Summer 2020…Strange Times Indeed

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Summer 2020…Strange Times Indeed

These are strange times indeed. Things have changed and we live in a temporary (we hope) new world of semi-isolation with terms like “social distancing” and “contact tracing”, working from home, grocery delivery, food and supply availability disruptions, civil unrest, and no sports on TV. We have gone from a growing vibrant economy with big plans to instant near depression unemployment, shelter-in-place orders, isolation from friends and family and a constant barrage of bad news of compounding infection and death rates. On top of that as the population became tired of isolation and uncertainty, civil unrest forced its way onto us as a captive audience, seemingly turning reality upside down. With time we learned how to manage our lives in this new environment and leverage ChILL to provide an escape from this strange new normal.

After making sure that ChILL was truly fully repaired and camping weekends in the winter and making plans for the spring and summer, we were shutdown by Coronavirus (CV19). It all started getting very bizarre on the week of March 9. We were headed out on a week-long, highly anticipated vacation to Port St Joe. CV19 was becoming more serious with the local, state and national regulations changing daily. At the same time, there was a reported case of CV19 at Camellia and we had visited there on Wednesday. Given a sense that the world was rapidly changing around us, we decided to cancel our trip and shelter-in-place for 14 days to make sure we were not infected and a carrier. We were so close to going that ChILL was loaded, the bikes were on the truck and we were leaving the next day.

It was surreal unloading ChILL without knowing when we would get to use it again. We took all of the food and paper products off to reinforce our stockpiles at home. Not knowing what was next and knowing that food and supply shortages were already impacting the grocery stores, we went home to shelter in-place. It was a bit like preparing for a hurricane, but different.

Now months later, stay-at-home orders are being relaxed and we are starting to venture out into the strange new world. Our first outing was to leverage our Memorial Day reservation at the Kissimmee KOA for the holiday weekend. This was to be an outing with our Grandkids to celebrate birthdays and family joy through togetherness. Instead it was a timid outing of avoiding contact with others at all costs and learning travel in the new normal.

To say that the trip was a strange experience would be an understatement. Our plan included taking all of our food and supplies with us to avoid exposure to others outside our social bubble. We started with a full tank of gas, gloves, hand sanitizer, hand wipes, and plans to use the facilities in ChILL rather than restrooms at rest areas. Once we arrived at the KOA we were greeted with a contactless check-in process and provided a map to our site. At this point in the pandemic, restrictions on travel had only recently been relaxed and cross-state travel was highly discouraged. 

The campground was about two-thirds full but the atmosphere was completely different. There was limited engagement from other campers as we walked around such as just a wave from a distance. Even more bizarre was the lack of traffic and family noise being in the heart of Disney. Most retail and restaurant establishments were closed and people were still sheltering-in-place. It was strangely quiet.

It turned out to be a nice getaway and set the format for our future excursions. Mostly we stayed at the campground and just enjoyed being outside and having different scenery. As it turns out, most of the rest of the country was in the process of discovering the benefit of RV’ing as a means of getting out and maintaining social distance.

Camping in June and July consisted of enjoying alternating weekends at Compass and Stagecoach RV Parks. It the early stages of this period it was quite easy to get a reservation and the campgrounds were very happy to have any business after the long shutdown. But as time progressed and more families joined the RV community, sites become much harder to find. Next up was to venture farther away, but staying within close driving distance to enjoy a week-long vacation in southern Georgia. Stay tuned for more on our next adventures in the next blog.

Thanks,

Captain Skip

Great Service at Airstream of Tampa

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Shout out to Airstream of Tampa for great service and customer care! The short version of our story is that a leak in the panoramic window on our 2018 25 FC FB Twin resulted in needing to replace the flooring due to a stain under the dinette. Since the cure requires removing the cabinetry on the floor we were unsure if we should trust this work to a dealership or not. The team at Airstream of Tampa convinced us that they were experienced at this procedure and could do the job.

They were right! We picked up ChILL (Changes in Latitude Likely) this weekend to find it in perfect condition, and I mean in like-new condition. All cabinetry aligned and secured, all systems tested and working, even the outside cleaned and detailed. It has never looked better.

We picked up ChILL on Friday morning and took it for a drive down I-4 for about 90 minutes to introduce some vibration to make sure everything was secure and settled in. It was solid and secure. There were a few very minor adjustments that were needed and immediately taken care of.

Being late in the day, we decided to spend the night at the service center and ride out the tropical storm in their parking lot. Overnight with the continuous rain we discovered a previously unrevealed minor leak in the bathroom. The next morning, rain and all the service team took us directly into their shop and found and fixed the leak. It turned out to be a deteriorating seal on the bathroom fan. As a preventative, they replaced the seal on the other side as well as well as touched-up any other potential problem areas.

Now keep in mind that we did not have an appointment for this and other dealers probably would have asked us to leave it and reschedule. We live in Jacksonville and the 4+ hour trek to the service center takes planning and is not convenient. The service team does a great job of respecting the challenges of our situation and is very accommodating. RV One has put a big investment in this facility and the service team and it shows. Just thought you might be interested in our experience.

Thanks,

Captain Skip

Summer Vacation 2019

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Summer Vacation with ChILL 2019

What a fun whirlwind of first adventures we had in the summer of 2019 with ChILL. It was a two-week adventure of firsts including, our first pull through the mountains with this rig, long days of travel to get to a destination, upgrades at Jackson Center, riding the Creeper Trail, visiting Mayberry, Hilton Head, Savannah, and every type of summer weather.

Our primary mission was to visit Jackson Center Ohio to have solar installed as well as a few upgrades and minor maintenance. Since this would be quite a trek of over 1,000 miles for us, we elected to set aside two weeks for this journey. The first part of our trip was focused on covering the 1,000 miles to Jackson Center in three segments to make our appointment date with Airstream. We pressed through three days of five and six hour driving per day to cover the distance. As we suspected, this is just about our maximum effort in our current circumstances considering the stress of first-time experiences, our dogs patience (they are good travelers) and leaving margin for the unexpected.

The journey to Jackson Center was relatively uneventful in retrospect. At the time there was some level of stress and we worked our way through many first-time learning experiences. For example, we found that the truck and trailer work well together on the road. It is a comfortable ride without sudden surprises. The cruise control worked well going up and down the mountains. There were a few times when going down the mountains that we had to release the cruise and apply the brakes but most of the time the automatic downshifting did the job. Jeannie had her first experience towing with this rig in the mountains and did great. I unfortunately miscalculated and set her up to drive the most difficult point in the downhill portion of the route in the rain, but she managed it like a pro. Overnight stops without unhooking and managing refueling were new as well, though they proved to be manageable.

We saw some interesting sights as part of our experience. Some beautiful, some just plain KOA parking lots. We learned a lot about cooling the Airstream when traveling in the summer. Later in our travels we found that it helped a lot to use the Dyson fan inside while the A/C is running to try to cool things faster. We experienced temperatures over 105 degrees at times that simply overloaded the A/C until evening. Just hooking up the power and water in the direct sun would cause me to overheat. I found that getting back into the truck’s A/C was perhaps a better choice than baking in the trailer while it tried to cool.

With solar installed and maintenance completed, though it took an extra day, we started a more leisurely pace for the return trip. Initially just covering miles to get to the area we wanted to see and experience, we found an unexpected treasure at Camp Creek State Park. Though our GPS took us on a tour of rural West Virginia, we eventually found the State Park. Full hookups, ample space and quiet nature all around. Too bad it was only one night. I am sure we will find our way back at some point.

On to the Creeper Trail, Mayberry (Mt Airy), Hilton Head and Savannah. Each place had a unique charm and provided an experience to remember. The Creeper Trail was more and less than we expected. It was a fun experience, but was more of a mountain bike trail than a Rails-to-Trails experience. It was a rough ride for the dogs in their trailers and overall, I am sure they would not care to repeat that experience. Mayberry was fun and offered a unique perspective on the real and imaginary. Mt Airy was a real place that enjoyed their relationship with Andy Griffith through his youth and celebrity. Mayberry was that great imaginary place that we all wanted to live and to which we wish we could return.

Hilton Head and Savannah lived up to their previous visits. We found it easier to explore both of them because we had been there before. Both offered new experiences on top of the memories of our past visits.

Overall, it was a great trip. A once-in-a-lifetime experience all packed in a two-week period. But then again, every experience is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, even if we have been there before. Below you will find a link to a brief video slideshow of our experiences. Be sure to note how often we were surrounded by God’s beauty and the smiles on our faces. Beyond the stresses and strains of the moment, it seems we had a great time, the pictures are proof!

Thanks,

Captain Skip


Travel Notes: Continue reading

Memorial Day 2019

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Trip Report: Memorial Day 2019

It has been quite awhile since I last posted in this blog. Needless to say, there has been a lot of change and it would take many lengthy posts to fill the gap from the previous post to Memorial Day 2019. Rather than spending time on all of those details, I am just going to capture this trip and future events as they happen.

These are seemingly stressful times with a lot of health related issues happening all around us. Mom is currently at The Terrace of Jacksonville recovering from hip surgery, Jeannie has been working through vein surgery in both legs, Sailor is recuperating from another episode with his back and I tweaked my back replacing the water pump on the Airstream (another story for another time). Whew!

As a great escape from all of that, we have been really looking forward to sharing a weekend with Logan, Gavin and Tyler, to celebrate Gavin’s 8th birthday. Their energy and excitement always provides a boost to our outlook and perspective.

This was a first visit to LazyDays in Tampa, at exit 10 on I-4. With it being more difficult to book campgrounds for holiday weekends, we thought we would give LazyDays a try. Overall, I think I would give it a B+ and it proved to be a great choice for our weekend. It turns out that LazyDays in Tampa is the largest RV dealership in the world. Wow! Lucky for us they have a large inventory of parts available, but more on that later.

The weather was beyond hot! During the peak of the day our thermometer would go off of the scale hot. Above 104 degrees it registers “-H-“ and it did that each day Friday through Monday. Even with the A/C going full blast it could not keep up and generally the inside temperature would peak around 82 degrees. The refrigerator struggled as well, but stayed within a safe range for food.

This trip was a bit of a test of our ability to tolerate long drive days in anticipation of our summer trip to Jackson Center in Ohio. This trip is a little over 200 miles and it took us a little over 4 hours total drive time. With both of us switching off driving and taking breaks every 2 hours we average about 50 miles per hour. Considering this experience, it seems reasonable that we could have traveled another 2 hours if needed. It seems that a 300-mile maximum miles per day is a good plan and limit for us.

This was one of our best weekends with our Florida Grandkids. They are growing up and are able to engage in more activities than just having to be entertained with toys. It is great to see them grow in stature and character as they mature.

This being Gavin’s 8thbirthday is a special birthday as around this age I try to introduce our Florida grandkids to an interest that we may have in common. For Logan it was photography, for Gavin I introduced him to Ham Radio. As part of this birthday, I built a simple FM radio that I named the Gavintronic. The core of the radio was a small integrated circuit board based radio run by a cell phone auxiliary battery and over-the-ears headphones. In addition we gave him 4 FRS walkie talkies that he can share with others as he chooses. Overall, it was a big hit. I don’t know if it will produce a growing interest, but at least a seed was planted that he will reflect upon over the years as he thinks back on our camping trips.

While in the area we ventured a few miles up the highway to visit the new Airstream facility at the RV One dealership where we purchased our Airstream. The new facility is very impressive. The Airstream and the other brand buildings have been completely rebuilt and represent a strong commitment to the Airstream brand. We really enjoyed taking the virtual factory tour in the 360-degree theater. The movie puts you right in the middle of the building of an Airstream trailer. We were also impressed with the service bays and the amount of investment in facilities and training RV One has made to become a premier service provider. Should we not be able to go to the factory in July, we may consider having the work done there.

This trip brought about the usual need for minor ongoing repairs and maintenance on our Airstream. Keeping in mind that over the past 18 months we have not really had the opportunity to use ChILL to the extent that we would discover the inherent weak points of this unit. The weak points seem to resolve around the latching system on the medicine cabinet door and the water heater, both of which needed attention this trip.

Once again the igniter board on the water heater quit working. I tried to replace the Atwood 91365 board with the Dinosaur board that I carry as a spare, but the board was difficult to get mounted and working since it was dark and we had sweaty kids that needed a shower. I was able to get the water heater working on shore power for the evening. The next day I went in search of a replacement board. Fortunately, LazyDays has a huge parts department and was able to provide a newly revised Atwood board for around $175. The new board is redesigned and is supposed to have better quality control. I hope they finally fixed the problem.

The medicine cabinet door managed to strip the screws on the primary latch. I used the toothpick method to help fill the void and replaced the screws. I will use some Gorilla Glue on the screws when I get home. Clearly, there is a lot of strain on the latches during travel. We will have to figure out how to reinforce those latches over time.

A new item needing repair is the Zamp solar connector on the A-frame. It has corroded to the point that the positive prong on the plug came off. I plan to replace the plug with an identical one when we get back.

Overall, we had a great trip. We traveled a few miles, made new memories, tested a few extremes, fixed a few minor items and survived the heat. We are already looking forward to the next adventure.

Visit summary

Date: 5/24/19 – 5/28/19

Location: LazyDays RV Resort

Site#: 239

Miles: 221

Mileage: 14.4

Average MPH: 50

Thanks,

Captain Skip

ChILL at LazyDays

Gavin with Gavintronic

Site 239 LazyDays