Knoxville to Cherokee

We left Knoxville, TN on Thursday and arrived here in Cherokee, NC at Happy Holiday RV Village. It’s a large park on the edge of Smoky Mountain NP that to my surprise is at only about 15% capacity. The fall colors are starting to change and the next 2-3 weeks should prove to be gorgeous. We are here until the end of the month. Here we are rolling off the RVsForLess parking lot and heading down the road…

We cut through the Smoky Mountains via I-40 (a spectacular drive) and I really put my driving skills and to the test as well as Dagny’s (our F450). We both did very well considering the climb and descent we encountered from Maggie Valley to Cherokee. There was a little “jerking” going on where it felt like the trailer was pushing Dagny a bit. I am not sure if that was natural or not…time will tell.

We arrived just before dark, unhitched without any problems, and set up camp. We spent Friday unpacking and organizing as we will be doing over the next days and weeks. I spent Saturday getting our Dish Network receivers and Satellite hooked up. We have a Winegard Travl’r dish mounted on our roof, which has worked great so far!

Lisa and Kylee building a small bookshelf to organize Kylee's library.

Kylee got right into a painting project

The finished product...well done!

It got really cold outside last night (mid 30s) and I am happy to report that our rig is SUPERBLY insulated! We have a fireplace, 2 30k BTU furnaces, and 3 heat pumps…so we are well armed for cold weather. Last night we only used 1 furnace and we all stayed cozzzzzzzzzzy!!!! 

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Move in Day!

We got up early yesterday and headed to breakfast in Gatlinburg; then off we went to Knoxville 1 hr away to pick up our home. Does that sound odd?

We got here at RVsForLess at noon and immediately sought out our rig. We found it with some guys doing some work on it. Apparently one of the a/c units did not work so they were installing a new one.

We then began the long process of unloading the uhaul and loading our new home! We are extremely pleased with the rig. It is gorgeous inside and out and the workmanship appears to be top-notch…but time will tell on the workmanship. Today we will continue to load/unpack while my truck gets a new hitch installed in it. Then we will be moving on to Cherokee about 2hrs away, where we will be until the end of October.

Kylee was so thrilled to see her new room in the new ‘house truck’!

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A Message to Kylee

A big reason for writing this blog is to provide our daughter, Kylee, with a chronicle of our adventure when she gets older. Today, I just want to post a video of a song that speaks to our motivation for pursuing this life for Kylee. Enjoy…and “my wish” is for you, my readers, as well. 

Official launch date for our new life: Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Home in the Mountains…..Ahhhhhh

The successful RV-Dreams rally is over. We made some new friends and refreshed our minds about some logistical items pertaining to full-timing. My presentation on Medicare/Medigap was well-received.

After the rally, we drove back to delaware to load up our belongings in a UHaul trailer to take to Knoxville, TN, where we pick up our new fifth wheel next week. Unfortunately, the largest trailer available to us was a 5×8. I took one look at it and said, “no way” will we fit all of our stuff in that small trailer. Well, thanks to having a good friend who works for UPS and has helped me move several times, I learned how to pack  a truck like it’s going out of style! We fit everything we need to live in a small 5×8 trailer and I can not believe it! (Thanks Tom Carr)

From 2000sf packed with stuff to this!

We received confirmation from Karen @ RVsforless that our unit is “off the line” and at the dealer’s lot as of yesterday. They will complete there own 2 day PDI (pre-delivery inspection) and we will go on Wed morning to do our own PDI, stay overnight in their lot, and drive it off on Thurs morning. Until then, we will be hanging out in the majestic Smoky Mountains of TN and NC. We are staying in a cabin in Gatlinburg as I type this from the front porch listening to the many species of mountain birds waking up with the sun.

There is something very magical to me about the Smoky Mountains. I always feel like I am “coming home” when I come here. I’m telling you, as soon as we got here and I had a chance to walk around outside a bit, amongst the hills, I could literally feel the stress of the past 2 months lifting off me like the fog lifting off the mountains, giving these mountains their namesake.

I am not a fan of Gatlinburg due to its ridiculous crowds and traffic, but its proximity to Cades Cove makes it a great place to stay to play in the Smokies. Yesterday we spent the day in the Cove driving around and hiking a little. We have been here many times before and I never tire of its beauty. The cove used to be a community of 700+ families before the National Park Service forced them all out to establish and preserve the flora and fauna of the region. I have a love-hate relationship with our NPS…but I digress.

Roadschooling has begun: Kylee learns about the dung beetle!

Oh come on, I know you wanted a close up of the dung beetle.

John Oliver's residence. This last resident of Cades Cove died in 1999.

Inside Oliver's cabin

One of the things I love about the Smokies...the smell. The air has a sweet walnut smell about it , especially after a rain.

Kylee on safari through the cove.

The highlight of the day was when we got to see a few bears. One we saw running across a field right behind two amateur photographers that did not even notice him (haha)…we did not get a picture of him, but he was relatively big (~300lb). Then, later we saw a small mom and her cub.

 We got lots of photos but we desperately need a zoom lens! Hey, my birthday happens to be next week, hmmmm.

If you look closely at the last pic you can see the cub hiding in the grass.

Homeless never felt so good!

Our house is rented out. Our motorhome is sold. We are homeless. So,  the timing thing did not quite work out as we had hoped it would. Our new fifth wheel is not ready, yet. It got held up at Onan during the generator install. Apparantly, they, uh, ran out of generators??? Does McDonald’s run out of hamburgers? Then, how does Onan run out of generators? Nevertheless, they did, and so delivery has been delayed for 2-3 weeks. But, it’s all good because we are chilling in a cabin here in Hershey Preserve while attending the RV-Dreams rally! All week we will be hanging out with other full time RVers and wannabe full timers sharing and learning about the lifestyle. RV-Dreams (referenced here in my main page to the left) is a wonderful community of RVers created by Howard and Linda Payne shortly after they sold their large home and successful business to pursue this crazy, exciting, new lifestyle. This is our second rally with them and it is fantastic to be a part of.

I will also be doing a presentation to the rally attendees about Medicare and Medigap and how full time RVing impacts Medicare enrollees.

Wish we were here with our new rig rather than staying in a cabin, but the cabin is very nice and will suffice for the week.

UPDATE: The rally is over and it was fantastic. Yesterday we spent the day at the Hershey RV Show…one of the largest ones held in the country each year. We went there hoping to find DRV had one of our units on the lot so we could walk through it since we have not actually walked through our particular model before…but no such luck. Although, we did get to walk through some DRV suites and were reminded why we chose them.

So, today (Fri 9/16) we will spend another day at the show, campfire with new friends (rally attendees) tonight, and tomorrow we will spend the day at Hershey chocolate factory!

Lot’s going on!

It has been over 60 days since my last post and a lot has changed since then! Most notably, we are pretty much full-timing now even though we have not sold our house still. We have spent the past month with my family in Cooperstown, NY. We have decided we do not want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary in the Delaware heat this summer.  We have been staying at a nice RV Park called Hartwick Highlands about 3 miles from Coops. It wouldn’t normally be a destination park for us, but it is a good fit in close proximity to the village and my family. The owners are fantastic and the facilities are very nice.

The most significant change in our plans since my last post is that we have ordered a new home. We are trading in our 36′ motorhome for a new 2012 custom-built 43′ DRV Mobile Suites fifth wheel. That’s right…forty three feet! Which also means I have to trade in my 1/2 ton Dodge Ram for a 1.5 ton F-450 diesel with duallys…or a M2 Freightliner. We opted for the F450 🙂

This is not our unit…but it is the same brand/model/floor plan we ordered:

Construction has begun on our new home today and it will take about 8 weeks to complete. More details on this later…I just wanted to post an update to keep this blog alive until I start bogging regularly on the road.

We will be heading to Bar Harbor, Maine; Warren, New Hampshire; New York to visit family again; and Hershey PA for the RV-Dreams rally over the next 2 months; then it’s on to Knoxville TN by October to pick up our new home.

To be continued . . .

I don’t need no stinkin’ dealer

Ever since we brought our house truck home from San Diego last year I have been struggling to locate a water leak coming in the slide out when it rains. It would be a huge understatement to say this has been a bit frustrating. There are two main things that can destroy an RV: sun and water. The closest Monaco (the manufacturer) dealer to me is 1.25 hours away. We have made at least 6 trips back and forth to this dealer and spent over $2000 in the past 8 months; each time coming home with the assurance that “this time” they had found the leak and fixed it. The last time I left the dealer I was not convinced and knew that what the service manager was claiming to be the issue was not the issue…but I gave him the benefit of the doubt once again.

Well, yesterday I picked up the RV from storage to bring it to our house to continue prepping it, cleaning it, and stocking it for travel. Again: water! I was beyond discouraged this time. I brought it home and like many times before stood and stared at the slide-out hoping the solution would magically pop into my non-technical brain. And, like every time before, nothing happened. I knew one thing: the dealer was looking in the wrong areas because his explanation did not explain why it would leak with the slide in or out.

The problem with dealers is that they do not care about your investment as much as you do so they are less prone to think subjectively about your issue and tend to use a broad stroke when fixing things like this. I can’t really blame the dealer–their goal is to get units in and out quickly. If they really put the time into finding the problem they would have spent hours upon hours to do so, as I did, and at $100/hr labor rate I and most people are happy to have them tell me after 2 hours of labor that they found and fixed the problem.

So, I decided to focus my attention on one of the roof top a/c units. I completely removed it and examined the gaskets to see if there were any signs of water coming in. I did this at the advice of some well-meaning RV owners at irv2.com. The whole time I was doing it I told myself I was wasting my time because I knew there was no water coming in there. Reason told me that if there was water coming in the roof a/c unit then I would see at least some moisture inside when removing the interior a/c cover…and it is bone dry. So, after spending a few hours wrestling with the a/c I confirmed my instincts: no water was coming in through the roof a/c.

So, I stood and stared at the slide out for a while longer. And I stared. And I stared. I climbed on top of the RV and stared some more. And I stared. And I…wait, what is that canyon-sized gap under the slideout awning? It’s 36″ long and wide enough to slide 10 sheets of paper in it! That’s it! (As if I hadn’t said this before when looking for the leak). And it absolutely could be letting water in with the slide in or out. How the dealer missed this is beyond me. The problem was, that gap was under the slideout awning and I did not know how to remove the slideout awning. Nor did I want to. So I made a contraption…something long enough to reach under the awning and wipe silicone along the gap. I know, genius, right!? Not so much.

It was now about 5:30 and I knew I had to do something because it had been raining all day and the forecast was more rain today and rain for the next 5 days straight. So, I decided to tackle the awning. To make a long story short, removing the awning proved to be a pretty easy thing to do. I removed it and thoroughly caulked where the long gap was. I used 3-hour-ready silicone and half heartedly asked God to hold back the rain for a while. Lisa told me I actually asked him to hold it back until midnight.

It is now about 11:15 pm, job is done, I’m feeling like I won one, and I am relaxed in my recliner flipping channels. The RV is parked in front of our house. We live on a public street. An RV looks really out of place here but I was willing to leave it on the street for the night to monitor the leak in the morning. City ordinance allows us to leave it on the street for 12 hours but, since NASCAR is in town along with thousands of other RVers, I figured the police had more important things to do than ticket me. About 11:20 I flip to this show “parking wars”. I’ve never seen it before but in my 11 o’clock trance decided to leave it there for a minute. Wouldn’t you know it shows “the ticket man” ticketing a motorhome $100 for parking on a public street. I looked at Lisa…Ok, guess I’ll be driving the RV back to storage tonight. I’m not superstitious, but I know when not to press my luck. I drive the motorhome to the storage unit and pull in just as the heavens open up! It started raining cats and dogs. I nervously laughed at the whole situation. If the leak is not fixed, I’ll surely know it in the morning.

I got home and opened the door to a smiling wife. “Do you see what time it is?”, she asked with a grin. “Yeah, so?”. “You asked God to hold back the rain until midnight”. It was 12:01.

I am quickly learning that owning an RV is a huge investment in learning to maintain it. Dealers aren’t going to help me like it’s a car…there are just too many moving parts and unknown variables with each unit. But, I’m okay with that. Most people would  never buy one for this reason. An RV is not a great financial investment. But, that’s not why we bought it. We bought it as an investment in life!

Now, to go check that leak this morning…

UPDATE: I went out to check this morning and there was no water. Dare I celebrate?

UPDATE 5/21: Still no water after a heavy day of rain y’day…I’m calling it fixed!