We knew almost nothing about Tulsa when we arrived, but it didn’t take long to discover the wonderful food the city has to offer. We only got a small taste but it’s enough to bring us back for many more visits. Here are the places we tried.
Siegi’s Sausage Factory
Our first meal in town was carry out from Siegi’s Sausage Factory, a restaurant and sausage factory started by a fifth generation sausage maker from Austria. Unfortunately, we were so hungry that we didn’t get any pictures of dinner. My sister in law’s husband strongly suggested we try the Hungarian Goulasch and I’m so glad we took his advice! It had a luscious deep meaty flavor. We also split a sausage plate four ways so that we could each try different sausages and, of course, mustard. Each of them was so delicious I found it impossible to pick a favorite. We each got a side of red cabbage that was also incredible. By the end we were stuffed and very, very happy.
I don’t want to start a fight but I know recommending a place for barbecue can do that. I grew with North Carolina style barbecue, but, I’ve been to Texas enough times to fully appreciate their way with meat and Oklahoma Joe’s comes close to my experience with Texas barbecue. We split a large order of burnt ends, which despite the name, are chunks of pork so tender they literally melt in your mouth and the sauce was the stuff of my dreams! It was darkand deeply flavored making it a perfect compliment to the meat. Our sides included baked beans made with several different kinds of beans in a rich flavorful sauce; sweet potato fries that were crunchy on the outside and creamy inside; and green beans that were perfectly seasoned.
Andolini Pizzeria is a local chain several locations and a food truck. But, Andolini Sliced is a bit different from the other locations. Pizza can be purchased by the slice and the options are phenomenal! You can choose Tulsa style, Roman style square sliced with a thick crust cooked in an electric oven, A big thin foldable New York style slice, or Napoletana which has a thin crust cooked in a very hot wood-fired oven and only available as a whole 12 inch pie.
We tried two slices of the Vegetarian Maximus Roman square slice and the Margherita Napoletana. The Vegetarian Maximus had mozzarella cheese, potato, mushroom, black olives, cherry tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. The crust was thick but still crunchy on the bottom just like the pizza we had in Rome. We got the Margherita because it’s my favorite kind of pizza but it also let’s me see what a pizza maker can do with simple ingredients. Andolini’ s uses San Marzano tomatoes, house made mozzarella and fresh basil. When cooked in a wood fired oven at over 900 degrees the result is simply amazing. The crust is crusty and a little charred on the bottom but still pillowy inside the edges. The sauce tastes like fresh tomatoes and the gooey mozzarella creates long strings when you pick up each slice. It’s no wonder Andolini’s is considered one of the best pizzeria’s in the country.
I have to finish with dessert, right? And no trip to Oklahoma would be complete without a trip to Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Store.
Braum’s started in Oklahoma and has now grown to have stores in five states. They are an ice cream shop, hamburger restaurant and convenience store. We had to give them a try, but we steered clear of the insane looking sundaes (they looked amazing, though!). We each got chocolate frozen yogurt in a waffle cone. The frozen yogurt was creamy and very chocolatey but the waffle cone was the real star. It was lightly sweet and lightly crunchy with that perfect caramelized flavor.
We’ve learned that Tulsa has way more good food than we could try in one visit. I’m looking forward to coming back and trying more. If you know a good place in Tulsa we should try on our next visit, let us know in the comments.
Selling our house took more time than we thought it would, so we found ourselves living the full-time stationary life for almost two and a half months while we got the final work done, then maintained the house while it was being shown and finally cleared everything out ahead of the closing which ended up being delayed. Had we known about the delay before we rented a moving truck we would probably still be stationary, but we found out after which meant we only had four days to get our furniture to Carolyn’s sister in Tulsa, Oklahoma and turn the truck in. So we made the decision to go and finally hit the road.
Carolyn drove the RV and I drove the moving truck. The weather did its best to make us regret our decision to go by throwing thunderstorms and driving rain at us until we finally surrendered and stopped for the night at a Cracker Barrel in Russellville, Arkansas. Yes, staying overnight at Cracker Barrel is a thing for RVers. We checked with the manager when we stopped in to pick up our dinner to go. The staff was wonderful and we had a decent night’s sleep. The next morning we hit the road early, stopped briefly so Carolyn could attend a virtual meeting for work, then we drove the final 3 hours to Tulsa.
As we got close to Tulsa, I was struck by how the land slowly flattened out from the Ozark Mountains and the sky seemed to expand like the curtains being drawn from the screen in a movie theater. It just got bigger and bigger. I was also struck by the change to an 80 mile per hour speed limit on a road where I could see miles ahead. We arrived at Carolyn’s sister’s house at lunchtime and quickly unpacked the truck because we were so close to the deadline to get it turned in. Once we had it empty, we returned it, then I took Carolyn back to her sister’s while I took Belvedere to get checked in at the RV park. I’ll have more to say about the RV park in a future post.
After a couple days of work and visiting family, we took time on Sunday to explore Tulsa. We drove downtown to explore some of the Deco District, a part of downtown where there are a number of stunning Art Deco buildings. We also explored a bit of Route 66 in Tulsa, then finished the day with a quick visit to Cain’s Ballroom where Bob Wills played then pizza for dinner at Andolini Sliced. I will also write about all of our food experiences in Tulsa in a later blog post. They were all so good!
We finally closed on the house a week later than planned. We met with a mobile notary and signed the papers in the laundry room of the RV park. The delay in our closing has frustrated our travel planning. Ideally, we would like to travel on weekends so we have time to get set up and fully connected before work on Monday morning. Signing on a Monday means moving on a weekday. So, our plan at this point is to make a shorter move than we originally planned finish the work week there then make our big move next weekend. Nothing has worked as we imagined it would. But, our plans for the future are just beginning to take shape and now that one chapter is actually complete, we are free to start the next one!
As I write this it is pouring rain outside and we’ve had pop up thunderstorms almost every day for the last couple of weeks. So, weather apps have been at the top of my mind all week. Since we moved into the RV, we have spent a lot more time outdoors than we ever did in our sticks and bricks house. The RV doesn’t offer the same level of security in bad weather that a house does, so it’s incredibly important to know what may be headed our way in case we need to either secure our belongings or pack up and leave.
Because it is so important, I don’t rely on a single weather app. Maybe I’m just a belt and suspenders type of person, but (spoiler alert) I haven’t found a single app that I feel is 100% reliable. They all have strengths and weaknesses and some, while quite useful, only make important features available on a subscription basis. Of course, any phone app is also only as good as our connectivity. So I find myself using different apps to try and get as complete a picture of the weather as I can. This by no means a thorough review of the apps I use. This is simply my current experience with the apps and what I like and dislike about each of them. I also use an iPhone 10 so all of these apps are iOS apps. I’m sure there may be Android versions of at least some of these, but I have no experience with Android phones or apps.
What I like: This is the app that is part of iOS. It comes preinstalled on the iPhone and iPad. It’s very basic, but, it tells you the current temperature, the expected highs and lows, the percentage chance of rain, and air quality. It gives me a lot of basic information quickly in an easy to read layout. I can also easily add our travel destinations and get forecasts for them as well. It’s like the Local Forecast segments on The Weather Channel and, in fact, there is a very small Weather Channel logo in the bottom left corner of the screen.
What I don’t Like: No radar and no severe weather warnings.
The Weather Channel
What I Like: There is a lot I like about the free version of the Weather Channel App for iOS. I can get basic temperature and rain chance for the upcoming day, then change the view to see hourly forecasts or I can change the view again to see temperature and rain chance for the upcoming ten days. Then, I can scroll down to see weather radar and scrolling further will bring me to sunrise and sunset times, wind, humidity and UV Index. Scrolling further down will bring me to a sweat index, mosquito index, heat index, and air quality. A lot of information for a weather geek to have fun with. Plus, it will send me weather alerts from the National Weather Service and it will send. A useful feature during storm season in Tennessee.
What I Don’t Like: I have to scroll down several times to get to the radar screen. In between each useful bit of information there are a ton of ads, unless you pay $4.99 a month or $29.99 a year for the premium pro version. Also some important features are only in the paid version of the app.
What I Like: This is a more stripped down app also made by The Weather Channel. It gives me the radar information, temperature and wind direction and speed and it lets me know about any National Weather Service alerts all without having to scroll down which is great in an emergency. When the sky starts turning dark, I go to this app, first, to get a quick view of what’s coming. It will even send me alerts with an approximate time rain will start falling and it sends lightning alerts to my Apple Watch telling me how far away lightning has struck.
What I Don’t Like: Occasionally, it thinks I’m in another state. I first thought this was because I hadn’t updated my location after a trip, but it had my location correct. It, apparently, just decided that I needed to get storm alerts two states away and I could not make it stop. Also, like the other Weather Channel app, some really useful features (including the additional layers on the radar screen) are only available with a $3.99 monthly subscription.
What I Like: Current Temperature, radar and hourly forecasts are quick and easy to read. You can even change the hourly information to show actual temperature, feel like temperature precipitation chance, precipitation rate wind, wind gust, humidity, dew point, UV Index, Cloud Cover and barometric pressure. Do I use all of those tabs? No. But, I do use UV index because I WILL be outside most of the day. I can also set up alerts for severe weather and an umbrella reminder or a sunscreen reminder. I can also set up custom notifications as well and I can submit a report on current conditions to help make the forecast better. I’ve just started using this app in the last couple of weeks so I haven’t looked at it in great detail. However…
What I Don’t Like: In my experience with it so far, it tends to give a false sense of security. We had a line of powerful thunderstorms move through the area a week ago and while my Weather Channel apps were warning me well ahead of the storm, Dark Sky continued to show “No Precipitation Predicted” even as the rain began falling. Several minutes into the storm, as we watched water rise in the low spots around us, it finally let me know “It’s Beginning to Drizzle”! If I were relying solely on this app I could have been in a dangerous situation and not have known it.
What I like: It gives a lot of information at a glance and you can scroll down for additional information. Tabs at the bottom let you change to Hourly, Daily and Radar. The radar screen features layers to display active warnings, satellite view, precipitation outlook, temperature contour and 24 hour snowfall forecast. The weather alerts layer could be useful on the road to see if we are heading toward an area under threat. It has ads but they aren’t as obtrusive as the ones on The Weather Channel app. Also, it doesn’t save critical features for the premium version. The subscription price simply removes the ads.
What I Don’t Like: It requires a subscription to make the ads go away, but it’s a much more reasonable $8.99 per year.
What I like: This is an app by Weather Underground, a website that I have used on and off for years. The forecasts are accurate and it gives me information at a glance . The weather radar is also on the main screen.The radar screen has several layers that include a satellite view, a heat map and weather alerts. And, It doesn’t save all the most useful features for the premium version.
What I Don’t like: The interface feels cluttered so I find my self not using this app much at all. It also has the a subscription price of $19.99 a year for the premium version.
I had a vision in my head of how our first day as full-time RVers would go. We would walk out of our empty house, jump into the front seats of Belvedere (our RV) and we would drive away as the music swelled and the credits rolled; the end of one episode of our lives and the start of something new. But, life… isn’t a movie. Though, at times, it IS a comedy.
On June 1st, 2020 we moved out of the house so we could finish doing all the projects we needed to do to get the house on the market. The biggest one was replacing the carpet on the top two floors. We needed the cats to be out of the house so they wouldn’t have to chance to…ahem…make the new carpet theirs. If you know what I mean.
The drive away from the house was anything but triumphant. A pavement crew showed up that morning and began tarring the cracks in our parking lot. Suddenly, we were worried about Belvedere getting tarred in the process, but the crew had a huge truck that blocked the exit. When it finally drove off to get lunch we fled our parking lot to the nearby Blue Beacon truck wash with Carolyn driving Belvedere and me chasing in our Honda Element. Once washed, we checked in at the campground, parked, hooked up water and power then Carolyn set up her laptop and got back to work. That night, after work, we began the process of moving into the RV until we collapsed, exhausted.
After working from home together for months, we now found ourselves with a morning commute. Each morning we would get up, have coffee, then drive from the campground back to the house where Carolyn still had her office set up and, while she worked, I worked on the house; touching up paint, pressure washing and sealing the deck, cleaning the outside of the house and fixing up the flowerbeds. It was a busy month. Every day we arrived back at the RV late in the evening, ate dinner and went to bed. We only took two days off to enjoy our new home and our wonderful new neighbors. By the way, our neighbors are the folks we met last fall and wrote about here and I’ll have more to say about the campground in a future post.
At times it felt like we would never get to the finish line! The day before we got the real estate photos taken we had to replace the toilet in the main bathroom! But, we did make it! The house finally went on the market on July 2nd. We took the fourth of July weekend off to enjoy the lake.
However, the work isn’t over. We are still purging items as we discover we brought over too much stuff. The Honda has boxes of things we are working our way through. Some will be kept, some will get donated, some will get stored and some more will be trashed. Our storage unit was so carefully packed at first, but, the closer we got to our deadline the more we stashed stuff in it like a drug dealer with cops at the door! Now we have to get it organized. Yay!
All in all the first month felt like we dove in then spent the month holding on to the side of the pool. We got an offer on the house this week so, we’ll see how that plays out. We are here at this campground until the end of July then we off to a service appointment at the RV dealer in St. Louis. Until then, we still have a lot to do. But, at least now, we can also take some time to enjoy the experience of camping as well. Maybe a swim and s’mores tonight!
So, what lessons have we learned in our first month of RV life?
It’s definitely not a vacation. We still work, pay bills, buy groceries and do all the work to keep house. Heck, we haven’t even travelled, yet, so it’s like moving to a very small fixer-upper.
You really don’t need as much as you think you do. After 5 yard sales, selling countless things on E-Bay or Facebook Marketplace, endless trips Goodwill and the dump we find that we STILL HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF!
Patience is more than a virtue, it’s a necessity! So is a sense of humor! Living in a small space with another person is challenging. You WILL hear things and, worse, smell things and invariably you will get in each other’s way so tension mounts fast! Which leads me to…
Communication, Communication, Communication! We went from a 2100 square foot house to a twenty five foot RV. There is no place to go cool off if you’re angry. There isn’t even a door to slam! Like it or not, you have to work out issues when they happen. And they will, because; I may have mentioned this; it’s a TINY space!
Actively look for joy. We’ve been stationary so there aren’t any exciting new places to explore, yet. We’ve been eyeball deep in getting the house ready and all the things we used to do for fun; going to the movies, eating out and shopping; have been taken off the table by Covid 19 so it’s really easy to get in a funk about it all. To counter that we’ve had to really look for things that bring us joy. Our campground sits on the edge of a beautiful lake that we get to go play in. We have better neighbors than we ever had in our sticks and bricks house. We spend more time outdoors than we have in years and there really is something wonderful about sitting outside watching the lake as the sun goes down. All these wonderful little things that we could easily have taken for granted in our old life are now vital to keeping the funk at bay.
RVer’s, in general, are wonderful people and they are ready to lend a hand if needed. And, as a newbie believe me, it’s needed! All you have to do is ask and be ready to pitch in if you’re needed.
Our camping opportunities have been extremely limited since we took delivery of Belvedere, our RV. We had two days in a campground outside St. Louis provided by our dealer, then we brought our RV home and immediately had to winterize it and put in in storage. When Spring finally arrived we were in full lockdown due to Covid-19 so we had to wait until late April for shakedown trip number two, which was a short trip to a local campground where we could dewinterize and refamiliarize ourselves with how everything works. Several weeks later, as state parks opened back up, it was time for a bigger test, to see if we could work from the RV in a campground away from the city. Carolyn has worked from the RV while it’s been parked in front of our house, but this time we would have to rely on cell signal to stay connected. We also wanted to see how our oldest cat would adapt to RV life. So, last week we packed up Belvedere and drove to Standing Stone State Park in Overton County, north of Cookeville,Tennessee.
The park is beautiful! Lots of trees and mountains surrounding a man-made lake. The park offers lots of things to do, boat rentals, hiking, volleyball, large playing fields, a conference center and cabins built by the CCC in the 1930’s. The campground is a short distance down the road from the cabins. The sites are gravel with water and electric hookups. The dump station is outside the campground, further down the main road.
There are two ways to get into the park. If you have a large rig; and we did see a few large fifth wheels and class A’s in the campground; then it’s best to come in from Route 111 through Livingston, Tennessee. This is a wider and less curvy road. The other route up 136 is very curvy in places as you wind along the edge the hills above the lake. It’s a beautiful drive but it ends at a one way bridge over the dam at the park entrance. It’s a tight turn with stone walls on either side of the road across the bridge so there is a 30 foot limit for vehicles crossing the bridge. Guess which route we took? We are 25 feet long and crossing the bridge was a white knuckle experience.
The rain began pouring before we even got to the park. This has been a very wet year in Tennessee. We had very few days of sun during the winter and after a brief period of sun early in the spring before the rain returned with a vengeance. We are still new to driving our rig and driving in the rain adds an unwelcome level of excitement to the experience. Driving on curvy mountain roads in the rain even more so. Once we we made it to the campground and found our site, which was more mud than gravel, we set up in the pouring rain. It was so much FUN!
When the rain finally let up, I pulled out our new Blackstone griddle to try it out for the first time. Setting it up and getting it attached to the propane quick connect outlet on our RV was very easy. In short order I was set up and cooking fajitas for dinner. Once I have a bit more experience with the griddle I will write an entire post about it. For now, spoiler alert, it was the biggest success of the trip. I’m in love with it.
Our cat, Josie, is seventeen years old. Change is hard for her and aside from the long ride home when we found her at Pine Mountain State Park in Kentucky 17 years ago, all of her trips out of the house have been to the vet. So, she was deeply unpleased with being taken to the RV and she let us know. She spent the first part of the drive in my lap, then finally settled onto one of the couches for the rest of the drive. Once we were camped, she took every opportunity to try to get out the door. She managed to escape twice and each time she went straight under the RV! Pretty spry for a little old lady! Did I mention it was raining and muddy? Let’s just say no one came out clean. During a lull in the rain, we did pull out a cat tent that we bought hoping to give our cats a safe place space outside. Josie wasn’t having it. She acted like Charleton Heston in the cage in Planet of the Apes. She wailed (It’s a madhouse! a MADHOUSE!) and tipped her water bowl over. It was a terrible time for all of us. But, we also gave her lots of extra snuggles and she finally calmed down and started to adjust just when we were packing up to leave.
The main purpose of the trip, getting Carolyn connected was our real challenge. There was no wifi and cell signal was less than the described in some of the reviews we read. She has to have her computer connected to the company network and she has to participate in conference calls. It took a few tries but she was finally able to connect and, despite a number of issues causing her to switch back and forth between AT&T and Verizon, was finally able to work from the RV. We learned that we really need a cell booster for this kind of situation. The one we left at home would have been helpful (sigh).
We also discovered an electrical issue with our RV that meant we didn’t have power to all of our outlets unless the inverter was turned on. The inverter acted like no AC power was coming in to the coach so it pulled from the batteries. This means that we accidentally tested our boondocking power capabilities. The rain held off during the morning hours, but the clouds persisted all day long. That, along with the canopy of trees overhead meant we got nothing from solar at all. We had to rely on our generator and engine to charge our batteries.
It would be easy to focus on all the problems we experienced. This trip was short on fun. There was no hiking and, thanks to the pandemic, very little exploring the area. We didn’t get to do most of the things we bought an RV to do. Tensions ran high at times, the electrical issues caused a lot of stress, the long periods of rain meant we were all confined inside and the RV quickly became a VERY small space. The cherry on the sh*t sundae was when we went to dump our tanks at the end of our stay and the sewer backed up.
But, we made it! And, we learned some hard lessons about full-time life in an RV. Some problems can be dealt with by investing in some additional equipment, but others require us to step up to the challenge. They will require patience and an incontrovertible sense of humor. Stuff happens and you have to be ready to roll with the punches and realize that, sometimes, the sound of rain on the roof, wind in the trees and a purring cat in your lap can be so beautiful and, indeed, be all you need.
Getting our RV on the first of November was a little like being let into a nightclub at last call, we had a short shakedown before we had to drive home, winterize and store the coach. Our poor RV was in an outside storage area from mid-November to the first of March.
Winters in Nashville tend to be rainy, but this year took it to a new level. It felt like the rain would NEVER stop. By the time we got it back to the house in late February it was covered in black streaks that ran down from the roof and she was filthy, but the rain wouldn’t let up and then the pandemic came along. So, we started May by getting her cleaned up.
Even though it’s a small RV, our rig is still too big for most regular car washes, instead we followed the recommendations of folks on the Leisure Travel Enthusiasts group on Facebook and took it to the nearest Blue Beacon Truck Wash which just happened to be one exit down on the interstate.
Blue Beacon is a nationwide chain of truck washes with a good reputation for doing a quality job. They have over 110 locations across the US and Canada and you can download their app which will help you find the one closest to you. They are set up to wash big rigs so accommodating a large class A is no issue and our little B+ looked almost lost in the giant wash bay. Their driveway can accommodate a lot of trucks so keep in mind that you could be in for a long wait on a busy day. However, many of their locations are open 24/7 so you could plan to visit at a less busy time.
While you are waiting in line, someone will come out to talk to you about your choice of services and any special instructions. The Classic Wash is not a mechanical car wash, it’s done by a team of people with power sprayers, warm soapy water and brushes, though you can request that they not use the brushes if you are concerned about the finish on your coach. They also offer a brightener for aluminum wheels. We skipped the brightener because it’s an acid solution can damage the Durabrite coating on our aluminum wheels. We also asked that they not use the brushes. You can also direct them to be careful not to spray directly into any of the vents for the water heater, furnace, or refrigerator. While you are waiting, there is also a vacuum available to clean out your interior before the wash.
Once the truck ahead of you clears the bay, someone will direct you to pull forward into the bay and show you where to stop. Then, a team of people descend on your RV and get to work. When they are close to done, one of the guys will signal you it’s time to pay and he will direct you to the office across the bay. As you get out of your RV they will stop spraying to allow you to pass, then resume work while you are in the office paying the bill. Once you’ve paid you walk back to your rig and pull out into the sunshine.
After a half hour wait in line, the wash took about ten minutes and our RV looked fabulous for the next three whole hours until major storm blew through Nashville packing 75 mil per hour winds. When the winds died down and we could survey the damage left behind we found our RV covered in leaf debris. Thanks, Nashville!
I hope everyone is in their safe place to ride out the pandemic. It feels like the world just stopped this past week and everything seems weirdly quiet. Fortunately, we were still in our house when everything closed down. We’ve put our plans on hold until the situation improves, but that does not mean we’ve stopped moving forward. We continue to work on our house so that we can be in a position to move quickly again when all the restrictions are lifted.
I had a pair of gigs scheduled for the beginning of April that are all cancelled and my office closed down leaving those that have the ability working from home. Carolyn was already working remotely so she is now having to adjust to having another office mate, one that does more than meow. This experience is a good test for a future of living together in a small space and, so far, it’s been an easy adjustment which bodes well for the future. It’s not really a surprise to us, but it’s nice to have confirmation.
We are also using the time at home to complete the projects around the house and in the RV. Who knows whether we’ll even be able to sell our house after this is over, but we consulted our real estate agent and she cited the very low interest rate as a reason to be hopeful. So, I want to be ready. It keeps hope alive in the face of cancelled plans and scary headlines. Plus, having the time pressure removed means I can be more methodical in getting things done.
So, does this fundamentally change our plans? No, but, we’ve closely followed the news of state parks and other camping facilities closing and potentially leaving full-timers with nowhere to go and it’s brought awareness that we need to plan for a safe haven in the event of an emergency. What form that will take remains to be seen. For, now we hunker down, wash our hands until our skin begins to scream and keeping working toward our goal.
It’s been a long time since my last update. The reason is that I didn’t want to lapse into griping about how slowly everything seemed to be going. It’s been slower than I would like, but, it’s proceeding as it’s supposed to. Now that we are starting to see real progress, I want to update you on all the positive things that are happening.
Many rooms in our house are now empty and I cannot express how much lighter we both feel! I would never have believed it just a few years ago when I was caught up in acquiring stuff and anyone who tried to tell me would have been called a hippy. But, once we made the decision to downsize and pursue this dream, a switch flipped. Now, I see stuff as an obstacle to moving forward and I can’t get rid of it all fast enough. I’m almost to the point of leaving boxes of random stuff on peoples’ doorsteps, ringing the doorbell and running away. It actually has become addictive and we find ourselves looking around asking “what else can we get rid of today”!
We found a real estate agent we really like! It’s actually kinda funny how the process played out. We interviewed several agents and the third one was, literally, the charm. Now, with the agent’s advice we have prioritized work on the house to get it ready to sell, doing as much of it as we can before contractors start to come in. Our dining room is now storing new bathroom vanities waiting for installation by the contractors and every weekend finds me covered in paint.
In between house projects and getting rid of stuff we’ve also been doing projects to get the RV ready. We’ve hung pictures, installed additional hooks and a full-length mirror and, yes, we are now addicted to Command strips. We also just got packing cubes to start organizing our clothes to fit into the available cabinets and our spacious foot of closet. I still have other small projects to do, but it’s starting to look and feel more like us.
For our cats, leaving the house usually means a vet visit so it’s a traumatic experience. We brought two of them out to explore the RV while it’s sitting still. There was lots of loud meowing, but after a short time, fear gave way to curiosity and they each calmed down and began to explore their new home until they found a spot to settle down and groom themselves. A sign of momentary success! But, we are waiting to bring our third cat out until we are ready to stay. She is going to need extra support to make the move and it would be too hard for her to go back and forth from the house to the RV, so we have lots of treats and a dispenser of happy kitty hormones on hand to help her make the transition.
Finally, we have been out exploring our options for where to camp once we are out of the house and waiting for it to sell. Some of the best campground options around Nashville don’t open until April which leaves us with a choice of three commercial campgrounds, or if we want to drive quite a bit further to get into town, two state parks. We spent a Saturday driving around the city to visit each one and get a feel for them. The best I can say about that experience is that we had a great lunch out that day!
Maybe it’s the fact that it’s February and all the trees are bare, the ground is muddy and the skies over Nashville have been iron grey since Christmas. But, they all looked like sad, muddy parking lots with rigs crammed together in as little space as possible and at least one had some rigs that didn’t look like they ever moved. Plus, some of them are expensive! The downside of living in a city popular with tourists. Needless to say, neither of us were initially excited by the available options but maybe they will look better when we get closer to Spring. I know we will feel a lot better!
So even though I’ve felt like we were stuck in neutral progress has been trickling under the surface and now we are starting to see it and we are getting excited! It feels like the dam is about to break and things are going to start moving a lot faster. We are so close, now!
We glimpsed the Promised Land. To put that into perspective, it is important to understand that our journey towards full time RV life has been long and at times agonizingly slow as we have worked through the process of downsizing our belongings, getting our RV and getting the house ready to sell. It is taking longer than we planned and we are not done yet, which is frustrating, and occasionally demoralizing. We have maintained our enthusiasm mostly by gorging on YouTube videos and keeping the faith that this new lifestyle will be the right one for us, but since neither of us has RV’d before, it really is faith we are working with, not knowledge.
Recently we were given a bit of a view of one of the potential RV lifestyles out there and it has renewed our enthusiasm.
But, like most journeys it began with frustration.We took our new baby for its first emissions inspection, which is a requirement to get tags in Tennessee. Since we like breathing fresh air, we have no complaints. We pulled up to the station and the gentleman there asked for our mileage. In ANY other vehicle I have driven, the mileage is prominently displayed on the dashboard. Not so, our new 2019 Mercedes chassis. What commenced was about a 10 minute fire drill as we searched to find the mileage that involved the onboard computer, Google, and a couple of well deserved eye rolls from the gentleman assisting us and a minor amount of colorful language on my part. My apologies to the folks at the testing center and the very patient lady who had the misfortune to be behind us in line.
Mission finally accomplished, we headed back to the house to meet up with some friends, who we were hosting in the RV. Pizza, wine and RV conversation is starting to be a thing with us. This is the second time we had show and tell with pizza. Frankly, it works for us. The coach is so comfortable for 4 people having a meal. We didn’t use the dining table option, because pizza, but there was plenty of room.
In the evening, this is where the RV magic occurred. We have friends who just bought a new fifth wheel and they invited us to the RV park they were staying at for a game of you show us yours and we will show you ours. They are a different brand of RVer from us. Our plan is to travel a lot and stay 1-2 weeks at places we like. Theirs is to land in a place for the season and RV locally, with only a couple of trips away each year. The advantage of their lifestyle is that they build lots of friendships with others who stay for the season.
The Safe Harbour RV park team graciously allowed us to come inside and park in an empty slip while we were there to visit our friends. Our friends had brought other friends from the RV park, and they all had the pleasure of watching the newbies back into our first parking space (thankfully we did ok) and then we all piled into the FX to show her off. There were seven of us and plenty of room. The back seating area was perfect. Conversation flowed easily and no one was left feeling isolated.
After a bit, we went over to the fifth wheel, which was really nice, with a great layout. The kitchen was up and the living room down, and it really worked well. More of their friends showed up and that is when we then experienced the RV culture we have been hoping for all along. Loads of laughter, total strangers who treated us as family, everyone contributing to dinner (which was a taco buffet of epic proportions created in multiple kitchens) and common bonds created by a shared lifestyle. Everyone had a funny story or tip to share and a good time was had by all. Our friends said that every weekend was pretty much like this, where the community came out to be together, and the sense of comradery was addictive. We barely speak to our neighbors in our house that we have lived in for nearly twenty years. While we do not plan to stay in one place for a whole season like our friends, we know we will be back to Nashville quarterly for work and doctors and such, and we now have a crew and a plan for those times. We felt like we finally found our tribe.
We have been told over and over that RVers are a warm, generous group of people who are always willing to step up to help each other, and that is exactly what we experienced. It was wonderful and we will be buoyed by the experience for a long time to come as we close in on our goal to go full time. I want to give a shout out to Bill and Brandon and their marvelous group of RV friends. Thank you for the wonderful experience.
On Friday, November 1st the long wait came to an end when we signed the papers and took delivery of our new Leisure Travel Van Unity FX. Our first weekend was one of the greatest and most stressful adventures we’ve ever had! And, for those who might be thinking about buying an RV, I want to tell you what our first weekend was like and some lessons we learned along the way.
Packing – We flew to St. Louis to pick up our RV at Van City, so our challenge was packing all the items we thought we would need, including pillows and a comforter, into suitcases we could check on the plane. It was a challenge but we got it down to two rolling suitcases, two backpacks and a tote bag containing the comforter squashed into a vacuum bag that lost air and slowly expanded during the trip. Lesson learned – pack scissors.
The Big Day – We were so excited we didn’t get to bed until well after midnight and woke up at 5AM to get to the airport for our early morning flight. I’m glad we had time to enjoy a sit down breakfast at the airport after getting through security, because it would be a long time before we saw food or water again. I was also really glad the flight to St. Louis was a short one because I was too excited to concentrate on my ebook, so I spent to flight looking out the window at the landscape passing below us. Once we arrived, we grabbed our bags and headed outside where Dan, our salesman, picked us up and drove us to Van City. Lesson learned – bring snacks.
Taking delivery of an RV is somewhere between buying a house and buying a car. The amount of paperwork is about the same as buying a car. Which was great because I was not looking forward to signing my name as many times as I did when we closed on our mortgage. But, like buying a house, taking delivery of an RV includes a detailed walk-through, except, the buyer gets instructed in how to operate every system. I am so glad that I used my phone to video every stage of the walk-through. We began under the hood and over the next three plus hours went through every system and how it worked! There was no way either of us would have remembered everything even with Carolyn furiously taking notes. Sure, we got manuals, but they came in their own tote bag that weighs about 5 pounds. Digging through the manuals is not helpful for quick answers, but we can refer the videos. Lesson learned – Don’t watch – do. Make sure you are the one clicking the buttons, turning on the fan, and making things happen. The process is overwhelming and you will learn more by performing the task instead of watching it be performed. Especially if you are tired and hangry. Also, don’t be afraid to call a halt if you need a break or something to eat.
With our brains numb from lack of sleep and three hours of orientation, we were handed the keys and away we went to the first stop on our RVing adventure… Lunch. We were tired, hungry and thirsty and keep in mind, we’ve only ever test driven a vehicle this large and never actually had to park it. Now, we were driving on to the interstate for the first time. Carolyn was driving and, I’m sure, feeling a bit like Sandra Bullock’s character in Speed. We only had to go one exit down, but it was the most stressful mile we have ever driven. When we arrived at Panera we had to navigate our new house through the tiniest parking lot on Earth and park it for the first time. Fortunately, we were there after the lunch rush had ended so the parking lot was not as busy as it could have been. We parked near the back of the lot, turned off the engine, breathed a huge sigh of relief and headed inside for lunch. After lunch we stopped at Wal-Mart for groceries and a few things we weren’t able to bring on the plane with us. After a frantic shopping trip that included a Mini meltdown we loaded up our goodies in the RV and headed for campground. Lesson learned – build your shopping list in advance. Do not try to come up with it on the fly in a strange town and at a strange store, or you may forget important items like the ground turkey for the turkey burgers, or the coffee.
Our first camping experience was in a KOA near Six Flags which was paid for by Van City. It was a chance to use all the systems in the RV to make sure they work as expected while still fairly close to the dealer. Mercifully, all of the spaces were pull-throughs, so we didn’t have to entertain the neighbors by trying to back in our second hour of RV ownership. We pulled straight in, made sure the water and power would both reach, then engaged the automatic levelers for the first time. If you’ve ever ridden a camel or an elephant where you get on while the animal is sitting, then have them stand up with you on their back, you have some idea of what leveling the RV felt like when the vehicle lurched in each direction for a minute or so until it leveled itself and the process came to an end. After we were level we hooked up, put out the slide and made the RV our home for the weekend. We were utterly exhausted from lack of sleep, information overload and stress but we were also ecstatic to be in our new LTV. Lesson learned – go slow and do each set up step together. This will help prevent mistakes.
Since we forgot the main ingredient for dinner, and we had eaten such a late lunch, we cobbled together some fruit and protein bars and snacked our way though the evening as we dug into the bag o’ manuals to read about different components and, more importantly, to start registering warranty information with all the different manufacturers. The night was cold, but the furnace kept us toasty warm and the thermostat was as easy to operate as the one in our sticks and bricks house. It wasn’t long before we pulled down the murphy bed for the first time and went to sleep. Lesson learned – the mattress was super comfy. We were prepared to go right out and buy a pad, but it was not needed.
We got out of bed rested, relaxed and feeling a lot more confident than the previous day. We started the day with a brisk walk, which was less about healthy exercise and more about getting some free coffee from the camp store before evil Carolyn surfaced. I put on some gypsy jazz music, streaming it from my iPad through our speaker system and began cooking. But, I forgot one important step, the vent fan.
Moments later we confirmed beyond any doubt that our smoke alarm was working perfectly as it began beeping so loudly we just knew all of our neighbors were looking out their windows to watch the show. We learned a very important lesson, the smoke alarm is not conducive to remembering how to work the Fantastic Fan. In fact, it’s really only conducive to marital distress and random arm flailing. I finally managed, half by accident, to turn on the fan and clear the smoke. Silence returned and soothed our shattered nerves for a moment, but the omelette was now scrambled eggs. Then I had to make a second batch of scrambled eggs and, yes the smoke alarm still worked perfectly, but this time I figured out how to turn the fan on. Lesson learned – fan first, cooking second. Another lesson learned – the one unlabeled switch is the on-off switch. Also – the fantastic fan has a thermometer setting so that it will come on automatically when the temperature hits a certain point. If that is set (it was) and you turn on the fan while the coach is at a lower temperature, the fan will not turn on.
After breakfast, we took showers for the first time and laid to rest one of our worries about living in an RV. Would there really be enough room in the shower? Could Carolyn shave her legs in that amount of space? The answer was yes. Absolutely. Plus, having the Truma AquaGo Comfort Plus water heater and being hooked up to city water meant endless hot water, a luxury we don’t have in our sticks and bricks house.
We spent the rest of the day with friends who were kind enough to come visit us in the campground so we didn’t have to unhook. They took us to lunch, got us coffee and gave us wine. We love these people. We had awonderful lunch at Joe Boccardi’s in Eureka, Missouri then spent the rest ofthe afternoon hanging out in the FX. Saturday night we ate leftovers from lunch, watched some of our favorite YouTubers\ then pulled down the murphy bed and called it a night. Lesson learned – real friends bring wine. Oh, and the coach was very comfortable for four people hanging out.
Our first day to break down camp and get ready to drive the five hours or so back to Nashville. I built a checklist to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I started with a prepared checklist from the book Small RV Ninjaand modified it as we went to make it work better for our rig and our own internal logic. Such is the advantage of having it on the iPad. It took a while to break down, but we certainly weren’t rushing. Near the end of the checklist was dumping our tanks for the first time. Thanks to the macerator it was very easy though I learned the importance of adding a hose clamp to the connection between the hose and the head piece. Thank goodness for nitrile gloves!
We finished our checklist and were soon we were on our way to stop at Ikea and then the drive home with our new baby! The first hour was a bit stressful as we learned how it handled, but then it became much easier as we got to know each other. It was a fantastic first two days of camping and we definitely fell in love with our FX!