Sightseer

Day 34, 35, and 36: Don’t Mess with Texas

I’ve been slacking on updating the blog, so here are 3 days at once!

Day 34

Miles Today: 190
Miles Total: 5205
Weather: Sunny, Low 100s
Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 3

As always, stopping for fuel is a ton of fun. We got everything lined up in a station that was kind of tight, and then the pump was out of order!  No problem, there was a station across the street, but the pumps were facing the wrong way (when the pumps are perpendicular to the station building, we can’t make the turn to get out once we’ve filled up) – however I could use the outside pump and sneak around the outside of the building to wrap around and get back on the road.  Since we take 60+ gallons every time we fill up, we go inside and give them our credit card so they can just turn the pump on.  Of course there was a huge line of people with one person working the register – it took about 10 minutes to get through the line.  I start to fill up and then the pump stops at $200.  So, I have to go in and sign for it and have them turn on the pump again.  While all this is happening, the Hostess truck shows up to stock the store – and blocks my exit!  I finally get things filled up and try to sneak by the Hostess guy, and I just can’t make it.  Fortunately the driver comes out to leave, but takes his sweet time doing it.  This fuel stop took about 2x longer than normal!

We are staying at the Vineyards Campground on Lake Grapevine, or at least the RV is staying there.  Robin insisted that we come stay at her house.  The campground is actually quite nice, right on the lake.  Our spot doesn’t have any shade though.  The offered to move us to a new site on Thursday, but since we aren’t actually staying in the motorhome, we declined.

We packed everyone up into the Jeep with their stuff (which is a bit of a challenge in the Jeep) and drove over to Robin’s house.  The kids all jumped in the pool and Robin made us some awesome pulled pork for dinner on Wednesday.

Day 35

Miles Today: 0
Miles Total: 5205
Weather: Sunny, Low 100s
Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 4

Kim and I got up early and went back to the motorhome to do some work.  The rods on the tow bar were no longer retracting.  I had lubed them up a ton, and they still wouldn’t slide.  I was about to give up when I did the unthinkable – I read the manual.  According to the manual, no matter what you do, do not lubricate the locking mechanism with a silicon based lube.  It attracts too much dirt and the tolerances on the locking mechanism are so tight that the bars won’t unlock…uh I guess I shouldn’t have done that.  Fortunately, it also told you how to fix the problem since you didn’t read the manual in the first place.  Repeated soaking w/WD-40 will clean things out and everything should work fine.  Well, I didn’t have any WD-40, so I had to run to the local auto parts store.  After soaking multiple times and banging on them with a rubber mallet, things started to work again.  Once I got things lubed up properly, they are working the best they have all trip.

The kids all wanted to hang in the pool at Robin’s house, so Kim and I decided to drive down to Cowboy Stadium and do a tour.  The stadium is pretty unreal.  You see the big screen on TV and think it looks big – in person, it is huge and it has an amazing picture.  For the self-guided tour we were doing, they actually let you go down on the field – so we did :).  We went into the cheerleaders locker room and the cowboys locker room.  It was a good tour and would recommend to people visiting the area.

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Day 36

Miles Today: 0
Miles Total: 5205
Weather: Sunny, Low 100s
Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 5

Today, Robin was kind enough to set us up with a tennis lesson.  Of course, it was at noon, and it was over 100 degrees outside (and probably much hotter on the court).  I was hitting the ball pretty well for not having played in over a month.  Maybe this tournament next weekend won’t be a disaster.

After getting done with tennis, we went back to Robin’s house and jumped in the pool – all of our clothes were in the laundry and we were nasty from playing tennis.  We hung out in the pool for a couple of hours, which was nice in the heat.

After the pool, we went out to dinner with Kim’s relatives (Nick, Marilyn, Brent, and Brent’s girlfriend Jessica).    The restaurant we went to was called Hard 8 Barbq – it was very good.  They smoke/cook all of the meat outside.  You picked out your meat outside and they put it on your plate, and then moved inside to get your side dishes.  The food was awesome!

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We are back at the RV tonight, we start the power drive home tomorrow – 6 consecutive days of driving.   It turns out they do a fireworks show every Friday night.  So we watched the show – it lasted about 15 minutes…I wonder how they fund it on a weekly basis.

Day 32: In Florida Still (barely)

Miles Today: 462
Miles Total: 4548
Weather: Sunny, Lower 90s
Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 1 (we got to 8, before getting reset yesterday)

Starting to head toward home. We got up at 7:30a this morning to make our break out of town – still didn’t get on the road until a little after 9a.  Fortunately we gained an hour back today, and we spent the extra time on the road.

About 45 minutes after getting on our way, the indicator lights on the Jeep brake monitor started flashing.  We pulled over at a grocery store and checked things out in the Jeep, and everything seemed fine.  The manual for the brake did not list an error for that set of lights.  So, we unplugged the monitor and plugged it back in and it seemed to fix everything.

We’ve committed to getting home on July 28th. Kim and I entered a charity tennis tournament that starts on the 29th, and we don’t want to forfeit our entry fee.  We are shaving time off by going about 100 miles more a day than our plan.  This should shave off enough days to get us home in time.

The campground we are at tonight has nice level sites, but there really isn’t much for the kids to do here.  We kicked them out of the rig when we go here and there was just a two person swing under a tree for them to go play with.  Kim and I hit the laundry room – we hadn’t done laundry since Myrtle Beach and we all were running out of clothes.

Tomorrow we should be going through Alabama and Mississippi before  stopping in the middle of Louisiana somewhere, and then we’ll be on to the Dallas area the next day!

Day 30 and 31: It’s Been a Month!

Day 30

Got up early to go on the Forbidden Journey ride in the Harry Potter section of the park.  We went straight to the ride and there was already a 20 minute wait.  Turns out, it takes about 20 minutes to walk through the castle to get to the front of the line Smile.  The ride itself was kind of interesting.  It was a cross between the Haunted Mansion and the old Back to the Future ride.  You were in a chair that went along a track.  The chair would rock and roll in all directions, and occasionally you’d stop in front of a big screen and it would turn into more of a motion ride.  Overall it was pretty cool – my only complaint is that I couldn’t follow the story for the ride.

We split up for a bit – Ryan and I grabbed some breakfast, while the girls went on Dr Doom again.  Then the girls went into the main gift shop while Ryan and I went back to Harry Potter for a bit.  After the girls were done shopping, they went over to the other park.  When Ryan and I were done w/Harry Potter and walking out, Melissa called – Kim lost her phone.  Well, I went to the gift shop, and sure enough Kim had left her phone on the counter.

After that Ryan and I went over to Universal Studios to meet the girls.  We went on the Simpsons ride and then grabbed some lunch.  We then ran over to the movie theater to see Harry Potter in IMax 3D.  After the movie we went back to Universal for a bit – did the Terminator 3d show and then Ryan and I went back to the room while the girls went on one last roller coaster.

After hanging out in the room for a bit, Ryan, Melissa, and I went to the city walk to Bubba Gumps for dinner.  While we were eating, a massive thunderstorm came through and trapped us there.  We stayed for dessert and then some waiting for the rain to stop.  I was watching the weather radar on my phone and we made a break for it when the rain let up a bit.  We got a little bit wet, and there was still quite a bit of lightning and thunder, but we made it back to our rooms ok.

Day 31

Check out day.  Everyone elected to sleep in today.  We got up around 9:30 or so, packed everything up and checked out of the hotel.  We drove back to the motorhome and got it situated for living in.   I also did some work on the tow bar for the Jeep.  When we last towed the Jeep, I couldn’t get the bars to retract all the way.  So I got out the lube and a rubber mallet and started to beat on it.  I got them to retract all the way, but they don’t want to come out very easily.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get the Jeep attached tomorrow.  I thing the retractable bars are slightly bent, making them difficult to slide.  Unfortunately, they seem to be getting worse.  When we were at Camping World on Friday, I looked at a new one…only $1200.  Eek!

Kim and I made an afternoon run to the grocery store to get the rig stocked back up again.  I also started looking at our route home.  The kids all want to get home as fast as they can.  Following my original pace, we’d be home late on August 1st.  I did some planning with longer days, and found a pace that wasn’t too crazy and could potentially get us home by July 28th.  We’ll try hitting the earlier date for the next couple of days, and if it is making people too crazy, we’ll slow down a bit.

Day 29: We fixed it!

Today we took the motorhome to Camping World to get the oil changed and to have them look at the water heater and the rear slideout.  We got up a bit early so we could get to the RV park and move the rig to Camping World by 10a.   We got things dropped off and bought a few supplies while we were there (fun stuff like holding tank chemicals).  Afterwards we went back to the hotel while we waited for them to call and let us know how long it would take to fix the water heater and the slide.

When we got back to the room, I started editing photos while waiting for the call from Camping World.  I don’t know why I just don’t use my big camera all of the time.  The pictures just come out better, and if I get a marginal shot, I can fix the raw file much easier than a jpeg.  I have it set up to shoot both raw and jpeg, and the colors come out better on the raw – I wonder if I need to set the colorspace for the jpegs.

After a bit we started getting hungry, so we went down to the restaurant by the pool and ordered some food.  The food was good, the service was a bit slow.  While we were eating, Camping World called and let us know that our motorhome was done.  The water heater was just a loose wire.  They said the rear slide issues was because the battery was low on water.  They lubed the slide and called it good.  Hopefully the issue was caused by some binding because topping off the battery isn’t going to do anything – I always run the engine while I operate the slides.

Kim and I jumped in the Jeep to retrieve the motorhome.  On the way, we made a quick stop at Walmart to pick up some critical supplies.  As we moved the motorhome back to the spot, it started to rain (at about 1:30p).  Well, it has been raining ever since.  I had the news on for a bit and the central Florida area had 40,000 lightning strikes this afternoon.

No parks today because of all the lightning and rain.  Tomorrow, we plan to use our early entry to go back to that Harry Potter section of the park to do the last of the Harry Potter rides that we can’t express pass through.  At 12:30, we’ve got IMAX tickets for the latest Harry Potter movie, and then we will probably head over to Universal Studios for the evening.

Day 26: Looking Forward to a Real Shower

Miles Today: 328
Miles Total: 3896
Weather: Sunny, Lower 90s
Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 4

We needed to put on some miles today (compared to the last few travel days anyhow), so we got up and on the road fairly early.  The first problem popped up before we even got going.  While I was pulling the rear slide in, it tipped up at a very steep angle.  I took my finger off the “in” button immediately and it leveled itself out, and then I pulled it the rest of the way in.  Tonight we’ve barely put it out so we can access the drawers.  I’m going to call Camping World tomorrow and add it to the things they look at for Friday.  Fortunately, tonight is our last night in the motorhome until Sunday because we are staying at the Hard Rock Hotel! 

Which brings me to the title of the post – I’ve only used the motorhome shower since we left Montana (so about 20 days).  I’m looking forward to a real shower, with real water pressure, that I don’t have to keep turning off to conserve water and holding tank space.

The drive today was pretty uneventful.  We drove the Jeep separately from the motorhome so I could do a mileage test.  We made it all the way to the campground before we filled up with fuel.   We got 7.74 mpg, which was a bit less than I expected – most of the tank was between 55 and 60 mph over flat terrain.  Doing the math in my head (which probably means it is wrong), I’d have to get about 10 mpg in order to break even driving the two vehicles separately. 

We made it to Saint Marys,GA, which is 1 mile shy of the Florida border (took exit #1 to get here).  The campsite we are at is kind of nice – it is right next to the storage shed, but they’ve put in a nice concrete pad and a table with chairs and umbrella instead of a picnic table.  Too bad it was in the low 90s with 80%+ humidity, so we opted to stay in the nice air conditioned motorhome.

Went out to a bbq place for dinner tonight – Sonny’s Barbeque.  It is a small chain, but they had awesome food, and the servings were huge.  Just what I needed a 2000 calorie dinner since I haven’t been working out at all :).  It was worth it for one night though.

Right now everyone is packing for the hotel for tomorrow night.  Because of the slide issue, we are trying to get everything ready so we don’t have to put it out again.  I’m worried that it will get stuck in the open position, and then we would really be hosed.  Didn’t take any pictures today – I have not been doing a very good job with pictures this trip 😦

Day 25: Shopping, the Beach, and a Show

Miles Today: 0
Miles Total: 3568
Weather: Sunny, Lower 90s
Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 3

Kim and Ryan got up this morning and drove to the eyeglasses store to get Ryan a new pair of glasses.  Apparently they had to send Kimmy a picture of every frame in the store for approval.  I don’t have a picture of them, but Kimmy might be able to post one!

Once they got back from the store, we decided to walk over to the beach.  The walk is about a mile over flat terrain, so it doesn’t take very long to get there.  The beach was crowded today (even on a Monday), but the weather was nice and the water felt good.  We took turns jumping in the surf and guarding our stuff…Of course, Melissa lost her sunglasses today – I almost lost mine, but they float :).  We stayed at the beach until the tide came in enough (after moving 3 times) to force us to leave.  Also needed to get back to take showers anyhow because we were going to a show tonight.

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Once we were done with showers, it was off to the show.  We went to Medieval Times – they put on a horse/fighting/jousting show while you eat dinner.   We were there a bit early so Ryan and time to get an appropriate hat.

IMG_0008 We then walked through a museum of various torture equipment.  I’m glad I wasn’t around to make anyone mad back then!  We were in the front row of our section (supporting the blue knight) and our knight came over and gave Taylor a flower.

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The show was fun and the kids had a great time!

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Going to do a fairly long drive tomorrow – almost all the way to Florida.  On Wednesday we have a 1p checkin for the campground we are staying at, and then a 4p checkin at the hotel.  So, we want to make the Wednesday drive fairly short.  I think  I we are going to drive separately until the first fuel stop – I’m curious as to how much better mileage I get w/o the Jeep attached. I also made an appointment for an oil change on Friday – we will be at about 4000 miles since our last oil change.

Day 24: Back to the Beach

Miles Today: 181
Miles Total: 3568
Weather: Sunny, Lower 90s
Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 2

Well, we are back at the beach again – Myrtle Beach, SC now.  It is actually sunny this time!  Only about a 3 hr drive today.  We slept in and were lazy about getting ready to leave, so didn’t pull out of the site until 11:00a or so.  We immediately stopped to fill up the propane – the gauge has been on 1/3 for 3 days now.  Only put in 6.9 gallons – since they aren’t allowed to put a full 18 gallons in the tank, I figure this was about 1/2 a tank to go.  So, we should be good until we get back home.  Once the propane was topped off, drove down the street and filled up with fuel. Today we decided to drive the Jeep separately from the motorhome.  Seems like the MH is getting significantly better mileage – the needle is still above F after driving all day.

Since Kim was driving the Jeep and was not following me, she needed a GPS.  So, she bought the garmin app for her WP7.  The app worked great – the UI is very similar to my dedicated unit, and it only cost $39.  I think the unlimited map updates for my Garmin cost $89.  The main problem is the battery life of the phone.  The battery did not last the entire drive and she doesn’t have a car charger 😦

We are staying at the KOA at Myrtle Beach.  The campground is quite nice.  The sites are larger than a normal KOA and there are lots of trees around.  There is a big swimming pool as well as a water “play” area with fountains for the kids to run through.  They also have a big bouncy thing like the last KOA.  Used the point and shoot to take a poor picture of the site.

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Walked to the store w/Kim to get snacks, and they were selling frogs…Kim said I couldn’t have one, so I took a picture instead.

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We made our reservations for Universal today.  We are staying in the Hard Rock hotel so we can get early entry to the park (so we can get to the Harry Potter stuff first).  We also get passes to the front of the line for several of the rides.  Not sure how this works since everyone staying at a hotel on site gets the same pass…seems like that just makes it the regular line.  When Kim checked her email, she had several confirmations for the hotel, so we need to call back tomorrow and make sure that we don’t have multiple reservations (I can only afford one reservation).

Tomorrow, Kim and Ryan are going to get Ryan new glasses first thing in the morning – he will be banned from all water activities if he has his glasses on.  This seems to be the mini-golf capitol of the world, so we’ll probably try a round or two, and then hit the beach.

Day 23: Heading West! (sorta)

Miles Today: 170
Miles Total: 3387
Weather: Cloudy, rainy, sunny, upper 80s

Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 1

We left the Outer Banks today, which is the farthest point east that we will travel.  So, from this point forward, we’ll be heading west, with quite a bit of south then north mixed in.  We were getting dogged with thundershowers as we prepared to leave this morning.  I got things unhooked and moved the rig around to attach the Jeep in between showers.  As I was hooking up the Jeep, it started to rain again, and I rushed through it…oops didn’t actually hook the brake onto the brake pedal.  Good thing there wasn’t any hard braking today.  It’s strange that I didn’t notice when I hit the test button – the arm must have been pushing into the floor, driving the brake back into the seat.  Of course it started to absolutely dump on Kim when she went out to do the light check.

For the first hour or so of the drive we were stuck in the pouring rain, with a little bit of lightning.  We did not have ferry reservations, so we backtracked a bit and went east for quite a bit before turning south.  This got us out of the thunderstorms.  Kim called the Verizon store in New Bern, NC and they had a Trophy in stock, so we had them hold it to replace Melissa’s phone that Kim took swimming with her yesterday.

The batteries in the spot finally died today.  I’m surprised at how long they lasted.  I changed them before my North Cascades motorcycle ride.  So there were two full days of riding, plus I left it on overnight after I got home.  Then all of the driving days up till now – 11 more days.

We decided to stay at the KOA near New Bern.  This ensured that we had a place to park the rig while we retrieved Melissa’s new phone and it is still a reasonable drive to Myrtle Beach tomorrow.  The first nice thing is that we seem to be out of the thunderstorms now…they were in the forecast for the afternoon, but the sky stayed clear for the most part.  The campground is ok.  The sites are a bit tight, but there is a nice playground for the kids, a swimming pool, and a fishing pond.

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Taylor and Ryan spent a bunch of time playing on the playground and playing a bit of basketball with the other kids at the campground.

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After the playing, we went out to dinner at a local burger place.  They had great burgers and fries.  Melissa is already wearing out her new phone.

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After dinner, the campground had a group movie in the indoor pavilion – Finding Nemo.  Taylor and Ryan went to watch the movie while the rest of us hung out in the motorhome.

Tomorrow we are heading down to Myrtle Beach, SC.  It is about a 3 hour drive from here – we’ve got reservations for the next couple of days down there.  Hopefully we’ll be able to spend a couple of sunny days at the beach!

Day 21 and Day 22: Two Days at Once!

Day 21:

Miles Today: 120
Miles Total: 3217
Weather: Cloudy, rainy, Lower 80s

Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 1

This day was a travel day.  Escaping from our campsite was the first excitement of the day.  First we had to go under a very low hanging wire – I made Kim get out and verify that we would make it.  Then we had to make it around some tight corners with cars parked in poor spots.  Then we stopped to top off our propane at the office and everyone was away at lunch!

We then started off toward the Outer Banks.  Once we got to Nags Head, the gps kept routing us down funky side streets.  Nags Head is a tourist trap town, and very crowded – so maneuvering the motorhome around some of the corners was a bit exciting.  To add on to it, a nasty thunderstorm hit about the same time we were driving through, flooding a lot of the side roads.

The road down the outer banks is nice – seems like a brand new road.  There were many places to pull out and view the sites.  Also, go past the Kittyhawk memorial, although we didn’t stop.  We made it to our campsite in a town called Waves.  The campground is just a big parking lot, but it is right next to the beach – of course the Island is not even a mile wide here, so anywhere would be right on the beach 🙂

Day 22

Miles Today: 0
Miles Total: 3217
Weather: Cloudy, rainy, Lower 80s

Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 0 – back in a cow slump

Today has been pretty nasty.  Rain squalls (with a little thunder) rolled through all day long.  Before lunch, the kids made it out to the playground for a bit and bounced on the “big bouncy thing” for a bit before the rain chased us back inside again.

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Inside we watched a movie for a bit while it rained and rained (ok I took a nap as well)

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After the movie and rain were done, we decided to head to the beach for an adventure.  We started by flying the kites that we brought.  Melissa and Ryan had a good start, but Kim and Taylor tangled theirs up after about two minutes.

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I went to help Kim untangle the line.  Eventually Melissa and Ryan grew bored of flying the kite and went to help Taylor work on a sand castle.  While Kim and I were trying to untangle things, Ryan came over and told us that his glasses fell into the water.  Kim ran over to help search for the glasses, forgetting that she had Melissa’s cell phone in her pocket, which then got totally soaked.  After giving up on the glasses, Taylor lost one of her shoes of the side of the walkway on the way back, which I could actually recover.  Needless to say, morale was at an all time low when we got back to the motorhome.

Taylor and Kim took a shower while the rest of us hung out…by the time they got back everyone seemed to be in a better mood.  We hiked over to the snack bar to grab some dinner and then hit the store to get some desert and more postcards to send to the grandparents.

We hit the road again tomorrow.  Our next big stop is supposed to be Myrtle Beach, SC.  However, the weather is supposed to be bad in the SE for the next week or so.  We may just skip the beach stop and keep heading further south.  We haven’t decided yet.

Day 20: Lighting and Thunder and Rain, Oh My!

Miles Today: 187
Miles Total: 3097
Weather: Cloudy, rainy, Lower 80s

Consecutive Days with a cow sighting: 0 – in a cow slump

Took off a little bit late today – decided to leave around 10a to avoid the DC area morning commute.  Worked out pretty well for us, hit a little bit of traffic going south on I95.

Met my cousin Patti and her husband Mike for lunch today in Fredericksberg, VA.  We had lunch at Red Robin, and hung out for about 1 1/2 hrs.  It’s been ~25 years since the last time we saw each other, so there was plenty to catch up on…Didn’t get a picture, so they don’t get to have famous faces in the blog. 

Went a bit further on down the road to a Flying J to get some fuel.  They had separate pumps for motorhomes, but the pump was moving extremely slow.  The guy in front of me walked over “blocked” one of the regular car pumps so I could get mine a little quicker.  The pay at the pump was broken so we had to go in and just have them put $200 on the credit card.  Well, didn’t use all $200 on the MH, but had enough room in the Jeep to use it up.  We had to move the rig forward to fill the Jeep, and forgot to put the gas cap on.  So, had to pull over at the next rest area to fix it.

While we were at the gas station, it looked like we were going to be driving into some nasty thunderstorms.  Well, we managed to dodge them for a long way, but they finally caught up to us in Newport News, VA.  Saw a bunch of lightning and it dumped rain on us.  The wind was not too bad though.  Got a little bit of lightning on the Contour:

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We hit a little bit of traffic as we pulled into Chesapeake, VA.  We are staying at a big campground, it looks fairly nice, but we really haven’t been outside that much.  There are yellow flies all over that are supposed to have a nasty bite.  Also, as soon as I got the motorhome hooked up, another round of thunderstorms came through, and flooded out the campground – can’t really get out of the motorhome right now.

We did manage to get a spot on the Outer Banks, so that is where we’ll head tomorrow!