A week of wandering/Mammoth Cave

We packed up and were pulling out of Springfield, MO on Friday, September 8th. Our final destination was sunny Daytona Beach, FL. However, our plans had a problem…Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the Florida coast. We contacted the hospital where Kevin was supposed to start working the following Tuesday and we were advised to stay away and make it down to Daytona when it was safe to do so. So, what shall we do with our time that has become free, but without a definite end-date? Go exploring! The nice thing about living in an RV is that one is open to change itineraries almost with no advance planning. We decided to wing it, as they say.

We left Springfield on Friday as planned and headed east through Saint Louis, then on to Mammoth Cave in Bowling Green, KY. We took a tour of the cavern, enjoyed the woods, and the kids made some new Fulltime RV friends also staying at the Mammoth Cave campground. We opted to stay for two nights, which allowed us the time to make a side trip to Louisville, KY to get Heather’s iPhone fixed at the Apple store and explore the Louisville Slugger factory & museum.

From Mammoth Cave we trekked further east, keeping a very tight watch on the storm predictions and path, to Spartanburg, SC to visit a friend who Kevin worked with in Ohio (prior to traveling), who is now a Nurse Practitioner. We visited, ate together, and the kids enjoyed playing on our friend’s X-Box Kinect while the adults visited and the dogs investigated the house.IMG_5344

We had paid for two nights at the last spot in the campground in Spartanburg with no idea when we would be leaving. By Tuesday morning the storm had passed and the sun had come back out. We had only lost power for part of the night and had barely noticed since we had not been hooked up to the electrical grid since before leaving Missouri. We tried contacting the campground where we had planned to stay near Daytona Beach but were not able to make contact. Kevin also contacted some of his friends in the Daytona area to see how they had fared. It seemed that power was spotty and some places had flooded but it was mostly ok. We had been worried since the prediction was that some places would not have power again for more than a week. After that, we contacted another campground that was fully up and running and had a spot for us. Great!

To hopefully avoid some of the crazy amounts of traffic that we had heard were flooding back into the Sunshine State, we got up early in the morning (3am) and were on the road by 3:30. The night traffic was not bad at all and really neither was the early daytime traffic. Traffic was not too crazy and we made our way steadily down toward Daytona. We were a bit surprised when quite a few I-95 exits in southern Georgia were blocked by State Patrol cruisers and/or Army National Guard Humvees. We had plenty of fuel and were able to top-off in northern Florida after waiting in a quickly moving line. We topped everything off in case we were not able get fuel closer to Daytona. Enroute to Daytona we saw many convoys of power company trucks, tree trimmers, and emergency relief organizations. We even got passed by an official FEMA convoy in Northern Florida.IMG_5331

We arrived at our destination shortly before noon on Wednesday, and after getting all hooked up, we went exploring instead of going straight to bed. We viewed some of the damage, visited the beach, and enjoyed dinner at Outback Steakhouse before returning to our campground for an early bedtime. As we were enjoying our Bloomin’ Onion we noted that we were feeling kind of badly since we were eating dinner at a restaurant while Kevin’s sister was still without power and had been taking cold showers for the past 3 days on the west coast of Florida.IMG_5335

Birthday Extravaganza

4 birthday celebrations

By: Kevin

IMG_5275While still in Springfield, MO the extended family came for a visit. This included Heather’s two sisters, mother, and all 3 of her grandparents. Extended family from Kansas and Minnesota were present as well. We had quite a gathering, which of course would not all fit inside our fifth wheel RV. Instead of getting multiple hotel rooms, we decided to rent a 3-bedroom house through AirBnB, which was a wonderful choice, and was much less expensive for the number of people we had there. We did float back and forth between our campground and the house to enjoy the campground swimming pool and sleep, but the majority of our time was spent at the AirBnB house.

Everyone came for a visit and to help celebrated Miss Kicky Feet’s first birthday, and Bug’s early birthday as well as Kevin and Heather’s recently-belated birthday. While in town we visited the original (and huge) Bass Pro Shop/Outdoor World that not only is a nice outdoors gear store, but the building houses 3 different museums on the topics of archery, vintage firearms, and wildlife. The building also housed a live gator exhibit, snapping turtle tank, a restaurant, a snack stand, a drink stand, and many different fish tanks. There was plenty  to explore even if you didn’t need anything from their store.IMG_5058

We also visited the Fantastic Caverns just north of Springfield. While this isn’t the largest cavern I have seen, it was the first one that I have ridden through instead of walking. The tours are actually given via a propane-powered (lower emissions) Jeep and trailer that drives you through the cavern. The tour stops at a number of locations through the cavern and the guide points out features of the cavern. The 1 hour tour was very enjoyable and informative.IMG_5270

The family did a bit of touring up and down Route 66, which winds right through downtown Springfield, and made a few stops at souvenir shops along the way. The kids especially liked the stop at a very large candy store. They also liked stopping at Hurt’s Donuts, a local 24/7 donut shop we had come to love during our time there. Not only did Hurt’s have some really good donuts, but they frequently ran specials to help out around the community and nation. They ran fundraising drives for Harvey victims; and when a local police officer was killed in the line of duty, Hurt’s hosted a 24-hour fundraising drive for the officer’s family raising over $31,000!! It was pretty easy to stand behind this type of philanthropy-oriented business model.

After almost a week of visiting and exploring the Springfield area, the family all piled back into their vehicles and made the trek back to Ohio/Kansas/Minnesota. It was a great visit, especially since we had not seen some of them in a few months or years. Once the family had departed, we quickly switched gears from visiting to packing, preparing to leave Missouri ourselves just 3 days later.

Pudding and Other Things That Move

By: Heather
I’ve seen the question posed before, asking about taking an RV to California and what needs done to make it earthquake ready. I always chuckle a bit at this question. I drive around following behind my 5th wheel at 65 mph and I see it sway back and forth and bump over potholes and go over huge bumps where I can literally see the back end come up off of the suspension, not to mention sudden stops and steep grades. I always cringe a little, wondering what we will find has moved or broken this time. I am here to tell you the tales of the things that move.
Now, when we were first considering moving into an RV I expected to have to downsize and I expected to have a bit of a challenge with storage of things but I had not thought as much about storage of things while the RV was actually moving. It certainly keeps us on our toes. We will have moved the RV ten times with a certain item in a certain position with no problem whatsoever and then that eleventh time it will suddenly have moved or fallen or broken. It keeps life interesting wondering what moved this trip.
Over time we have also gotten tired of securing or arranging things before we could move the RV so as we go we keep making accommodations so that we have less to do before we take off. Ha! The very first time we moved the RV we were not even fully moved in yet and Kevin did not think that his big tool box would go anywhere because it was heavy and had locking wheels. I was surprised that the tool box made it the entire 3-hour trip without moving, but then it crashed into the back wall while we were maneuvering up a hill in the campground. Now, before we travel the toolbox is secured to the wall with a cinch strap. We used to take the TV down and put it on our bed for travel, which was really annoying if we were traveling for more than one day, because we would have to find a place to put the TV so we could sleep. Now it also has a strap to hold it in place. We also recently screwed Kevin’s second computer monitor to the underside of a shelf so we do not have to move it every time we travel. We used to have pictures sitting above our slide-out that had to be taken down. Those are all screwed to the wall now too.
Motorcycle
Before we got the Annex, Kevin’s motorcycle would travel cinched and ratcheted down in the kids’ bedroom, but one time when we stopped for a break we checked on it and the 750 pound motorcycle was just standing free in the back room!!! I was glad it had not fallen over! One of the mirrors had broken off and some paint had been rubbed off of the front fender. It turned out that the screws holding one of the floor anchors in place had worked their way out. Kevin had to anchor the cycle to an anchor point on the other side of the room. It was not ideal but it did the trick for the rest of the trip.
How are we going to get into the back room?
Numerous times thing have happened to block the door from the main part of our RV into the back room/kids room. Early on we had a shelving unit next to the door and boxes or games occasionally fell off and landed to block the door. Once we had the ladder for the loft somewhere back there and it blocked the door. I think one time the chest freezer slid a bit from the other side and blocked the door. Most recently though we had a pack-n-play next to that door and it would always slide out making it completely impossible to open that door at all. We are thankful to also have an exterior door back there for situations like these. Right now we have the dog crate in that space though I think we have learned our lesson and just keep that door bungeed open for travel.
Ladder and blender
One time we just had a quick trip a mile or so down the road for an annual DOT inspection. We did not prepare well and did not go through our checklist because it was literally just down the road. We just threw the ladder for the loft up in the loft without paying attention to exactly how it was positioned. On the way there someone stopped very fast in front of us and Kevin had to slam on the brakes. We were fortunate to not have hit them. When we arrived at our destination the ladder was partially blocking our front door along with most of the contents of the nearest kitchen cabinet. Our blender had a large chip out of the top but is still usable. I can just imagine what kind of projectile that ladder was during the sudden stop and am glad it did not hit the TV. There is now a hook on that kitchen cabinet and we are more careful with the ladder.
Toys and Legos
Picture Legos showering down from the loft onto our couch and floor. This has happened many times. We just can’t learn. If we remember to tuck the loft curtain under the loft mattress that generally stops the problem.
IKEA couch
Our IKEA couch likes to slide around just a bit during travel, since it is not secured to the floor. Then it is hard to open the fridge. Now we push one of our wheel chocks up under it before we travel and that generally does the trick.
Breakable dishes
One time after a particularly hilly road between San Angelo and San Antonio TX we came inside to find the cabinet with all our breakable dishes standing wide open. The plastic cups that had been in the back of the cabinet were the only things that had fallen out. We are thankful for that and the cabinet door now has a hook also.
Glass fruit bowl
My Aunt Juli has her own stained glass studio and makes some wonderful things. I have a bowl, that I love, that we use to put fruit in that sits behind our kitchen sink. For the longest time it was like the bowl was almost glued to its spot. It was hard to move so we left it there and it never did move. That is until one trip when I came inside to find it perched precariously on the edge of the counter. Ever since then it is put away wrapped in a blanket or towels for travel.
Refrigerator
One time Pie forgot to push the fridge all the way closed. The only thing that fell out was a container of lasagna that cracked the plastic but did not make a mess. It could have been so much worse!
Pudding
I saved the best for last… RV refrigerators are, well, a constant study in Tetris mastery. We play refrigerator Tetris all the time. The only thing that really doesn’t ever move is the milk. There is one place and one place only in our refrigerator for a gallon of milk to sit. The shelf above is specifically shaped to fit the milk jug just so. Even so, on one of our recent trips I didn’t think anything of it when we finished off the gallon of milk and pitched it into the trash. (Just so you know, this is where it all went wrong.) Apparently the fridge needs that milk jug. It keeps things from falling off of the upper shelf. So, on one of our stops after I had fed and changed the baby I came inside to find Bug just finishing up cleaning up the floor. He says that when he opened the fridge the container of pudding fell out and spilled a little. He said he put the container back in the fridge, but couldn’t find the lid, but not to worry because it wouldn’t spill. Well, we were in a hurry to get back on the road so I thought I would look at it later. I kept thinking about it though. Where was the lid? It had been a full big container but only a small amount had spilled? Or had he just cleaned up the full amount (this was very unlikely). I assumed from all of this that there was still some delicious pudding to be had after dinner, but when I had time to look later I found that the container was completely empty and that is why I did not have to worry about it spilling. Apparently, with the hole left by the milk jug the container of pudding was able to fall down and land in the door pocket hard enough for the lid to come off. There was pudding strewn through the bottom of the refrigerator and filling the whole bottom of the door pocket. When Bug had opened the door only the empty container had fallen out. By the time we reached our destination and were able to put out the slide and open the fridge fully the pudding was completely filling the door pocket and oozing out the bottom and getting in all of the door seals, coming out the front of the fridge and there is probably still some that made its way inside the door that I could not get out. What fun! Moral of the story? Do NOT remove the empty milk jug from the fridge while traveling!

Based on all these “learning experiences”, we have made a “Before we move the RV” checklist. The checklist includes things like hooking cabinets closed, securing various items, and of course things like checking tire pressure, greasing the hitches, and making sure the TV antenna is flat against the roof. However, this list has become a rather fluid list as we find ways to permanently secure items (and thus remove them from the list), only to find a new item that we had not previously thought about that needs added to the list. RV travel is definitely a learning experience…even after 2.5 years.

We are Weird!

not-normal

By: Kevin

The title of this post should not surprise anyone who has been following us or know us very well, but I will explain what I mean in more detail.

We are a full-time RV family who has chosen to live in a fifth wheel RV that we tow from place to place across the United States. We jump from one hospital assignment to the next with the occasional break for personal travel in between. We have visited the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Florida Keys during our travels over the last two and a half years of RV life. These make us weird when compared to Suburban-living “normal” people.

Heather has given birth to our third child, Miss Kicky Feet, INSIDE the RV, and we are debt free. These make us even weirder! However, we still seem to fit the mold of an RV family. We still go on vacation with our wares in tow, opting for air conditioning and running water at the flip of a switch. We visit national parks and navigate large cities with our noses buried in a free map.

However, even with these common traits and accomplishments with others in the many RV parks around the country in which we have stayed, we still seem to set ourselves apart from those around us. As I look around the RV park I seem to be one of the few with a fully stocked tool chest in the RV. I am among an even smaller group that keep a chainsaw, circular saw, and compound sliding miter saw with us for RV remodeling projects. I have yet to see a retiree haul a sliding miter saw out from his class A motor coach to work on a project. We also purchased a utility trailer and installed a laundry set so we would have the ability to wash and dry clothes at our site as well as haul the motorcycle from place to place.

For these and many other reasons, I can firmly state that we are weird…and I like it!!

Branson, MO

The other day we ventured south to Branson, MO. Branson is supposed to be the local mecca of entertainment. While this may be true, one had better have some deep pockets if one wants to have the full Branson experience. There are many shows and attractions including Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, the Branson Belle, the Titanic Museum, and various other stage shows around the Branson area. This does not include the go-kart tracks, mini golf courses, and museums. However, at $30-90 for each…per person, we chose to have less than the FULL experience. We instead opted to stroll the Branson Landing Boardwalk, explore the local shops, and take a ride on “Sparky” the trolly-themed bus. We were intending to see the Branson Landing Fountain Show, but for whatever reason, the show was not in operation on the day we were there, much to our dismay.

Along the way we also made a stop at the Table Rock Dam. The Table Rock Dam is a hydro-electric dam along the southwest side of Branson operated by the US Army Corp of Engineers. The dam has a very nice visitor center complete with info about the local river and lake as well as an interactive exhibit about boater safety. There was a video explaining how and when the dam was built, and a cut-away model of how the dam generates electricity.

To finish our day in Branson we enjoyed a tasty dinner at Pasghetti’s Italian restaurant, which had a giant fork, meatball, tomato, and green pepper in front of their building. For those of you familiar with the Spaghetti Warehouse, it was similar, but in my opinion not quite as good as Spaghetti Warehouse. We still enjoyed it none the less though.

Kansas City

By: Kevin & Heather

While working and staying in southern Missouri this summer we found ourselves about 3 hours from Kansas City, where an extended family member lives, so we took the opportunity to pay her a visit and utilize her extra bedroom for a few days.

Kansas City had recently experienced some strong storms and a lot of rain. While we were staying, Kevin helped out by cutting some fallen limbs from the trees as well as doing some additional trimming of limbs that were dead but still attached to the trees in the yard. The neighbors conveniently had a trailer arrive to take away their own tree limbs just as we were finishing up and they let us add our limbs and branches to the pile on their trailer, which made clean-up really convenient. After we got the big limbs cleaned up, it was nice to be able to send Bug and Pie outside to rake the rest of the small sticks from the yard and the kids enjoyed it too.

IMG_5102We ventured into town and rode the electric street car from Union Station into downtown and visited the Historic City Market, which has permanent shops as well a a weekly farmers market. One of the attractions we saw at the Historic City Market is a museum all about the steamboat Arabia, a steam-powered riverboat that struck a snag, or large piece of jagged wood, and quickly sank in the muddy Missouri River in 1856. The riverboat was found under a corn field alongside the Missouri River in 1987. The steamboat was embedded in watery sand and dirt, which actually preserved the steamboat and its contents over 130 years. There were food items, clothing, leather shoes,  tools, dishes, and many other artifacts that have been cleaned, further preserved, and placed on display in the museum. According to the staff at the museum they are still in the process of cleaning and preserving the contents of the riverboat today, some 30 years later, and thus the contents of the museum is still expanding.

We also visited a 9/11 memorial in front of a local Police/Fire facility. The memorial featured a piece of structural steel from one of the Trade Centers, a few pieces of granite flooring from the World Trade Centers, and a piece of metal engraved with the names of victims on 9/11 . There were four metal panels detailing the flights of the four jet airliners that were crashed into the World Trade Centers, The Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.

Of course our visit to Kansas city would surely not have been complete without a stop at the IKEA store for a few items, Sheridans Frozen Custard for dessert, and the Krispy Kreme store for a dozen hot doughnuts.

Roller coasters and a Wedding

By: Kevin

A week and a half ago we made a quick trip to Ohio to attend a wedding. Along the way we stopped at the St. Louis Arch, which you can read about in our previous post.

While in Ohio we spent one of our days at Cedar Point. We have not been to Cedar Point in a few years, and as former season pass holders, we were eager to make the trip back to Sandusky. However, this time the kids were tall enough to go on some coasters with us. Pie proved to be our little dare devil and rode Gatekeeper, Millennium Force and Valravn with us just to name a few. She also accompanied Heather and “the girls” on Snake River Falls. “The boys”, Grandma, and Miss Kicky Feet elected to stay dry and watch from the brick bridge along the waterfront. Bug was a little less adventurous than Pie, deciding that Iron Dragon was enough coaster for him. He did really enjoy the swings next to Maverick, and rode them over and over again while the girls were getting drenched on Snake River Falls. We also were able to visit with our good friends Megan & Tim while at Cedar Point, who we have not seen since they last visited us during my contract in Daytona Beach. One of Tim’s friends even gave the kids large stuffed dogs, which Tim’s friend had won. The kids happily toted their dogs around for the remainder of the day. IMG_5040We finally left the park around 11:30pm. Surprisingly, Miss Kicky Feet and her cousin Timmy both handled the day pretty well and only really started to crash and get grumpy as we were headed back to the vehicle in the parking lot. Miss Kicky Feet was asleep in her car seat before we made it off property.

The trip also included a wedding, which was the original purpose of the trip. My good friend and fellow RN, Anna invited us to bear witness to her wedding to Corey, her mountain man. The ceremony was lovely and the reception was elegant. I think we surprised the couple as well as some relatives that we made the trip from Missouri for the event, but we wouldn’t have missed it! I even had the dates written into my current hospital contract to ensure I had the time off to attend. Aunt Juli and Uncle Steve set off some surprise professional-grade fireworks at the reception, much to the delight of those in attendance. For those of you who are wondering, yes, they are licensed to do so.

The trip included a few “honey-do” list items while we were there for Karla, Heather’s mom. I was happy to knock these items off the list, however the ‘switch out the toilet for a new one’ task turned into ‘Replace entire bathroom floor with new tile and grout…before setting new toilet in place’. Needless to say that task took a bit of time to complete.

The joyous weekend was also marked with sadness, although we didn’t realize it until we returned to Missouri from our trip. The kind and sweet couple, John and Mary, who owns the campground at which we are staying in Missouri has been battling some health problems for some time now. Unknown to us at the time, John had passed away the evening before we had left for Ohio. As we were celebrating the Holy marriage of our friends in Ohio, our other friends were mourning the passing of John in Missouri.

“…The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” -Job 1:21