us...cool :-).

What most impressed me at this point was a few things, but especially that we weren't immediately directed to the most expensive coaches on the lot. I have heard stories of people being pushed towards DRV, Redwood, and other higher ticket rigs. If I had won the powerball lottery this summer, sure, I would look at them :-). I wasn't even asked about my budget at all to start, but as we were questioned by Curtis about our intentions, he immediately said that he felt the Grand Design Solitude was the perfect match for us. Being that we had done considerable research and the Solitude was a top contender, it pleased me very much to hear that without us even asking about it....hmm, I never thought, maybe they hire telepaths to read minds??

First up though was the tour of the facility. Besides the sales center in the main building, there is a parts/service center, retail store, and cafeteria. Then we boarded a golf cart, and toured the service area: 240 bays for service work. Most of their technicians are RVIA/RVDA certified. Next up was the "jump off" lot, where your trade and new rig are parked side by side, doors facing each other, to facilitate a smooth move of one's suff from one rig to the other. Across the street is a 300 site campground with full hookups, restaurant and pool area. Finally is the Crown Club, a complimentary camping area for purchasers of high end coaches that has its own dining and recreation area. As someone said, its like the Disneyland of RV dealers :-).

It was finally time to tour the rig itself. The model we were most interested in was the Solitude 369RL, to me a "traditional" fifth wheel layout: bedroom up front, kitchen in the middle, living area in the back. Some of my first questions were about the build and construction of the rig, weight, ccc, tank capacity. I gathered most people initially look at the, shall we say, attractiveness factor, but you know, for the most part they ALL look beautiful and  with our experience, we are more concerned about durability, sturdiness and carrying capacity. Then it was time to look at storage and living space, and testing things like the sturdiness of the shower pan (glad to report there is no flex issues with the shower pan). Finally I let myself look closely at the attractiveness of the decor(pretty decent for an RV, I like neutrals without crazy swirly patterns), comfort level of the seating (very nice), amount of windows and brightness of the interior, lighting, etc.

Those of you who REALLY know me know that I am not a shopper; I am a buyer. So long story short, by the end of the day, having been given a very good trade in on our poor damaged rig (they even took it without requiring us to take it back to the factory in Indiana and having the repair work done, saving me the trip up there in this HORRIBLE weather), we had the papers all signed, with delivery set for January 3.

After a quiet New Year's holiday, we headed down to spend a couple of nights taking delivery. You are given a pretty comprehensive PDI, and unlike our first experience buying an RV, we were able to test everything :-). It was pretty late in the day by the time they had finished moving our Winegard Traveler satellite dish to the Solitude, so not too much moving happened until Saturday. It was very nice to spend the night in it, use the bathroom, furnace, kitchen, tv etc. We had a small punchlist of items that needed attention and questions that we had. After lunch our advisor, Kim, stopped by the rig to go over the final details, and sent a technician out to finish off the punchlist. Once everything was done to our satisfaction, we were given our signed "exit pass" and warranty paperwork, and free to go. As we would have arrived back in Homosassa after dark at this point, we decided to stay one more night, and head out on Sunday. This also gave us a chance to visit Sunday morning with folks we had met at the RV Dreams rally in Sevierville, Mike and Ann Crum. They are volunteering at Hillsborough State Park this winter, and they popped over Sunday morning to say "hi" and tour the rig.

All in all, we felt we had an excellent customer service experience with Lazydays here in Tampa, and would not hesitate to recommend this dealership. We are looking forward to a continued relationship with the company, as it will be quite convenient for service each winter, only being about an hour from our homebase. If anyone is ever in the area, please drop by Lazydays, and mention our name and ask for our salespeople. They'll be more than happy to show you around :-).

No, I have no pictures yet! I feel so bad, I forgot my camera. But the rig is safely stored here in Homosassa, about 10 minutes from the house, and we still have several things to get done before going to Fort Wilderness the end of the month. Al needs to put the surge protection system on it, and there is now room in the basement to permanently mount the water filters. I still have a bunch of stuff to put back in it, and I'm sure there will be much moving around of stuff in cabinets before we're happy with the arrangement.

Tomorrow is reserved for some fun, however. There's a large group of RV Dreamers in the surrounding area, and Gail from Gypsy Turtles has set up a lunch in Crystal River at Crackers restaurant for over 20 of us! We're looking forward to meeting some old friends again and new friends for the first time! And yes, I will bring my camera :-).

Stay safe, and stay warm!!