A Drone’s Perspective – 2017 Trippin’ Year In Review
2017 was a crazy year. Living in an RV and being retired allows us the flexibility to do the unplanned! Join us with a look at where we traveled this past year. Check out or blog at RVBuiltForTwo.com or our YouTube channel Trippin Engles for more videos on our travels. We linked to some of the Blog/Video posts in the underlined links below.
The Year In Review – A Drone’s Perspective
January saw Christine holding down the ‘fort’ in central Florida while Jeff flew to Eugene to attend his dad’s funeral. Then in late January we trekked down to Lake Okeechobee to stay a month in South Central Florida. When we arrived at our campsite in Moore Haven Florida, our DJI Mavic Drone (Eyes of Lola) was waiting for us allowing us to capture airborne video for the rest of the year’s wanderings!
March: Heading West – Escapade in Tucson
Next we made our way west to the Escapee Escapade RV rally in Tucson spending time in Texas at a couple of Thousand Trails campgrounds Lake Tawakoni and Lake Whitney and visiting good friends of ours in Arlington,Texas.
The Escapee Escapade in March was a great experience in Tucson – even if Jeff had to get some dental work done and we had to get our slide-out repaired at La Mesa RV while we were at the rally.
April: Visiting in Sacramento
We made it to the Sacramento area in April, staying at Thousand Trails Lake Minden and visiting our two daughters and their families who live in the area.
July, August and most of September were spent fixing up a real fixer-upper we came across in the Sacramento Area. Something that was not on the radar earlier in the year, but we decided to take advantage of a chance to get a house to fix up and sell.
October: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Towards the end of September we head off to the Escapee HOP in Albuquerque, New Mexico – heading straight east through Nevada stopping in Fernley and Winnemucca first. Read about getting new tires on the toad in Winnemucca in that post! Next we head through the Bonneville Salt Flats, Salt Lake and stay 3 days at Scofield State Park exploring dinosaur and mammoth bones at the Wasatch Plateau. We even got snow on the 1st of October.
Cortez, Colorado was the last stop before getting to Albuquerque and we have to come back for more! The Canyons of the Ancients and Mesa Verde along with horses on the Ute Mountain Reservation gave us a preview of what we can explore in this area. While in Cortez we got Lola’s engine computer updated at Cortez Diesel. Check our Cortez post.
Bucket List! Yes, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is everything it is claimed to be. We had perfect weather each day. From exploring old town Albuquerque, the Pueblo Indian Cultural Center, Santa Fe to the wonders of Balloons from 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. What a blast! This was our first Escapee sponsored mini-rally or HOP. Check out Day 0 and 1 when we get set up and enjoy our first morning Balloon Sunrise. Day two – more Balloons (of course) and the Petroglyph National Monument. Day 3 – Balloons, Sante Fe and the Kuaua Pueblo at the Coronado State Historic Park. Days 4 and 5 wrap up the Balloon Fiesta with a trip to the Pueblo Cultural Center and Sandia Tram. Lots to see along with all the Balloon Fiesta Activities.
October: Loreto BCS Baja Mexico
We left Lola in California and flew to Baja California to enjoy the sun of Loreto at the Villa Del Palmar with some friends.
The last part of the year was spent continuing to fix-up our fixer upper. We hope to be finished by late spring and back on the road to explore the Mountain States and the Dakotas.
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!
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:
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Lola's Progress at BGM RV Repair
Lola's Progress at BGM RV Repair
Lola's in Chesterville Ontario Canada getting repaired
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.
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.
Trip Preferences Include:
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
Avoid major highways
Avoid toll roads
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nifty! RVTripWizard to the Rescue
Continue on selecting the next layover & refuel spots until the you finish the trip.
There are two options to print the trip. Paper (or PDF) and Excel. Select the Print icon to see the print choices.
The Print selection gives you the normal choices (Printer, PDF, XLS etc.)
And the Excel option creates an Excel file
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
By no means have we tried all the trip planning software out there, but we have tried a few.
Basic Non-RV Specific Trip Planning
Google & Bing Maps – Online general mapping tools are great, unless you need to know where the low clearances are and would like to see more RV/Camping specific information.
RV Specific Trip Planning
Good Sam – for basic trip planning the Good Sam web application is reasonably easy to use but only uploads to the Good Sam/Rand McNally GPS. For stop-overs along the way the application focuses on Good Sam associated campsites (no Thousand Trails, limited number of public and state parks, etc.). Also there are no refueling information (fuel consumption or fuel stops) and low clearances are limited to under 13′ 6″.
Family Motor Coach Association – the FMCA mapping service is a non-interactive trip planning service that you enter in the places you want to visit and a route is generated then either mailed or emailed to you. This makes it difficult to tweak and does not offer uploading to a GPS.
Escapees Online Trip Planning – This tool is ‘coming soon’ and will offer some unique dashboard items such as available jobs along the route and member added locations and ‘over night’ spots.
Garmin Base Camp – is additional software you can download from the Garmin web site. The biggest handicap of Garmin Base Camp is that we have to have the Garmin attached to the PC so it can use the GPS’s map. Also the software does not have height limitations for route calculations.
Garmin RV 760 LMT (Built In) – The built in trip planning software for the Garmin RV 760 does take into account clearance requirements along the route and has a wide variety of campsites, truck stops, gas stations etc., however the form factor to explore the route and options using a hand held device is awkward. Perfect for short trips but not easy to plan long trips.
RVTripWizard – all the more advanced tools listed above are “free” if you either buy the product (Garmin) or are members (Good Sam, FMCA, Escapees). RVTripWizard is $39 for a 1 year subscription. I hate paying for something I can get free, but after trying all the above tools to plan our trip from California to New York via Florida I decided to give this tool a try with their free money back subscription.
Incredibly easy to configure and use
Configure your average MPG and see refuel warnings posted along the trip
Configure the number of hours or miles you want to drive per day and a circle is drawn so you can start searching for the next layover
By far the most comprehensive selection of RV parks among the tools tried out. Configure the parks you want to see including Good Sam, Thousand Trails, BLM, Encore, Escapee, etc. and the order you want them listed
Configurable clearance warnings
Many truck stops are included
Drag and drop route modifications along the way
Configure the number of days to stay at each stop and view the overall trip length
Configure prices for fuel, lodging and meals
Download GPS points to a variety of devices including our Garmin RV 760 LMT
Easy to modify and copy trips
Prints to Printer (or PDF) as well as export to Excel. Both formats include GPS information, reservation #, contact data, etc.
Links to additional fuel locations using Mapquest gas prices that pops up in a separate window. You can manually add the address and estimated fuel taken on
Points of interest include Walmart w/parking, Sam’s Club, Costco, Pet Hospitals and more
For our GPS device the trip is downloaded as a set of points (in sequence) but not a trip (related sequence). This should not be a major issue since each ‘point’ is a stop but it sure would have been nice to see it imported as a trip.
It’s not FREE, but for $39 we feel that it is well worth the subscription fee because it makes it so easy to create and edit your route.
Online (web based) only – no Apple or Android app. Even using the tool in an iPad using Safari was cumbersome and I ended up moving a layover instead of selecting it (and all changes are permanent – no undo function).
Use the built-in GPS for quick trips, and RVTripWizard for long trips.
Our Trip Planning Strategy for 2016
Spring & Summer
Go to Florida and get our domicile established & vehicles registered
Go to northern NY to do some work on a house (need to be done by 7/1/2016)
Spend 3 months exploring New England starting with Maine, going to the FMCA Family Reunion in Massachusetts in August and winding our way back to northern NY about the first of October
Fall & Winter
Head south around November 1 with the goal of being in Central Florida by December 1st, then Southern Florida before the Christmas holidays.
Crazy Times but still FULL SPEED AHEAD. I started this post with the title Full Speed Ahead – Full Timing! in 2 months! Well, we are now just over 1 week away from that milestone – that’s an indication of how crazy it’s been.
Much of what is listed below we did step by step and a little at a time. We bought Lola early enough that we didn’t have to rush to ‘re-break’ her in and get her customized to our needs.
An overview of what we’ve done to prepare for Full Timing! RV lifestyle
The last months before full timing is crazy! What’s crazy about it? There are a dozen things happening, all at the same time. All of a sudden everything we are working towards is becoming very real. Setting up for our retirement income(s), deciding on a domicile plan, selling our house, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of… even packing up the RV!
Get the house ready to sell… Sale Pending!
Since January Christine has been busy painting the inside of the house while I’ve finished our grandson’s chest of drawers. We have also been making regular trips to our favorite donation centers to get rid of clothes, furniture and nick-knacks. We have already had two garage sales, and donated many special things to the Cancer Society and Goodwill. Some things we need to keep until almost the last day.
Then, early this month we put the house up on the market and it sold in 3 days. What a relief. We are in the last week and a half before closing now and everything (knock on wood) is going well. Going from Sticks and Bricks to Diesel Fumes (and the great outdoors).
Retirement Planning and Finalization
We have been working with a financial planner for over 2 years to evaluate our post-retirement income options. Work and Social Security retirement paperwork is ready to go and our health plan options are almost finalized. We have a detailed budget of our anticipated expenses, and how we are going to meet those needs. We’ve gone through dozens of budget variations and have taken a middle of the road approach to our forecasts. Thanks to the several bloggers who have shared their expenses and RV-Dreams for the sample spreadsheet template we used as a jump-off for our own analysis.
Domicile & Mail Service
We decided to go through Escapees and set up Domicile in Florida. California taxes are just way too high for us. Escapees also provide mail service so we can continue to get snail mail forwarded to us wherever we are.
For our first annual oil change at Freightliner last fall we had Sacramento Truck Center go through and change all fluids and check everything out as if she had not had any service done to her since her 2008 manufacture. This set us back some, but we did not have any service records from her prior owner(s). Especially since she only had 16,000 miles on her we were afraid she might not have had all the time-based maintenance done.
Staying in touch with the family is critical. We purchased the WeBoost Drive 4G-M to extend our cellular coverage. In addition, later this year we will be purchasing a Wi-Fi extender (probably Wi-FI Ranger). Technomadia has been a great resource and well worth the membership for technology information, product reviews and peer-based forums. In another post, I’ll cover how we stay in touch while driving separate vehicles, with family and friends while traveling and maintaining our online blog presence.
Last year we also installed an HD Jack antenna extender (booster), and recently received the Channel Master so we can record over the air programs. In addition, we purchased the Amazon Fire Stick so we can pick up our favorite Amazon shows (Bosch anyone?) that we can use with the Wi-Fi extender. We also copied a couple hundred hours of DVDs to hard drive, and have a couple of shoe boxes full of Blu-Ray. We also have our Amazon Kindles and our music is on an iPod that connects to Lola’s sound system. We are now set up for a couple of years of vegging out after our walks, hikes, bike rides, kayaking, beer tasting, wine tasting, farmer’s markets, etc!
Solar Panels & LED Lights
We already wrote about our solar panel and lithium battery upgrades that will help us stay off the grid and limit our generator time here. Recently we upgraded all the interior lights and exterior marker lights to LEDs from M4 Products that will cut our energy consumption for lighting.
Preparing for the Unexpected
We have an extended service plan for both the chassis as well as tire for Lola that we purchased when we got her. In addition, we have Coach-Net for the specialized roadside assistance we felt RVs need.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Our review of the decision-making process to select a TPMS is posted here.
Interior Fans, Heating and Cooling
Lola has A/C and a furnace, but to keep the air moving we upgraded the kitchen/dining area roof vent/fan with a MaxxAir fan that has a built-in cover. While we were at it, we went ahead and upgraded the bathroom fan with the same model. We also purchased a Dyson bladeless fan that cools and heats and a small heater that uses propane bottles when we almost froze our butts off up in Oregon Thanksgiving Day.
Some of the miscellaneous equipment that has come in handy in our first trips out are:
Our first trip out east is NOT as much of a ‘retirement mode‘ trip as we would like. We will be taking a trailer with some woodworking – house-fixing equipment that will be stored in northern NY – and need to be there in early June so we can work on a rental house there. But first we have to stop in Florida to register our vehicles since the RV registration expires in August. Since I’ll be dragging the trailer and Christine will be driving the Pilot until the trailer get’s stored, we want to make this first trip relatively quick with our only long layover once we get to Florida.
We also mapped out the major holidays for this summer and fall and made some reservations for those. We will post a separate post on trip planning, but as teaser we purchased the Garmin RV 760LMT specialized GPS for Recreational Vehicles.
Toad (Towed Vehicle) tow bar & base plate
We decided to keep our older Honda Pilot at this time until we have a better understanding of our Toad requirements. We purchased the RoadMaster Falcon tow bar & base plate for the Pilot so we can tow it. Of course as I mentioned initially I’ll be pulling our little 5 x 8 trailer and Christine will drive the toad. After that though it will be smooth sailing together! I need my navigator close at hand!
Traveling with 3 mature dogs, each weighing 65-70 lbs can be a challenge. How much food to take with us? What about medications? Our strategy to start off with is to store 30 days of dry food. We have 2 dogs that need medication twice a day. For one medication we are going through Costco and get 3 months worth at a time. For the other we are getting a year’s worth. Carrots are one of their main treats, and we hope to get them at Farmer’s Markets along the way along with our greens.
It’s been a long time coming, we have solar for Lola. AM Solar came through, and we installed 4 160 watt solar panels on the Roof. Originally we were looking at 6 100 watt panels because AM Solar was having issues with the 160 watt panels they were receiving. But the latest panels tested good, and we opted for the 4 160s. The square footage of the panels are the same for 4 160s vs 6 100s. Because there is only room for two rows of panels, the 160 watt installation actually takes up less roof space. This gives us more room to expand in the future.
We checked in Monday morning. The evaluation took a bit longer because of some electrical problems we created when we shorted out a battery while insulating the battery box. Simple mistake not following my diagram of the cables and batteries. The solar panels and batteries got installed over the next 4 days, and we tested Lola Thursday night, leaving for home Friday Morning. AM Solar was great to work with. They came in under-budget and on time. Roger was great to work with during the ordering and scheduling process and Cody went through the systems one at a time in detail. We have all the system documentation including diagrams specific to our installation. Thanks to the entire crew at AM Solar!
Installation of Solar Panels and Lithium Batteries at AM Solar in Springfield Oregon
Testing Lola's Solar and Lithium Systems
160 Watt vs. 100 Watt Panels
Christine Showing Off the Panels
160 Watt Solar Panel Layout
100 Watt Solar Panel Layout
Solar Panels Installed
AM Solar Shop
Solar - Lithium Battery Switches
Lithium Battery and Switches
AGM Chassis Battery
Insulated Lithium Battery
Gone with the Wynns
Missed Meeting the Infamous!
Christine and the dogs
Ready to hit the road
Kadie and Danny
Mt Shasta City Lola
Ready to head home
We upgraded our batteries to a 300 amp-hour lithium pack built by AM Solar replacing a 300 amp-hour wet cell battery pack (3 batteries). We also replaced the chassis batteries with AGM batteries in case we decided to insulate the entire battery compartment. Since lithium batteries should be charged when the interior battery temperature is 32 degrees or warmer, we insulated the lithium battery itself – we tested it to 22 degrees without a heater and to 12 degrees using a little desk heater. The lithium batteries give us twice the capacity because they can drop down to 10-15% of capacity vs. 50-60% on a wet cell. Plus, lithium-ion batteries charge up in a fraction of the time. Of course this requires a new inverter/battery charger that supports the fast charging and different charge strategy (lithium-ion batteries don’t like constant trickle charging). With our new charger we can actually fast-charge the batteries while we are driving using solar+alternator, or while boondocking using solar+generator, or while connected to the grid using shore solar+shore power or just solar. We are looking forward to doing more tests of the solar charging options once we are full-timers.
Room to Expand
We have room for 4 more 150/160 watt solar panels on the roof, and additional lithium batteries in the battery bay. Over the next year we will be recording our power usage to see how the setup meets our needs.
Our 640 watts of solar panels and 300 Amp Hours of Lithium provides several benefits:
Faster battery charging: Lithium batteries charge much faster than wet-cell batteries and can utilize combinations of solar, engine alternator, generator and shore power
Weigh less: Lithium batteries weigh less – more than making up the weight of the solar panels
Less maintenance and longer life: Lithium batteries require virtually no maintenance and last longer than wet-cell batteries
More usable energy: Lithium batteries can be drawn down to 10% of their capacity without damaging the battery
Silent Charging: Solar charging makes no sound so you don’t have to worry about ‘quiet hours’
Charge Anywhere there is sun: We can charge our batteries anywhere there is sun. Even on cloudy days you get some charge reducing the amount of shore power or generator usage
We are looking forward to tracking our solar usage and the related conditions as we travels.
Gone with the Wynn’s
We just missed seeing Nikki and Jason Wynn of Gone With the Wynns as they were busy editing video, but we managed to snap a ‘proof’ picture that we were there! They have provided us with inspiration and real-world RV know-how, and of course of few things NOT to do.