Thousand Trails La Conner

Camping at Thousand Trails La Conner

We arrived back in California in April, so what’s up with this late post?  May saw the Trippin’ Engles up in Oregon for two months to prepare my dad’s house for sale.  He passed away on December 31st, and we had already started a few things to get the house ready to sell.  While we were gallivanting between Florida and California on our way to Oregon my brother had the house re-roofed and we ordered all new appliances for the kitchen.  We arrived in Eugene on April 30th and worked on the house through July 8th.

We had some great help – our cousin’s son did a home inspection for us and my nephew came up from Ashland to help paint during these first weeks in Eugene.

Take a break, Jeff & Christine!

By the third week of June we were FRIED and ready for a vacation.  Both of our daughters and their families met us up in La Conner to spend a week recharging our batteries and spend time with the grandkids.

La Conner Thousand Trails is on the Puget Sound north of Seattle on the Swinomish Indian Reservation and a perfect place to reset our brains.  I was able to spend some time flying the drone with a captive cast and a beautiful scenery backdrop.

Nestled between the Olympic Mountains and the Canadian Coast range on the west and the North Cascades on the east and the Puget Sound all around we were in heaven!  On top of that we had absolutely  perfect weather.

 

 

Christine bought an inflatable kayak on one of her visits to our cabin outside of Louisville New York and the weather was perfect for us to put it in the water for its maiden cruise (too many ‘gaters in Florida according to Christine).  Christine had also gotten an inflatable paddle board and it was time for it to get wet too.

Here’s our beach video at the boat ramp:

 

We have more to share of our stay at La Conner – we wanted to get this video off and to let you know that we are still around and kicking!

We have great internet now so watch for more soon!

 

Jeff & Christine

Happy Trails

 

 

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

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

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

Genealogy On The Road

How we did our Genealogy On The Road

Genealogy is a popular pastime for many.  There are several programs on TV like Who do you think you are? on the TLC cable channel that are fun to watch.  We are traveling down the eastern states on our way to Florida and Jeff has ancestors that emigrated to the US in the early 1700’s.  Here’s how we did our genealogy on the road.

 

Map showing westward migration of the early Engles 1740-1861

Preparing for a Family History Road Trip

Jeff has worked on our family history since the mid 1990’s.  Fortunately an uncle on his dad’s side had done some genealogy research and we already had a book on his mom’s side to get us started.  We purchased other family history books, published our research on Rootsweb.com and used Family Tree Maker software and Ancestry.com to share and exchange genealogy research information.  By 1999 we had several roots of our tree going back 7 generations.

Since then we have filled in lots of blanks – researching other family lines and more importantly learning what professions they had, where they lived and anything else we could find to learn who they were.  The most interesting facts were found by looking at:

  • Birth locations of children
  • Land purchase/sale records
  • War records
  • Census data
  • Historical documents
  • Church Records
  • Cemetery Records (FindAGrave.com is great, but not 100% correct!)

We are focusing on the east coast.  After landing in Philadelphia in 1740, Jeff’s 5th great-grandfather Melchor Engle and his mother traveled to Lancaster Pennsylvania.  After marrying Mary Magdalena Beyerle and having 6 sons in Lancaster they moved to Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia.  His son George (Jeff’s 4th Great Grandfather) married in Shenandoah Junction, then moved to eastern Tennessee where Jacob (Jeff’s 3rd Great Grandfather) was born.  They moved to eastern Kentucky where Jacob farmed and lived his days.  Jacob’s son Levi was born in Kentucky and moved to Missouri which takes us beyond our trip to Florida.  This gives us the path for our trip.  In addition we mapped out other ancestors that lived in the colonies & states between 1730 and 1850 along the route.

Lola - Ready to GO!

Lola – Ready to GO!

Genealogy On The Road

On the road, we reviewed existing documentation and used the internet to get more specific locations for the farms and cemeteries to visit.  One of the gems we used were documents for districts, homes and buildings in the national historic registry.  These documents contain a lot of information on the chain of purchases, use of the land/buildings and historical context.  We found some of these documents at county history websites, others at the national registry database.

The most time-consuming task is to match the land record information with maps.  A typical description includes waterways for boundaries.  That is where we started in Google Maps.  Of course you can not search by the names of rivers, brooks, branches and especially locations such as: ‘beginning at a beech tree by Conestoga creek’ etc.  See the example below that shows the challenge of interpreting old land purchase records where Melchor purchased land from his father-in-low.

Example Deed from 1746

FOLLOWING IS THE FIRST DEED OF LAND GRANTED
Michael Beyerle to Melchor Engle
This indenture made the 10th day of April in the year of our Lord 1746 between Michael Beyerle of the Borough of Lancaster in the Province of Pennsylvania, Yeoman, and Catherine his wife of the one part and Melchor Engle of the County of Lancaster and Province aforesaid, Saddler, son of the said Catherine by a former husband, of the other part, witnesseth that the said Michael Beyerle and Catherine his wife for and in consideration of the natural love and affection they bear unto the said Melchor Engle and for his advancement in the world, as of the sum of 100 pounds lawful money of the said Province to them in hand paid by the said Melchor Engle the receipt thereof they do hereby acknowledge have given granted and aliened enfeoffed and confirmed and by these presents to give grant, and aliened, enfeoffed, and confirmed unto the said Melchor Engle, his heirs and assigns all of that certain tract or parcel of land situate, lying and being on the east side of Conestoga creek in Larnpeter Twp. in the county of Lancaster afores, beginning at a beech tree by Conestoga creek at a corner of land formerly of Edmund Carthedge and extending thence by the same south, south east 264 perches to a black oak, thence by lands late of Jacob Harress and Christian Jonce, west by south 155 perches to a post, thence by vacant land west by north 400 perches to a Hickory tree by the aforesaid creek, thence down the same by the several courses thereof, 220 perches to the place of beginning, containing 225 and an allowance of six acres on a hundred for roads and highways, which said tract or parcel of land was granted to the said Michael Beyerle, his heirs and assigns by patent from the Hon.  John Penn, Thomas Penn, and Richard Penn, Esquires, true and absolute proprietors and Governors in chief of the said Province, under the land of the said Thomas Penn and the great seal of the said Province bearing date of the 2nd day of May in the year of our Lord’ 1740, as by the said patent recorded in the office for recording of deeds for the city and county of Philadelphia in Patent book A. Vol. 10 page 229 the 10th day of March in the year of our Lord 1740, (relation being there unto had may more fully and at large appear) together with all and singular the improvements, rights, and members and appurtenances thereunto belonging or in any wise appertaining and the reversions and remainders, rents, issues & profits thereof and all the estate, right title, interest, property claim and demand of them the said Michael Beyerle and Catherine his wife, of in and to the premises hereby granted and true copies of all deeds, evidences & witnesses concerning the same to be had and made at the proper costs and charges of the said Melchor Engle, his heirs and assigns, to have and to hold the said tract of 225 acres of land hereditiments and promises hereby granted with their and every of their appurtenances unto the said Melchor Engle and his heirs, to the only proper use in behoof of the said Melchor Engle his heirs and assigns forever, under the yearly quit rent henceforth accruing and growing due and payable to the chief lord or lords of the fee thereof, and the said Michael Beyerle and his heirs, the said tract of land hereditaments and promises hereby granted with the appurtenances unto the said Melchor Engle, his heirs and assigns, against them the said Michael Beyerle and Catherine his wife, and their heirs and against all persons claiming or to claim by, from, or under them, shall and will warrant and forever defend by these presents, and the said Michael Beyerle, for himself, his heirs, executors and administrators and for the said Catherine his wife, doth covenant, promise and grant to and with the said Melchor Engle, his heirs and assigns by these presents, that he, the said Michael Beyerle and Catherine his wife, and their heirs and all and every other person and persons, whatsoever having or lawfully claiming or to claim any estate right title or interest of, in or the said premises r any part thereof, by, from or any of them, shall or will at any time or times hereafter at the reasonable request cost and charges in the law of the said Melchor Engle, his heirs and assigns, make, execute and acknowledge or cause so to be all and every such further and other lawfull and reasonable act and acts, deed and deeds, devices and devices in the law, whatsoever for the further and better assurance and confirmation of the said tract of 225 acres of land, hereditaments and promises hereby granted or mentioned so to be with the appurtances under the same Melchor Engle, his heirs and assigns, as by him the said Melchor Engle or by his or their council learned in the law shall be reasonably devised, advised and required, in witness whereof the said parties to these presents their hands and seals interchangeably have set here unto. 
Dated the year and day first above written, sealed and delivered in the presents of us.
German name (in script) Michael Beyerle (in German)
German name (in script) her
Tho. Cookson Catherine X Beyerle
mark
Received of the above named Melchor Engle on the day of the date of these presents the full sum of 100 pounds lawful money of Penn., being the consideration money above mentioned.
100 0    0
Lb Sh P         Test.  Tho.  Cookson,
By me Michael Beyerle, (written in German)

Hope you enjoyed our hints about doing Genealogy On The Road!

Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles

Antenna Upgrade Part 2: WiFi Ranger and WeBoost Antenna Install

Antenna Installation Part 2

WiFi Ranger and WeBoost Antenna Rooftop Install

This is Part 2 of a 3 part set describing our antenna upgrades.  Part 1 is here.  Part 3 is here.

The WiFi Ranger typical installation is to tie-wrap or clamp the antenna onto the crank-up TV mast.  However, we have upgraded our old TV antenna with a King Jack Antenna.

WiFi Ranger Temporary Installation

This photograph on the right shows the King Jack Antenna – the point of the TV antenna keeps the WiFi Ranger antenna from being placed up above the TV antenna.  For our installation, we made a small stand-off using a piece of plastic rain gutter so the WiFi Ranger antenna is beyond the point of the King Jack Antenna.  Below you can see the final installation with the stand-off in place.  You can also see the WeBoost antenna on the Cake/Pie pan that is a ground plane.

WiFi Ranger with Stand Off

Here’s the video of our antenna installation:

Note:  We are not professional RV repair technicians!  The information provided here is how we upgraded our antenna system and your installation will be different.  If you are uncomfortable working on rooftops or with electrical wiring please consult a certified technician.

Happy Trails!
Trippin’ Engles

 

Antenna Upgrade Part 1 – King Dome Satellite Removal

Antenna Upgrade Part 1 – Satellite Removal

Why Remove the King Dome Satellite

Our vintage 2008 King Dome Satellite needs a major upgrade for it to work.  Our King Dome 9704-LP requires a circuit board replacement and a firmware upgrade.  Even with that, it does not recognize newer satellites.  We have other entertainment options such as:

  • Streaming content if we have a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection
  • Downloading content and watching later
  • Using Blu-Ray or DVDs
  • Renting from RedBox
  • Watching the dozens of DVDs copied to hard drive

Having a satellite dish on the roof is also a handicap since you need to park the RV in a spot with good reception – something we don’t always have control over.  If we are going to use a satellite service, we will go with a more portable solution such as the Dish Tailgater or similar setup.

King Dome 9704-LP

Our Vintage King Dome Antenna

For the past few months on the road, we use the WiFi Ranger for WiFi access.  This antenna is often attached to the crank-up TV antenna on the RV roof.  We also use the Wilson Electronics WeBoost 4G cellular signal booster for our phone and MiFi use.  We have been manually zip tying the WiFi Ranger to the TV mast and putting the WeBoost on a metal pie/cake pan on the roof each time we stop at an RV park.

With the removal of the Satellite dish, we can use the access panel in the roof to route the WiFi Ranger and WeBoost cables through the same access hole.  I don’t like walking on the roof so much – especially as the weather gets rainy.

WiFi Ranger

The WiFi Ranger Go 2 not only gives our WiFi connectivity greater range, but also links all of our gadgets using a single connection when we buy WiFi access at RV Parks.  Some campground WiFi providers limit the number of devices that can connect.  We have seen services that only allow 1 connection at a time, and others allow different #’s of devices depending on how long of a contract you select.  With the WiFi Ranger there is only a single connection to the WiFi service for all the gadgets.

WeBoost Cellular Booster

The WeBoost Drive 4G is a cellular signal booster that is for RV’s and trucks.  It has a little rubber duck antenna with a magnetic mount that gives us an extra bar or two.  It cannot boost signals that are not there or are too weak, however it can often make a significant improvement when signal strength is marginal.  We even use it at our cabin with a larger truck antenna mounted on a flag pole!

Part 1:  Remove the Satellite Dish

This is Antenna Upgrade Part 1 – Satellite Removal.  We first need to remove the King Dome satellite and the cables.  In Part 2 we install the new antennas and route the cables, and in Part 3 we install the inside equipment.

Here’s the video with the details:

To remove the old satellite dish, Dicor and adhesives from the rooftop we use:

  • Screwdriver & socket wrench
  • Mineral Spirits to remove the Dicor & old adhesive
  • Magic Eraser to get some of the hard to remove dirt off
  • New Dicor Lap Sealant to seal the holes
  • Eternabond tape for extra protection

Note:  We are not professional RV repair technicians!  The information provided here is how we upgraded our antenna system and your installation will be different.  If you are uncomfortable working on rooftops or with electrical wiring please consult a certified technician.

 

Thanks for reading and watching,

Happy Trails!

Trippin’ Engles

 

FMCA West Springfield MA – Setup

Our First Rally: Setup

FMCA Family Reunion at West Springfield Massachusetts

We left Louisville, New York and drove 146 miles to Lake George just east of the Adirondack Mountains.  It was nice having my co-pilot back in her seat instead of driving the Pilot.  However, when we got to Lake George the magnetic tow vehicle light cable had broken, and and we decided Christine would drive the Toad the 157 miles  to the FMCA convention in West Springfield.  We arrived Monday August 1st in the early afternoon.  We expected warm weather so we upgraded to an electric site.

Monday night it rained like crazy.  One of our neighbors said we had 3 inches of rain, and accused Jeff of doing an Oregon Duck rain dance! Hahahaha

What to do with pets

It is not practical to take pets with you for every activity when you are in the RV.  The biggest concern is heat.  The second concern is damage done while you are out.  The third concern is noise from excessive barking.

Kickin\' back in the RV

The Dog House

When we were in Oregon last Thanksgiving we stayed at the American Legion in Eugene, Oregon.  The few times we socialized with folks at the Legion and left the dogs in the RV we had at least one barker.

Heat

We keep a safe environment for our dogs by leaving the A/C or heat on while we are gone.  If you have full hookups, just set the A/C at a safe temperature or keep windows open and fans going to keep the air circulating if the outside temperatures are not too high.  Remember, an RV like an automobile can quickly heat up when sitting in the sun even if the outside temps are comfortable.

As a backup to shore power, many generators have an automatic mode that will monitor if shore power has failed and the A/C needs to be turned on.  Test this function before relying on it.  Our Cummins Onan generator has an AutoGen function that provides this functionality but Jeff needed to go through the process a few times to verify.

If you are not connected to shore power then you can use your batteries to power a small cooling unit such as the Dyson Blade.  Remember that your inverter and the cooling unit will draw lots of power.  Most A/C units draw too much power to run off of batteries.  Our A/C unit requires either shore or generator power to even start.

Last, you use your generator to run your A/C if you don’t have shore power available.

Besides regulating the heat inside the RV always keep water available for your pets.

Conditioning

On Monday we left the dogs in the RV a couple of times for 15 minutes, and they were fine.  Our routine at our sticks and bricks house was to give the dogs a Kong treat with apple, carrot and peanut butter, then leave.  They get more excited about getting a treat than having separation anxiety.  We did the same for the FMCA rally plus turned on the TV for them for some background noise and it worked.  On Tuesday we left them a couple of times for an hour or two and didn’t have any problems.

We thought one of us would need to be with the dogs in the RV during the entire rally, but after a couple of days they were fine.  Now both of us can attend seminars – divide and conquer if necessary!

Volunteer Orientation

Jeff volunteered to help with seminar setup & monitoring and attended an orientation Tuesday evening.

Overall Impressions

General check-in for the rally was Monday and Tuesday.  It’s amazing to see a couple of thousand RVs congregate in one location and not see havoc.  A few times we saw 15 or 20 RVs in the staging area, but they were quickly parked in their assigned area.  The setup crew that came in the previous weekend had the lots and streets labeled.  FMCA has the routine down.  We heard a few grumbles about mistakes made, but those seemed to be few and far between.

Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles

Lola’s in the shop – Watch your rear!

Oh No!  Lola’s in the shop

A reminder to Watch Your Rear!

When we left Hershey, Pennsylvania in our race to the north  I brushed up against a power pole.  Yes, I’ve watched the great tutorial from The RVGeeks on watching the rear overhang when turning.  It’s a great video showing how easy it is to clip something on your rear quarter when making turns.  With our 40′ RV are especially mindful about this.

What Happened?

I was pulling out from a small 2 lane road onto a busy rural highway.  The morning traffic was busy in both directions and I was so focused on the traffic that I missed one important point… the power pole that was very close to the corner of the intersection.   As I pulled out I misjudged the amount of ‘off-tracking’ of the rear wheels compared to the front.  I was almost into oncoming traffic when I cut the wheels to move into my lane.  However, when I glanced into my rear view mirror I missed the fact that a power pole was on the corner and as I came around I felt a bump and stopped.  I had brushed up against the power pole.

Well, just wonderful.  I had driven nearly 4,000 miles from Sacramento to Florida then up to Pennsylvania, and another 2,000 miles before starting our journey in Lola without issue.

After Christine let me know that the power pole was OK, I backed up a tad.  The person in the oncoming traffic lane spotted my predicament and stopped.  This gives me room to pull out into the oncoming traffic lane and swing past the pole correctly.  We pulled into a truck stop down the road and checked out the damage.  The rear 2 basement compartment doors have damage, and we had a scratch along the trim of the passenger slider and the awning.

Our plan was to take 2 days to drive from Hershey to the St. Lawrence river in northern New York.  However, I was not certain that the slider was OK and didn’t want to take a chance that we would get the slider stuck at our planned stop north of Syracuse.  Since we are traveling to our cabin it is a lot more convenient to manage the repair there.  So, we decided to push on and drive the 400 miles in one shot.

In Northern New York… now what?

We arrived in Louisville in the early evening and did a closer inspection of the damage.  In some respects, it didn’t seem as bad as I initially feared.

Now we needed to figure out how to get Lola repaired… hopefully before the renter arrived to the cabin in early July.

The closest Winnebago authorized repair shop was in Syracuse, but that’s about 3 hours away.  That would be a challenge to check in on the progress or if questions came up where we need physically inspect work.  There are larger towns on the Canadian side of the border in this area, so I broadened the search to Cornwall and added RV collision repair since RV Repair by itself brought up A/C repair, engine repair etc.

First Steps

We contacted BGM RV Repair in Chesterville, Ontario and talked with the owner Brian.  He requested pictures and we detailed what we saw in an email and took more pictures showing the door damage from the front as well as viewed along the side so he could see how much the doors are pushed in and that the brackets are damaged.

We then contacted our insurance company – GEICO – and they scheduled a claims adjuster to visit us the following week.  That gave BGM RV Repair a chance to put together an estimate in time for the adjuster to have some more information to work with.

Next is to unpack Lola.  The basement area will be open and worked on, and the slider may get some work done, so these will need to be empty at a minimum.

We received the first estimate from BGM RV repair early the next week before Glenn from GEICO arrived.  It included the labor costs expected and a listing of parts – but no part prices yet.

Once GEICO reviewed the damage and let us know that having Lola repaired in Canada is okay, we met with Brian in Chesterville before taking Lola there.

They have a nice repair facility set up specifically for RVs.  They handle a bit of work from some of the dealers in the greater Ottawa area, and Brian felt that the work will be completed in the time frame we required (if all the stars aligned).  So, we drove home discussed weighed taking Lola to Camping World in Syracuse or BGM RV Repair in Chesterville.  BGM is closer, is a good facility and meets our schedule.  That afternoon we were back in Canada with Lola traveling to BGM RV repair.

Lola’s in the shop.

Preparing to Repair

Brian immediately ordered the parts required to repair Lola.  Since he has dealt with insurance companies, he understood that it would take a while before he saw a check – especially since GEICO didn’t have Canadian offices.  That was good, because it took a few weeks for GEICO to assign an International Adjuster to review the case, and for Winnebago to build the replacement doors.

While waiting for the replacement doors, BGM prepped the damaged area.  Of course most RV’s today have complicated paint schemes.  Lola has 4 different colors in her swirls!  This is where the art of blending in the colors comes in.

Delays…

If you have ever had work done on your RV you know that delays are more typical than everything getting done on time as expected.  Delays are the norm.  When you think about it, RVs are really custom vehicles.  Product units are in the hundreds or maybe a few thousand.  Cars on the other hand are produced in the hundreds of thousands are parts are plentiful in most cases.  For automobiles that are built in the past 10 years or so you can often go down to an auto dismantler and get a used door.  Not so for RVs.

Winnebago boasts having the plans and molds for RVs for many years and models.  Even with that said, that does not mean the parts are on the shelf!  It takes time to schedule the build and get them shipped out.  In our case the doors arrived in the nick of time to meet our schedule, but they forgot to include the brackets, hinges and a few other parts.  Everything needs to be in place for BGM RV repair to do the paint job.

Our renter arrived and we got a motel room for her and her pooch for a few days, but when it became obvious that the delay was going take longer we have too look at alternative lodging.  A few weeks ago our good friends Pat and Martha graciously made us the offer to stay with them if needed.

Current Status – Lola’s in the Shop (Still)

Right now, BGM RV Repair is expecting 3 missing parts possibly today (July 8th) or Monday.  Then it will take 3 days to finish the prep and paint the side.  We could have Lola as early as next Thursday… then a day of packing and we might be on the way to Maine on Friday!  We are lucky to have a cabin to use for the first 6 weeks of this repair process, and friends to take us in after that.  Without that we would have had to explore other options such as living in Lola in the repair yard or finding a place to rent.

What else did we do while in Northern New York?

For the most part we had lots of repairs and improvement to do in the cabin.  Since it looks out over the St. Lawrence Seaway, we see lots of local and Great Lakes ship traffic.  We also installed over 300′ of fencing in the back yard and visited Ottawa.   Here’s a summary we put together for our grandkids.

 

Happy Trails…

Soon to Maine!

Trippin Engles

RVTripWizard To The Rescue

RVTripWizard To The Rescue – Review and Demonstration


After using several trip planning tools, we selected a subscription to RVTripWizard, and listed a high level overview here.  At $39 a year we consider this a bargain.  Let’s do a hands-on demonstration of creating a trip.

First off, define your Trip Preferences On The Road

First enter information that will tell the wizard about your rig by clicking on Trip Preferences.

Rvtripwizard01

Trip Preferences

Trip Preferences Include:

  • Refueling information
    • Miles Per Gallon (MPG)
    • Average cost per gallon of the fuel you use
    • How much remaining fuel (reserve) should you have for the wizard to warn you to refuel
    • Tank capacity to determine the estimated refuel stops and fuel trip for each leg of the trip
  • Height for clearance warnings in feet and inches
  • Personal Expenses used to calculate total trip costs
    • Camping
    • Meals
    • Miscellaneous
  • Routing Preferences
    • Avoid major highways
    • Avoid toll roads
  • Driving Preferences
    • What’s your average speed
    • How many hours per day or miles per day do you want to drive (or no preference)
  • Whether you want to automatically load the last trip you were editing

I have not found any other software that uses this amount of detailed information for RV trip planning.  But wait… there’s more.

Second, define your Trip Preferences on where to stay

Select and prioritize your preferred places to camp.

Rvtripwizard02

Subset of Camping Choices

You can either show all campsites known to the system or just your preferred sites.  That way if you only want to show the campgrounds that you are a member of, BLM and state parks for example – you can.

Third, create a new trip

Click on the New Trip button, give it a trip name and start date.   Optionally tell the wizard to use your current location as the start point.

Rvtripwizard03

Click Start A New Trip

Rvtripwizard04

Type a Title and Start Date

Fourth, sent the beginning and end points of the trip

  • If you did not use your current location in step 3 to set the Start Point, type in the start address for the trip.  You can enter a specific address, or a city.  Click set start.
  • Using a specific address or city, enter the end point of the trip as stop #2, click Find and click Add to Trip End.
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Type in a Starting Location (City or Address)

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City works for me

If you know each stop along the way, you can also set the Start Point, then enter each stop one after the other.   Adding the actual start and end points help define the route.  I’ll just add Tampa Florida as our ending point.  You can also select a specific camp site from the map or type in an address.

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Start and End of Trip Entered

Fifth, select the Start and decide where to camp and/or refuel

From the left navigation area click on the starting point.  The map will zoom in to that location.  Zoom out until you see the red circle.

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Zoom out to see the red circle

This gives you the radius for you to set your next stop.  In this case, it’s 4 hours of driving at 55 MPH.  This will be closer to 5 hours total time for us.  If we leave around 9 a.m. this will put us in to the next stop around 2 p.m.

Click and drag the map so the edge of the red circle is aligned with the next stop is suggested, and zoom in.

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Our driving limit goes almost to Bakersfield. Let’s stop there.

Based on your preferences, a listing of parks will show up on the map.  Click on an icon to get information on that site including the web site, reservation phone number and a basic description.  The icon will show the type of park based on your preferences.

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Pick a place to stay

You can continue to move the map around and click on the icons to decide where to stay.  Once you make your decision, enter the number of nights to stay, and where to add the trip – either after an existing stop number of add to the end of the trip.

You can always modify the route and stops later.  So if you can’t make a reservation at one spot, delete that point and add a different point.  You can also enter a specific address – so if you are visiting a friend or relative just add the specific address.

Now, here’s where things get really cool.  Don’t see anyplace you want to stay, or do you want to search for a Walmart that allows parking?  Just click on the POI link.

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Display the Points of Interest choices

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Pick what you want to see

Need to stop and shop?  Select Costco, Sam’s club, Camping World etc.  Not just cool, but WAY COOL.  You can add stops with a zero Nights defined and include that in your route.

Sixth – select next layover and/or refuel spot

Our current route now has us going on Interstate 40, but we want to visit friends in Palm Desert.  Let’s add Palm Desert to the map and see what happens.  Type in Palm Desert and insert after our stop in Bakersfield and add that.

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Check the Red Circle and Pick Another Layover

Our route now shifts to Interstate 10.  Also note the refuel spot.  Looks like we need to get diesel!  Let’s go back to the POI panel and click on the Fuel selector.  That will give us truck stops and other ‘default’ fuel spots.  But if we select our layover point (if it’s a campground) or just click on a campground on the map, then click on the Fuel Price icon, RVTripWizard will do a Bing Maps Gas Station search in a separate window.  You can select the type of fuel.

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Find other refueling options in the Fuel Prices link

Then copy the address from the Gas Station search page and paste it into RVTripWizard and add it after the right stop #

Click on the Edit button beside your fuel stop.  Add the number of gallons (estimated) and enter a comment like Refuel at Sam’s.

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Add an address to refuel and the Fuel Added. Add the name in comments

Click  on our current stop (Palm Desert) and zoom the map out.  You can now see the red circle of where our next layover is recommended, and note that the next refuel stop is before El Paso Texas.

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Refuel Spot Moves Forward

Nifty!  RVTripWizard to the Rescue

Continue on selecting the next layover & refuel spots until the you finish the trip.

Printing

There are two options to print the trip.  Paper (or PDF) and Excel.  Select the Print icon to see the print choices.

 

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Click Print

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Select Print or Excel

The Print selection gives you the normal choices (Printer, PDF, XLS etc.)

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Print option

And the Excel option creates an Excel file

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Excel Option

Along the way you can enter comments for each stop and record the reservation number.

Send to GPS

Last, you can select Send to GPS to get the trip uploaded to your GPS.  We had to download a little utility from Garmin to move the trip points to our RV GPS.  RVTripWizard has instructions on how to do this when you select the option.

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Summary

RVTripWizard meets all our needs for trip planning, and then some!  Trippin’ Engles recommends this product.  We purchased this product ourselves and have received no compensation from RVTripWizard.

There are more options and features available!  Check it out at RVTripWizard.

So, where are we going?  We’re heading to Florida this spring to establish our domicile!  We used RVTripWizard to plan our trip for both camping spots and refueling.

 

 

Down to the wire – Last week of work

With one more week to go, we are down to the wire!

Everything still looks good for the house to close by May 4th.  We spent the weekend doing more sorting, trips to Goodwill, and taking things to the kid’s house.

One major accomplishment was completing a chest of drawers I started 5 years ago when our grandson was only about 6 months old.  Before he was born, I built a 3-in-one bed for him, and he used it as a crib, toddler bed and now a full size bed.  The matching chest built using Sepele  a wood with a wonderful three-dimensional grain.  You will often see guitars made from this wood.  We watched grandson B play baseball, then delivered the chest of drawers.

B\'s Chest of Drawers

He was especially excited about the dinosaur knobs and he named off each of the different dinosaurs!  Pretty darn good for a 5 year old.  We then had lunch from Togos – a local sandwich chain then picked up the trailer.

Everything caught up to me about 3 p.m. and I crashed for 3 hours!  Something I never do unless I’m sick.  But Sunday all was well and we installed tie-down hoops in the trailer and got the woodworking/house fixing tools loaded into the trailer.  It looks like we have plenty of room still in the trailer – at least the important stuff will make the trip!

After dinner we continued to sort and pack clothes and plastic wrap boxes that will be stored in NY.

We can’t believe it’s only 5 more workdays left!  After writing about preparing for our journey over the past 2 and a half years, we are on the brink of pulling the anchor and letting Lola sail!  We will be heading through Texas on the way to Florida and hope this is TOTALLY figurative speech!

Soon we will be shifting to travelogue mode sharing our trips as the Trippin’ Engles.

Happy trails!

J&C

 

Staying in Touch While Traveling

Trippin’ Engle’s Communication Setup

Communication with others has improved tremendously in the past decade, especially for gypsies like us.

Staying in touch while on the road

During the first month and a half of our travels Christine and I will be traveling in separate vehicles.  Our primary method to communicate will be using our cell phones (hands free of course).  In areas where there is limited coverage we have 2 BeoFeng hand held radios that have GMRS frequencies so we can talk car-to-car.  They can also be used when we are in campsites that don’t have cell coverage… honey, can you pick up a loaf of bread from the trading post?  As a licensed amateur radio operator, the BeoFeng radios also provide access to ham radio repeaters that may be in an area we are traveling. At $63 this was a ‘no-brainer’ to get a pair of them.  I might even convince Christine to become a ham.

 

Staying in touch while camping – the connection

We use a AT&T ZTE MiFi that allows multiple devices to utilize our data plan.  With this we can connect our laptops, cell phones, Kindles, iPads to the internet using our cellular data plan.

However we already know that many RV camping locations have marginal cellular coverage.  A marginal cellular connection is a minor inconvenience for most of us, however we like the security of being able to have wider coverage for emergency communication as well as staying in touch with the family.  Technomadia’s reviews of the WeBoost 4G-M in their technical website RVMobileInternet  cellular booster seemed to be the best solution for us to extend the range of our cellular access.  We picked this booster over other less expensive boosters because it has an external antenna and much more gain than the internal boosters.

We plan on temporarily placing the WeBoost on some foil or a pie plate until we get to NY when we can complete a more permanent installation (more on that later!).

Currently we have a 20Gb plan from AT&T and hope to keep it in that range, however we have the flexibility to increase it as we travel.  I will monitor our data usage from the Android AT&T app.

This will help us stay in touch with family using FaceTime on our Apple products and Skype on the laptop as well as cellular voice and Google Voice over the internet.  We can do everything we did in our sticks and bricks home utilizing Comcast internet service with the MiFi & WeBoost.

Cellular Data is expensive compared to an internet connection to a house – most home connections have unlimited data usage.  We gave up our unlimited AT&T cellular data plan several years ago.

To keep our cellular data usage down, we will be installing the WiFi Ranger Elite so we can more easily reach park WiFi hotspots etc. especially for streaming movies, uploading video and doing OS & program updates.   We plan on purchasing and installing the WiFi Ranger when we get to NY.  We want to remove the old satellite dish on the roof of Lola and use the access hole to route the WiFI Ranger and WeBoost external antennas.

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Lola\’s Satellite Dome

Besides the WiFi Ranger we will probably get the Go2 to create a local wireless network inside the RV.  After having some great exchanges with Chris at RVMobileInternet and others who have actually installed and are using this exact setup, it seems like a great solution because this combination can actually manage cellular usage and WiFi usage from a single console.  As one person said, this combination of the WiFi Ranger antenna and the Go2 WiFi router makes it easy to manage and understand your data usage.  Also your entire WiFi setup is supported by one company.

WiFi Ranger describes their Elite Pack (WiFi Ranger + Go2):

A complete network with indoor accessibility and outdoor range, with the Elite ready to be mounted to a ladder, crank-up batwing antenna, or flagpole. Provide a secure, private network for all of your wireless computers and devices with the Go2 which also has several LAN ports for hardwiring computers and devices. The Elite then brings in otherwise weak WiFi from Hotspots in the area to get your entire network online. The indoor Go2 is dedicated to providing the secure network and also allows for USB tethering a 3G/4G Aircard or MiFi device. To power the Elite and interconnect it with the Go2, its 30FT cable needs to run to the inside where the Go2 is stored. Avoid drilling a hole for this cable by routing it to the inside through a refrigerator vent, slide, or engine compartment.

That’s the hardware side of our communication tools.

Staying in touch while camping – the communicating

So now we can connect!  What then?  For ‘live’ communication of course there is voice (cell & Google Voice over IP), FaceTime and Skype; but what about pictures and blogging?

For private family use we have a SmugMug account to share pictures securely.  I use Adobe Lightroom for a majority of my photo editing, and it has a plugin for SmugMug.  That makes it easy… and I like easy!  We can also share private files using DropBox, and of course we use instant messenger (Apple and Android products) along with Gmail for email.

For our blog we utilize GoDaddy and their WordPress package.   For snail mail we utilize Escapee‘s mail service to forward mail.  Physical mail can be sent to the nearest post office as General Delivery and picked up, or to the RV Park we are staying in (check that they will handle your mail before sending anything to the park’s address).

Another option for WiFi is to stop by a Starbucks, Home Depot, local Library, or internet cafe.  This is especially useful for those big Adobe cloud updates!  If the signal reaches out to the parking lot we can even do it using the WiFi Ranger!

Especially for our grandkids we will be posting travel updates using a couple of cartoon characters (Lola the RV & Fritz).  The first ‘rough cut’ of this project was posted here on Vimeo.  We may incorporate these characters into this blog as we get more practiced at it.  Last Christmas we gave all 3 of our grand-kids a custom scrapbook, and we will be sending them postcards as we travel.  Sometimes old school is cool school – especially to 2 5 year olds and a 3 year old.  There are also some services that will snail mail out a custom postcard you create!  We will try some of those and give a review of our experiences when we do.

That’s our plan on staying in touch with YOU and FAMILY on this great journey!

Happy Trails!

Trippin’ Engles – April 23, 2016