We Are Snowbirds!

Lake at Orlando Thousand Trails Preserve

Orlando Thousand Trails

We Are Snowbirds in Central Florida

I can’t believe we are actually Snowbirds!  In November we traveled from Northern New York through the eastern US visiting many of my ancestral stomping grounds in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.  We stopped over to visit good friends in Atlanta and arrived in Florida on December 1st.  All the way down Jack Frost was chasing us.  What a relief to get to WARM Florida.

Family Responsibilities

My dad has slowed down over the past few years.  I knew it would be a risk living on the right coast for a year, and hoped there would be no issues.  In December however, he fell ill, and passed away on the 31st of December.  This involved 2 flights to Oregon during December and early January.  Fortunately I was able to spend some time with dad before he died at age 98.

The RV Lifestyle poses significant challenges if you have elderly parents or siblings.  We have 3 large dogs which adds to the complexity.  Though it’s not the best solution, we managed through this talking about options before we left.  Christine stayed to take care of the RV and the dogs while I flew to Oregon.  Make sure you have a plan for handling family emergencies while you are on the road before they come up!

The first trip to Eugene I had freezing rain and black ice to contend with.  The second time there was several inches of snow that just wouldn’t melt.  Both are very rare occurrences in Eugene.  I grew up there and can count on one hand the number of school days missed because of bad weather.

 

Freezing Rain in Eugene

Freezing Rain in Eugene

Encore Resorts

Before we retired, we upgraded our Thousand Trails membership to “Elite”, that added several Encore resorts to our membership.  We decided to try some of the Encore resorts because they were closer to the Gulf than the Thousand Trails.

Vacation Village Resort – Largo FL

[ready_google_map id=’27’]

Vacation Village Resort is on a very busy highway in a semi-industrial area of Largo.  The lots are very close together, and all the nicer lots are held for seasonal or monthly residents.  Thousand Trails members lots are out by the front near the street.  No dog park unless you consider the 12″ wide dog walk – a strip of sand and grass with doggy bags – a dog park.  I would not consider this a resort, although they did have a pool.  We stayed there 12 days.

There are lots of trails around Largo to take the dogs walking, and a couple of nice dog parks around the town.  Dog beaches are hard to find though – the best being Fort Desoto south of Saint Petersburg.

Winter Quarters Manatee – Bradenton FL

Winter Quarters Manatee is on highway 75, and I mean right on 75.  The “Resort” had pretty good reviews, and if you are on the far side of the park away of I-75 the freeway noise and smell is not bad.  However, Thousand Trails members seem to be relegated to only the lots closest to the freeway even when other lots are available.   Otherwise, the park is very nice with 2 pools and a nice recreation area and a dog park.

Like Largo, there are some nice parks where you can take the dogs, but only 1 dog beach that we could find near Robinson Preserve.  The only reason we didn’t move on here is because I had to fly to Oregon for my Dad’s funeral.

RV Glass Solutions

We stopped at RV Glass Solutions that recently opened up a shop in Florida.  Before they distributed to other glass shops – now they can handle RV Glass installations themselves.  We got the side window that was fogged up measured.

RV Glass Solutions

Thousand Trails

[ready_google_map id=’28’]

We stayed 2 weeks at Thousand Trails Orlando between the 2 Encore resorts.  Orlando Preserve is a true Thousand Trails park with lakes and plenty of space between rigs in most sections.  There is some road noise from the highway, but the campground itself far enough away that usually you don’t hear too much.  There is a dog park and lots of trails.  At night you can even see the fireworks from Disneyworld!  The campground is currently undergoing major upgrades.  Our site recently had 50 amp service installed, and more sites getting power upgrades.  Staff was friendly, bathrooms and showers were clean.

Happy Trails from the SNOWBIRDS Trippin’ Engles

Buying the right RV – Done!

Our Journey – Maiden Voyage

We did it!  We’ve gone from looking to buying the RV.   In August we purchased a 2008 Winnebago Journey from La Mesa RV in Davis, California.  Prior to purchasing this RV we had placed offers on RVs in Oregon and Southern California during the first week of August.  Getting information about an RV that was remote was a real challenge.  On August 8th we got an email from La Mesa and saw they had 3 Journeys along with some other brands that we are interested in at the Davis dealership.  So we gathered information from NADA and  J. R. Consumer Resources so we could have some idea what price ranges would be proper.

Buying the right RV!

On August 9th we drove to Davis to check out several RVs including a 2014 36 foot Journey, a 2008 and 2007 40 foot Journey (actually 39 1/2 feet) and about 10 other RVs that fit our requirements.  We had originally been looking at the 32 – 36 foot range and thought that the new 36 foot Journey would be great (See this post for some of the decisions we have wrestled with).  We loved the fireplace and the fact that it was brand new.  But with our long-term plans for full-timing in the RV and going back and forth between the 3 finalist RVs we settled on the 2008.  First, it only had 17,000 miles and was in near-perfect condition.  Second, the price was more attractive to our pocket-book than the new RV and third, the extra space really makes the decision of which RV to buy easy.  Since it’s a used RV we opted to buy an extended warranty and La Mesa offers a 15 day warranty on specific items.  With the 2008 Winnebago we felt we were buying the right RV.

We purchased the RV on August 9th, and picked it up on August 25th.   Between the 9th and the 25th I spent some time each evening reading the various manuals from Winnebago, Freightliner, Cummins, Norcold, etc.   On the way home from Davis after getting our 2 hour orientation and signing the final paperwork we practiced driving, turning and even doing 3 point turns around Sleep Train Arena.   We then loaded a few things into the RV then drove it to storage.

Camping!

We are so excited about our RV!  We were able to take it out on her maiden voyage on August 29th – September 1st.
[ready_google_map id=’1′]
For our first trip we drove to Thousand Trails’ Lake of the Springs near Oregon House California – about 20 miles east of Marysville.  I could not believe how smooth it rides and how easy it is to drive.  With the rear engine, it’s quiet in the front cab.  I must admit I was a little nervous at first, but we had an older Suburban and Prowler Trailer several years ago and this was much easier to drive.  It didn’t take long before we were more relaxed – especially once we got out of the Sacramento city traffic.

 

Once we arrived at Lake of the Springs our first challenge was to find a spot large enough for our Journey and the 10 person tent we were setting up for our daughter & boyfriend.  The first few places we tried to slide into would have been OK for just the RV, but not an RV and a large tent.  We finally located a double space that was available and set up camp.

We wanted to check as many things as possible during this first trip out because of the 15 day dealer warranty.  We extended the slides, hooked up power and water, got the awning extended then took our dogs for an orientation walk.  Both of our daughters came up with family and friends to inaugurate this milestone.  What a great weekend.  2014-08-30-1805-03-LOTS Journey-2

Our laundry list of things not working was fairly short.  On Saturday I go to make some brownies for daughter C, and could not get the convection part of the Microwave/Convection oven to work.  I downloaded the manual and tried every which way to get it to do something and other than the fan going on for a short time, no heat.  Our electricity usage  bumped up about 1 amp while the fan was running, then went back to flat line.  So we microwaved the brownies; which was not exactly the way they are supposed to be baked.  But, they did get eaten.  When I tried to get the DVD player to work I got audio but no video on the front room TV; but the bedroom TV worked so the grand kids watched Disney in bed while we prepped dinner on Saturday.

Our grey water tank for the kitchen filled up quickly and after doing some searches on some blogs found out that the two grey water tanks are not connected.  There is one for the kitchen and one for the bath.   A simple gate valve can combine the two so they will balance out.  Also, the grey water gauge for the bath holding tank never registered past empty. And on the way back home it was hot, and the dash A/C quit working.

We reported these and a few other issues to the dealer and took the RV back in for the warranty work on September 25th.  They are also installing a new replacement bedroom window that is stained between the dual panes.  La Mesa has been great to work with.

We have made a lot of purchases since buying the RV, so in the next post I’ll share what we purchased and why these items were first on our list.

as Dale Evans and Roy Rogers sang… Happy Trails!