Sunday, July 31, 2011

First week back

We returned to home base a week ago yesterday (Saturday). The week has been mostly spent catching up on things gone undone since we left on June 13.
We had to stop at the post office to pick up mail and tell them to resume delivery. Yard work was a big part of the week. Even though the area has had record temperatures and little rain, the grass still managed to grow. Then there was putting the house in order and grocery shopping. I also started removing and replacing the wiring harness and dash in the Dodge.
But mostly we have been staying out of the heat and doing what needs to be done inside.
Today that meant HTML and organizing the website and adding new pages. We added pictures to our Dodge 2500 page about the dash removal. We also added a yet to be completed Monthly Budget page.
Since we are constantly reviewing our finances, we thought a pre-launch budget would help with showing how much it really takes to be ready to go on the road. Starting with September 2011, we will keep a running total of our income from all sources and expenses primarily related to full time preparation. We expect to be able to save $1000 a month for the next 10 months. That will be used to upgrade the Dodge, make any repairs / improvements on the Coachmen and pay for several trips--including our summer June--July excursion to Yellowstone in 2012. We will be saving the same amount in 2012-2013 that will be added to our "retirement fund."
I am also contributing $240 a month to a retirement fund that we will liquidate when we leave in 2013.
We will have an Excel spreadsheet uploaded to the Blue Road Blogger site detailing how we are doing.
The only variable expenses we have are groceries and fuel. Everything else is fixed to within +/- $10.
You may have also noticed on the blog and the website we have added a "DONATE" button. This is via PayPal and is connected directly to our Great_stuff_4_Collectors account. This is the name we use on eBay. If people feel comfortable donating, the money will be deposited in our PayPal and will then be documented on our Monthly Budget sheet. All donated funds will be used for fuel expense unless the donor designates another use such as for overnight stay, truck repair, or that occasional night out.
When we begin our full time journey in 2013, we will be doing so with the idea that we will continue to work for the source of most of our income. We will not have a six-figure nest egg. We will barely have a low five-figure start-up fund to get us through the first year.
Is this crazy? Possibly. But we have decided that it is no crazier than staying in one place, working paycheck to paycheck, and knowing we will never get ahead enough to retire comfortably. So we might as well increase the chances we can come out ahead financially by going on the road and working several seasonal jobs each year, while cutting our overhead and cost of living as much as possible.

We are figuring that being on the road will reduce our housing costs from $700 month to $500 or less. This would include utilities like water and power. If we can find work with a site included (a $700 monthly savings!) or nearby, this will reduce our fuel cost to near zero--except for the fuel we use to get to the next work site. We are currently spending close to $250 each month for our two vehicles during the school year. That means we will be starting off saving nearly $500 each month just by going on the road full time.
SO even as we sit and re-energize from our maiden voyage, there seems to just as much to do now as there was in May as we prepared for our trip.

Tim and Mary

Friday, July 29, 2011

Starting upgrades for the Dodge

If we are to be on the road, the Dodge will have to be up to the challenge. Tuesday I started upgrading the interior. I am replacing the wiring harness and the upper dash itself.

Here is the Dodge from the driver's side.

The upper dash was just shattered pieces held in place with black duct tape. It bounced around as the screws along the windshield were removed prior to buying the Dodge.

This is the lower dash and support for the instrument cluster and switches for headlights, heater, and radio. The highlighted boxes represent missing pieces of the lower dash.

I have found a full replacement at LMC Truck out of Kansas for under $200. As soon as I can get the harness connected and the fractures / breaks in the lower dash fixed with JB weld, I am going to order the upper dash replacement. I will post pix of the finished job when it is whole again.

Meanwhile, we are planning our engine modifications that will include a new fuel plate, lift (fuel) pump, AFC / p-pump tune, advance the timing from current setting (should be 14*) to 15 1/2*. We are also going to be replacing the OEM injectors with Stage 2 (5X.012) 90 HP injectors.
The fuel plate should give us 50-100HP.
The AFC will be good for a few more.
Timing will get an additional 25 HP.
and the 90 HP gain from the injectors should be a total improvement of nearly 200 hp.
But first we will need to add gauges prior to the engine mods. It is highly recommended you have a fuel pressure, boost and EGT (exhaust gas temperature) gauges. We will also add a transmission temperature, oil tem and oil pressure as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What is priority while full-timing?

Mary and I ask this question everyday. Why are we going on the road? Why not stay in a stick structure and be content? Common sense tells us if we can create a means of income on the road, we should be able to do so from a permanent location as well.
While there are some great points about staying in one location--you can have a garden, people can come by to visit, you have regular mail service, and you can have STUFF around you.
All this is great, we have done this. When we were married in 2003, we bought a nice little farm house in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. (Does Detroit really need to be identified as being in Michigan? Like Cher, it is able to stand on one name, isn't it?) We remodeled it from the studs out. New dry wall, 3/4 inch copper plumbing, 12 gauge wiring, 200 amp service, and the interior was Craftsman style / Frank Lloyd Wright.
We removed 2 rooms from downstairs and made it an open floor plan. We had a wonderful veggie garden and Irises that were the envy of the town. Life was good. But when it all fell as the economic bubble burst, we realized it was just stuff. It wasn't easy to accept at first. Then a few friends all commented on how they would live to pack up and move, to see new places and people--but they wouldn't part with their stuff or comfort of being in a permanent location. Mary would tell them it was actually quite easy--all you had to do was LOOSE everything--and that the choice was really quite obvious.
But there are many positive things about being on the road full time as well.
Since we have to do some type of work to earn money, and we could do it here, we feel by being on the road we will have the benefit of seeing how the other half lives. We will have less responsibility pieces to care for. Our home will be paid for. We will have more control over our expenses. We can choose our climate.
I suppose what we really really want to do is experience the way other people live in this country. We want to be a witness to the diverse traditions and cultures that exist within our state, and country.
The hard part will be deciding where we stay and how much time we want to use to experience that environment. Then there will be the process of how and what we document since there will be so much to see. Every stop is a potential treasure trove of life.
We want to be travelers. We want to be tourists. We want to be photographers. We want to feel history.

In short---


Tim and Mary

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Developing a new syllabus for traveling

As Mary and I are catching our breath here in North Carolina, we continue to ruminate over our maiden voyage. Not so much what went well and what was frustrating necessarily, but what do we have to be more aware of when living on the road.
Obviously, after completing 3400 miles in just over 13 days is something not to be repeated, at least not often. There has to be a comfortable pace that will allow time to smell the roses and not coss the line of becoming bored. Our concept of time will have to be different than what many people are used to. Most people see time as a reference point to be somewhere or a box in which you are limited in the time you have to complete an activity. Time is a unit of measurement that controls our pace. Instead we have to use time. We will need to see time as a rate of exchange, if that makes sense. How much time do we want to use--not how much time do we have to use. This may be just simple semantics, but it is a great difference in perspective.
During our maiden voyage, we were constantly caught up in how much time we had left. This is a point of frustration as what little time we had, we seemed to always be thinking about what was left. At some point this becomes a philosophical debate--do you say "toe-may-toe" or "toe-ma-toe?" So whatever others think or however they rationalize their "time," we are going to make a conscious effort to use our time, not to be controlled by time.
Ever notice how music canbe the greatest influence on our thinking?

Tim and Mary

Pink Floyd

Time Lyrics


Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
And when I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Adjusting our expectations to fit our expectations.

As we mentioned yesterday, we have completed our maiden voyage and survived. But, there are still some housekeeping details to address between now and 2013. As great as it was to be on the road, by last week we were both ready to be at home base again. Part of this angst is due to the tempo of our trip.
We went at it full-speed with the intent of looking for things to break or go wrong. Not that this is the "wrong" thing to do--it is just wearing on a person. We didn't really get into the full time frame of mind. We wanted to be tourists as badly as we wanted to try on the full-time lifestyle.
We knew this going out. We weren't going to fool ourselves by saying this trip was a full-time practice run. That would have been a sure disaster. Instead we looked at it as a trial by fire road trip to get the ants out of our pants. We had been waiting since March to get out and experience our Coachmen, and to tell the truth it was driving Mary and I crazy.
For those of you considering full-time, remember it doesn't have to be an "all-or-nothing" venture. It takes time to ease yourself into a new and unknown world. Someone wrote that there are campers and there are RV'ers, and that the two are neither mutually exclusive nor are they all inclusive. On any given day we can switch from one group to the other.
We have to allow ourselves to accept that change in status and not feel one or the other is off-limits. May be that is the problem with labeling people and actions? We create a stigma that causes us to be in denial and feel ostracized from one group for fear of being ridiculed. If we travel, whether full time or just on the weekends, we all have a common bond. I believe the majority of full timers started out as weekenders. If even for a short time, somewhere they were out in the environment and that made an impact that lasted their whole lives.
When we were sitting in the private parks in Shipshewana and the one in Wisconsin, Dells, we noticed how quiet the parks were. They are both great places, we would highly recommend them to anyone, but there was hardly any life after 8:00 P.M.
The public campgrounds on the other hand were noisy (not loud) and busy into the wee hours of the night—11:00 P.M. or so—and people were walking with their dogs, cleaning out their boat or ATV. Music was playing—mostly at an acceptable level—as folks sat outside their trailers, grilling hamburgers or steaks.
Though we loved both settings, we found ourselves relating to the public parks and appreciating the atmosphere that existed in the public parks. Does that mean we are not ready for full time on the road? Probably not. It does mean we enjoy being out where people are having a great time away from work. Where they aren't just living another day just like the day before.
Mary and I are making plans to stay at a local campground just outside of Asheboro, North Carolina in a few weeks. It looks like it is somewhat of a “resort” as it is near the NC Zoo and has seasonal sites available. Wouldn't it be nice to find a group of people who enjoy living as much as you do?
If you travel—by any means necessary—camp in anything—hostel—even if you hotel / motel your way around the state or country, you are experiencing your WANDERLUST—and we salute you!


Tim and Mary

Re-energizing in Bunnlevel, NC

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The madien voyage--may you see it all.

Perhaps our maiden voyage was a bit involved. Traveling 3400 miles to get the bugs out may well be excessive. It leaves you vulnerable and open to frustration.
When you break down, and you WILL break down, you will always be in the least convenient location. You will be in the most unreachable area and assistance will not be found via tow truck or dealership. Rest assured you will be in a county park campground, a Mickey D's parking lot or half way through a 5 mile climb of a 4% grade. If you are fortunate, you will get to experience these and other catastrophic events on your shake down trip.

Now before you go looking for a voodoo doll of BRB and posting our pix on your dart board, instead of cursing us the next time your tire blows in the middle of northern Montana or your refrigerator is warmer than your bath water, think of the positives this event has brought into your lives.

Not that you needed to master tire changing or finding tech info on the web about fixing that Dometic product, rather it is the opportunity to solve yet one more problem that stands in the way of your independence. And there will be problems.

When problems and difficulties arise, you will have to face them. You can either curse, pout and stomp--or you can solve the crisis. Sometimes you are lucky enough to have a shop, mechanic or repair facility near by. Most of the time it is just the problem and you.

And even if you are not successful in "fixing" the problem, just by investigating and making it work in the moment will be a statement to your fortitude and determination NOT to allow this crisis to set you back.
Make no mistake, you will want to head for the nearest airport and fly away. You will swear better than any sailor or rapper ever has. You might even consider selling your rig to the first person to walk by and give you taxi fare to town.

Then, after all the frustration has passed, and it will indeed pass if you seriously consider your situation, you get to work to solve your current dilemma.

So it was on our shake down cruise. Climbing out of North Carolina that Monday afternoon, I realized the Dodge would need some improvements if we were to ever get over the Rockies next summer. So while we were climbing those 4 mile long 5% grades in the Appalachians, I was busy thinking about all the cool modifications I could do this fall to make the Dodge Cummins more of a towing force and not the little engine who thought he could.
When the Coachmen started throwing sparks from a wire on the underside of the frame, I went to work and approached it as if I were doing electrical on a stick structure. Found the fuse box, analyzed the wire and soon it was good to go.
Sitting in the Mickey D's parking lot with a dead starter was the worse. No cables and the few folks we asked didn't have cables either. Call road aid? That is always a possibility. Wait a few minutes and try again? Have lunch and do some grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, sure why not. Thirty minutes later the truck turned over and we were off towards Green Bay
When the starter went in Green Bay, I got busy looking for a solution. I went to Craig’s list and several other Dodge forums I am active on. Eventually, I was able to get the part to me and installed.

Through it all, we had doubts and anxiety so high we could have passed out from the altitude. With patience and perseverance, we worked on finding a solution and avoiding the "I told you so" syndrome.
And we have made a VERY big list of things to try and avoid the same problems, because as you know, problems are here to stay, so you will need a plan.

SO the next time your travels literally come apart at the seams, remember where you are and why you are there. It is a choice and everyday we decide if we want to continue and stay the course. This is true whether you been the road or in a stick house. You wake up everyday and ask yourself,


And no matter where you are in life, the answer is always the same---


Please choose wisely and with patience.

Tim and Mary

Maiden Voyage Complete

Bunnlevel, North Carolina

Friday, July 22, 2011

Too hot to drive, too hot to blog?

July 22, 2011

The heat will make a person do strange things. If you are on the road today, you know it is HOT. We pulled off the road at 10:42 am and set up at the Washington County Fair Grounds here in Marietta, Ohio. We weren’t sure where to set up so we went towards the rear so the dogs would have some room.
It’s too hot for the dogs to go out! I went for a walk with Lola and Kramer and I thought Lola wasn’t going to make it back. Seriously, she was panting and stopped in every shaded area and refused to move for a few minutes.
We should have stayed up front on the circle as I found it has ONE spot that is shades for a few hours anyways. Remember the scout rule, set up near a tree and you will have shade for at least part of the day.

We will wait until sunset to take to the road again. Being out of the sun will make driving more bearable.

We also realize the need for awnings on ALL the windows. We have two of the 5 original. The other three were damaged before we bought the 5er. The previous owners opted for the Colorado Care Free slide awnings where the other 3 awnings had been—All on the street side with one on the bedroom window and one on each of the sofa / dinette windows.

We read a post on the Escapees Forum about using the sun shade material for the awnings. Blocks the sun and heat while allowing you to see some of your surroundings. It is the same material you use on your main awning if you do not have a room attached. We might just add that to the existing window awnings and the new replacement ones as well.

Stay cool. If you are on the road in the Eastern USA, drive early and find shade before 11:00 am.

Tim and Mary

On the road in Marietta, Ohio

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The heat is influencing more than our drinking

We are rethinking our travel plans this week. With temperatures close to 100 on Thursday, we are looking at doing some night traveling. We had planned on leaving at 3:00 a.m. Thursday and driving to Marietta Ohio by 10:00 a.m. But since Thursday is HOT HOT we will wait and leave 3:00 a.m Friday.

So while we are dealing with the heat, here are some pictures of cooler temperatures when we were in the Upper Peninsula---

Coming up on the bridge.

The only freighter we saw come through the locks that day.

An excellent lunch. The best chowder we have had in forever..

We ended up following the Circle Tour from Green Bay, Wisconsin to the bridge.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reflections of the voyage.

July 19, 2011 (Tuesday night)

There is so much to think about. We left North Carolina on June 13, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. Undoubtedly we left some things behind. We had a schedule we had to meet for Mary’s youngest daughter’s wedding on June 18. Special occasions always seem to set time in fast-forward mode. Then, just like Christmas, by noon the anticipation of the event has passed and you wonder what you will do with the rest of the time.

Our first day out was a boondock at Cracker Barrel in Wytheville, Virginia. It seemed we couldn’t get enough miles behind us fast enough. We had hoped Cracker Barrel had Wi-Fi, but not so. Dinner there is still pretty good though.

We made it through the mountains on I-77 in one piece and had a late lunch that second day in Dover, Ohio at the Shoney’s. A GREAT buffet. Wonderful folks there in Dover. They are seriously lacking a decent fueling station for big rigs. Winesburg, Ohio was our destination for our second night. The Amish Country Camp Ground is a very nice place. $25 for water and electric (20 / 30 amp) makes it a great lay over.

Upon leaving the next morning, our trailer brakes were not working. We drove a bit down the road to a larger parking lot and figured out the brake light switch was malfunctioning. After some fiddling, it was once again working and we were heading to Michigan.

The wedding was great and we spent the next two weeks remodeling the 5er before starting our circle tour of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior via Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula.

We have been keeping a me3ntallist of what we need to include or improve upon for our next extended trip before full timing in 2013.

We must have a quality air compressor. Preferably a 12-volt model.
A nice set of wheel chocks.
Extra fuel in 5 gallon cans.
Jumper cables.
Some vital replacement parts like a fuel pump, shut off solenoid, and various nuts and bolts.
Should also have a jack and lug wrench I suppose.
Extra antifreeze, brake fluid, and oil—just in case.
Oil filter.

Things we need to address in the 5er include securing items in the cupboards. The dishes and glasses are being tossed everywhere.
Reducing the number of utensils like forks and knives
A USEABLE manual can opener.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Returning to the real world

So we are preparing to return. We will be adding a transmission cooler to the Dodge Wednesday morning. It may be like closing the barn after the horses are out, but it may still be enough to help the trans on those long climbs. Before 2013 we will have the trans upgraded with better clutches, torque converter and a valve body set up for towing. The 3.73 gearing seems to be adequate for towing the 12K pound 5er. On level roads, the dodge slips into overdrive and wants to cruise at 65-70 MPH.
We also need to see if we can squeeze another 1-3 MPG out of the cummins. It will get 17-18 mpg empty on the backroads of NC. We appreciate the fact it does get 11-12 mpg now. The old Silverado was getting 7-8 mpg towing a travel trailer and barely 15 mpg on the roads of NC.
We will also be replacing the dash. Dodge did not use quality material in their dash boards for the Ram truck. While we are replacing the shattered dash, we will also replace the wiring harness under the dash. The original owner had some electrical difficulties and left the wiring a spliced mess of wires and melted connections.
The cab is also uncomfortably HOT. We will be adding a sound deadener and a heat shield to the floor under the vinyl floor covering. This should give us some quiet and cool the inside considerably.
As soon as we get our pictures web ready we will have our MADIEN VOYAGE page up on our WEBSITE.

The Kids and I

Post contributed by Josue Durham

It’s tough living in this tiny house with three kids but until our budget goes up I just don’t think we’re going to be able to until my husband gets that promotion they’ve been promising him forever. I can’t believe we’ve got all 5 of us living in this tiny 1000 square foot place! We’re actually saving a lot of money by being here and although it’s tight it’s worth it in the long run. Our utility bills aren’t that bad, especially since going to and even our lawn maintenance is nothing because we don’t really have a lawn! It’s a really responsible thing for us to stay here for now but I swear if we don’t move sometime soon I’m going to lose my mind. I love my family to death but there’s nothing worse than being on top of each other when all we really want is more space to move around. Bonding is one thing but I think this has gotten a bit ridiculous at this point!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mackinac Bridge and Otsego Lake State Park

We crossed over the Big Mac around 2:30 yesterday afternoon. Traffic was light and the temperature was noticeably warmer. We couldn't get into Soaring Eagle's RV Park so Mary found Otsego Lake State Park. We are going to use our $29 passport as much as we can. The Trailer Life book listed laundry as an available feature alongt with showers, grocery, and a few others. Turns out all they have is showers--on site. Laundry and grocery are 7 miles back in the town of Otsego Lake. If we could find an efficient washer / dryer combo we would pick one up. Most of the units designed for RVs only wash a few items at a time, and we really don't want an apartment size stacker unit--besides many state parks here in Michigan do not have water connections--though we can fill the holding tanks.
We passed on several major attractions as we came into Otsego Lake. Just before you come to the bridge from the north, there is the "World Famous" Castle Rock. A tpourist stop for trinkets and the chance to climb a rock tower for the price of admission.
We also passed Call Of The Wild Museum that houses various animals found past and present in Michigan. The museum also has a Bavarian Falls Park that offers mini-golf, go carts and bumper car...We might stop next time we come through?
Otsego Lake State Park is probably the final frontier for suburban folks. Many of the people here are from the Detroit Metro area and seem to stay a week or two. This is not a transient park. It is a place where 3-4 families come out to enjoy the summer. Otsego Lake is an all sports lake meaning all forms of watercraft are allowed. Like most of Michigan's state parks, people here sit up late into the night around the campfire enjoying the company and surroundings.

Tim and Mary

On the road in Otsego Lake State Park

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sault Ste Marie and the Soo Locks

We headed out to Sault Ste Marie (Rapids of the St. Mary's river I am told) to see the Locks. If you have never seen a lock in operation, it is something else. To see a 800 foot freighter raised 21 feet in a matter of 2-4 minutes is unbelievable. That 21 feet is the difference in height between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
Of course the Portage Street in front of the Locks is tourist central. We had a great lunch at the LockView Restaurant and Motel. When in the UP you either have pasty (PASS-TEE) or Whitefish. And like Bubba Gump's shrimp, you can do whitefish a million and one ways---and it is all good. I had the fillets and Mary had some wonderful whitefish chowder and a whitefish sandwhich.

This afternoon we also stopped by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The museum is located at Whitefish Point. There you can see the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald and other artifacts raised from Lake Superior.

Again we have a million pictures. These digital cameras are just great. We can take hundreds of pictures and not worry about running out of film.

Tomorrow we cross over the Big Mac--Mackinaw Bridge--and re-enter the land of the trolls (folks who live under the bridge, also known as FUDGIES).

We will be staying at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant. We are going to try and get into the RV park if it is possible. Monday we will be back in Brighton--coming full-circle--from where we started on July 05, 2011. We will leave Brighton Wednesday for North Carolina...

WOW, is summer really almost over? This has been an excellent madien voyage for the Coachmen and the Dodge. I believe that when we pull into the driveway in Bunnlevel, NC we will have traveled nearly 2800 miles. We have traveled more often than we plan to as full-timers,but we wanted to see how the equipment and ourselves, would stand up to rigorous use. We have learned so much from our voyage.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tahquemenon Falls State Park

July 13 & 14

We rested for awhile at Van Riper State Park in Champion,Michigan--about 14 miles west of Ispheming. It is a great park, but we had trouble locating water? Most Michigan State Parks do not have on site water and you need a 2-5 gallon container if you holding tanks are not filled.

We left Van Riper at 10:30 A.M. and headed for Pictured Rocks. We wanted to stay at the Munising Community Park but they were booked. So rather than staying at a private park, we opted to head for Tahquemenon Falls State Park between Newberry and Paradise, Michigan. We are glad we did. Munising is a nice park, but more open than we like. The state park is nicely wooded and generally more entertaining.

We are going to Sault Ste. Marie in the morning. There are cruise boats that take you through the locks for $21 per person.

We are going off to make dinner and then showers before we review the pictures we took today. Being on the road 24/7 definitely requires a new mind set from touring.

Tim and Mary

On the road in Tahquemenon Falls State Park

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

There no such thing as a bad Pasty...


We are finally in the Keweenaw, or the Wolf’s Mouth as native Yoopers call it. We Michiganders like to name the different parts of our state. There has been summer heat in North Carolina since early April. I know that is nothing to cry about, but I was craving some cooler weather. We had to drive above the 48th parallel to find it.

Our maiden voyage is going pretty good. So far no major arguments and the only major problem was the starter going out. That was not fun, but we fixed it and all is good. Today did feel like we were on a dream vacation. It was a beautiful day. The temps were about 60 degrees and great for walking.

We started out in the town of Copper Harbor. Its just about a mile from Fort Wilkins State Part where we are staying. We had a great lunch, fresh white fish for me and a pasty for Tim. A patsy is like a pot pie but not. Most Yoopers drink about a six pack of beer with their pasty, it’s a local seven course meal. After lunch we walked down to the shore line of Lake Superior. There really is something about this lake. I almost feel like I could look up and see one of the characters from Last Of The Mohicans canoeing across the water. It is very pristine.

From there we drove back to Fort Wilkins State Park. We visited the fort. It is on Lake Fanny Hooe. I am not sure if Hooe is pronounced like “hoe” or “who.” Either way the name is just to much fun to care. The fort had been restored to museum condition. 19 of the original 24 buildings are still standing. 12 of those are original to the fort.

When we left the fort Tim decided to drive to the END of the Keweenaw. About three miles from the state park, hwy 41 ends after about 2000 miles. The other end of hwy 41 is in Miami Florida. Someday we are going to have to get a snap shot there too.

From there on its dirt road. About 7 miles of jaw crunching, kidney popping dirt road. I do not think there is a way to get there in a car. The dodge 2500 was in 4 wheel drive most of the way and that was with the roads in good condition.

Going in we didn’t know if we were going to even get to see what we hoped was a once in a life time view.

The drive was worth it.

There is something absolutely magical about this place at the end of nowhere.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Way off the beaten path, eh?

Leaving Green Bay is a bit more hilly than I anticipated. It is also a LONG drive. Houghton is a great town. Across the river is HAncock. Leaving Hancock is the beginning of wilderness...almost absoulte WILDERNESS. There are bits and pieces of the old mining industry everywhere. Small miner camps, and even a few old miner towns. Half way between Copper HArbor and Houghton is Calumet. This town is still thriving in the wilderness of Keewanaw. Mary counted 6-7 churches--dating back to the 1900s. Most looked to have been abandoned.

Coming into Fort Wilkins, it is a 25 mile drive from Calumet. The LAST stop for diesel is a small intersection of a town called Alleouz. There MIGHT be diesel at the Phoenix Store. There is gasoline available in Copper Harbor in the morniong hours between 9:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M or upon request by calling the owner at the telephone number listed on the door.

We are having lunch at the Tamarack Inn where there is Wi-Fi. Copper Harbor is also home to the Presque Isle ferry to the NAtional Park.

Too much to see and photograph. Will be posting again...

Tim and Mary

In the final frontier of Michigan

Copper Harbor...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Returning to vacation mode

We had a brief thunderstorm come through Green Bay last night. I slept through it. Our Lola the Plott hound is terrified this morning, as she always is after a storm.
After some blueberry and cherry pancakes, we are packing and heading to Copper Harbor this morning. The storms we had here in Green Bay are supposed to meet us in the Upper Peninsula by noon or so.
We are going out 41 / 141 from Green Bay. We would really love to stop before crossing the border and pick up some FRESH cheese curds.

Road ready warriors heading to Copper Harbor

Thanks goes out to Farm and Fleet In the Dells. Obviously they thought it would be best for mre to climb under the Dodge and replace the starter rather than one of their 2o something technicans>?

The Dodge is back up and running....we will be heading to Copper Harbor Michigan tomorrow morning.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Arrived at Bayshore PArk....finally

Well, the Dodge started after cooling down in Omro. We are set up here at Bayshore Park north of Green Bay. It is a great park. We plan to stay for 2 night (we have reservations in Copper Harbor Michigan for Monday night).

We are going to look for an autoparts store here in Green Bay / Door County and probably have to replace the starter ourselves on Monday. Good thing check out is 3:00 P.M.

Tom and Mary

Settled at Bayshore County Park in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Can we get just a little luck?

We picked up the Dodge at Farm and Fleet yesterday evening. They said it was all good and eveything checked out--including the starter. Hmmmmmm.
It started a little slow when I took it out of the parking lot but shrugged it off as being a low charge.

It started right up this morning as we left the Dells. After driving 130 miles to Omro, we are stopped for lunch. As soon as we turned off the Dodge I tried to start it and the starter refused to turn more than a groan. Guess the techs at Farm and Fleet were wrong? So we are finishing luch here at the Mickey D's (free Wi-Fi) trying to find a mechanic in Appleton or Green BAy that can replace the starter today or tomorrow. So far Craigslist has been little help. We did get in touch with a guy in Pulaski (NW of Green Bay) and he wasn't sure if he would be of much help beings he is 20-30 miles out of GB.

Mary is using this time to shop at the Piggly Wiggly next door. I am getting ready to make a few phone calls to try and get a mechanic who might be able to do this today--which is doubful as it is already 1:39 CMT....

Tim and Mary

Off the road in Omro, Wisconsin

Friday, July 8, 2011

Every journey has a little RAIN...

July 7 & 8, 2011

We pulled out of Shipshewana at 8:00 A.M. Thursday morning. We had fueled up the night before when we spotted diesel for $3.86 a gallon. I thought I could catch I-94 west after a short drive on the Indiana Toll Road. WRONG…the ramp for I 94 west was closed and the detour ended $14.00 and 25 miles later when we found ourselves on I-94 heading into downtown Chicago. Suddenly we were facing another toll of $14.00!! We pulled out an old I-Pass transponder I had used in 1997 and held it to the windshield. The light went green and we continued on our way. The traffic in Chicago is never easy, especially in a Dodge 2500 with a 33-foot 5er.
We made our way north and jumped on I-90 west towards Rockford, Illinois. By the time we left Illinois at the South Beloit toll, we had paid another $12 in tolls at 6 other toll-ways. Never again will we be on the toll roads of Chicago. In 2002, we paid .35 cents for each toll stop, for a total of $3.50. But to spend $26 in Chicago and another $14 in Indiana is outrageous I believe.

It has been nearly 9 years since we had been this way. Though I had traveled it more than 30 times in 1996, I had a difficult time remembering the route. We did remember the Cheese Shack we stopped at in December 2002 just as we were leaving the Madison city limits heading north.
As we were getting closer to the Dells, the landscape looked more like parts of North Carolina than the area around Janesville. We stopped just outside the Dells at a really nice rest area. We noticed immediately the Prairie School influence. Wisconsin’s native son—Frank Lloyd Wright, made this architectural concept famous.
Just as every maiden voyage looks like all is good, before things go bad, this was not going to be the exception. Now that the Coachmen was relatively happy, it was time for the Dodge to act out.
We had plans to spend 2 nights at Country Roads RV Park while exploring the Dells on Friday. After checking in at Country Roads, the Dodge decided it didn’t want to turn over. I thought for sure the batteries were toast. The engine S L O W L Y turned over—groaning with every turn. The great folks at Country Roads came to our aid and jumped started the Dodge. I worked the rest of the afternoon trying to charge the batteries (our park neighbors had a battery charger) and checking wires and alternator connections.
Today there was NO improvement in the Dodge’s condition. I managed to get it started with a jump, but the engine continued to resist. I now have it at Blain’s Farm and Fleet in Baraboo were they are putting in a new starter for $199 plus labor…OUCH…

Tim and Mary

In the Dells of Wisconsin

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Staying the course

July 07, 2011

As some of you may have read in our earlier blogs, we have our share of misadventures. Our Garmin hasn‘t always been point on. Typically, the 265WT was been used to give us ETA, distance to a point and help us find a location with the POI feature. The Garmin has also been very useful when we want to get off the main road yet continue in the general direction of our destination. Most of the time we know where we are going. But when we decide to get off the main route, the Garmin allows us to stay on course.

Now that summer is here, we have seen more threads discussing various gps . Many full-timers in larger rigs (coaches and behemoth 5ers) are using the 465T, the commercial trucker version. This unit is programmable with your height, length and weight to allow the 465 to keep you out of precarious situations.

Now Rand McNally, the renowned cartographers, have lent their expertise to a system designed specifically for the RV crowd. No one has any real experience with the RMVD as it has only recently been released in the last month or so. As we move closer to our full-time date of 2013, we will be looking at what other options will be available. The Garmin 265WT has been a great asset and has helped us out of more situations than it created---we still remember that detour it took us on in southern Virginia on roads few people have ever traveled--but we are more confident in our blue road travels with the Garmin.

Tim and Mary

On the road to Wisconsin

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shipshewana, Indiana

July 06, 2011

Started off a cool day with a hint of rain. By 10:00 A.M. it was full sun and getting hot. Mary and I headed to the Shipshewana Flea market on SR 5. If you have been, then you know what we were in for. If by chance you have yet to see Shipshewana’s Flea market, well maybe you aren’t missing too much.

Yesterday we had dinner at the Auction Restaurant located in front of the flea market / auction house. After talking with some other folks, they all had arrived at the same consensus as we had--It’s a great place for breakfast, but they do not do a good dinner. Mary had the haystack, which was described as an Amish type taco salad without the shell but nacho chips crunched over the top--resembling a haystack. I went with the grilled chicken salad.

The haystack was lukewarm and lacking the haystack look. It was smothered in too much Velveeta cheese and turned out to be just a bed of wet white rice, covered in hamburger, topped off with a ¼ pound of cheese. Just a runny mess.

My salad was salad. But it too was lukewarm, not really chilled. Which lead me to believe it was fresh and not stored in the fridge for 4 hours. But even the bleu cheese dressing was room temperature.
Not a dinner place, we might be willing to try breakfast should we return to this part of America.

Back to today’s adventures. We arrived at the flea market around 8:30 A.M. which is way early. This is also the cooler part of the day. The flea market covers almost 10 acres and it is a lot of walking to get around to all the sellers.

Before we left, we walked through the auction building. Here at 9:00 A.M. 5 or 6 different auctioneers start selling various antique and Amish goods--ALL AT THE SAME TIME. You can get in early about 7:00 A.M. to peruse the items and stake out the areas you are interested in bidding on. It helps if there are more than one in your party and you can call on cell phones to confirm any purchases or current bids for items.

We stopped at a roadside bakery on the way out of Shipshewana. Two young girls were selling cookies, pies, breads, and cakes. We purchased an apricot and raspberry single serving pies. They were “day old” and were 50% off the original price of $3.00. Needless to say the raspberry barely survived once we were in the Dodge. Our next stop is Elkhart to see a few surplus RV sales outlets.

Elkhart is about 24 miles from Shipshewana out SR 120. We were going to see Surplus RV Factory Sales on Bristol Street. We are looking for a sofa / recliner to replace the current sofa sleeper. We also would like very much to dump the blue sofa for a neutral or tan colored sofa.

There is a lot of stuff at the two outlets. But the majority of prices are higher than Camping World. No deals here. They had some nice sofas, but starting at $800 isn’t our idea of surplus outlet pricing.

We were told the best outlets were in Branson and Sturgis, just across the state line in Michigan. Maybe next time we visit we will make it a point to see the outlets in Michigan.

We leave tomorrow for a 7 hour drive to the Wisconsin Dells. We will also be looking for two 4-inch U-bolts that are approximately 10 inches in length to mount the PVC pipe, that is being used to house our sewer line, on the 4-inch square rear bumper.

Tim and Mary

On the road to Wisconsin.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Baby steps

July 05, 2011

Everyday we are in the Coachmen, we are thinking what needs to be done to live in it full-time 24/7. It would be difficult to just take a unit, load it up and pronounce ourselves full-timers waving our banner as we head down the blue roads.
As we have blogged in previous posts, I have been “camping” in some form since I was 5 years old. I lived on the road for 4 months with everything I owned bungeed to my Schwinn with 21 gears including a hyper granny gear that was somewhere around 10:1. Every time I pedaled one full revolution, the wheels turned 10 inches. I worked for almost 18 months to get the Schwinn, the equipment and myself ready for those 4 months 6,000 miles. Now Mary and I are going through the same process preparing the Coachmen for 24/7 living.
Mary was able to sit down and write out a checklist of what has to be done each time we break camp and pack up. We should have that up on our WEBSITE soon. We picked up some nifty Velcro &trade to strap the cabinets shut and keep them from binding in the slide. We have a 4-inch PVC pipe to store the sewer hose in while traveling. We have also realized we will need a 50 amp extension cord for those places we are just a bit too far from the power supply.

We left Brighton this morning around 9:30 A.M. Our first stop was a Sunoco station at exit 37A on US 23. It advertised diesel so we thought it could accommodate our truck and 5er---NOT. The diesel pump was at one side of the islands, the side we had to turn a tight right from the road to get into. Then immediately turn back to the left like an “S” turn. Getting out, we had everyone’s attention as the Dodge passenger side was up over the curb to keep the 5er from taking out the support beam. The 5er roadside was up over the pump island. Between the truck rocking and the 5er bouncing, destruction seemed imminent. But it all came out unscathed and we set off for our next stop.
We pulled into Cabela’s in Dundee, Michigan around 11:00 A.M. It had been a week since we dumped the tanks, and Cabela’s offered free use of their dump station. This is the first time I had been to this side of Cabela’s. They have a nice small lake with geese and small docks (not sure what they are used for as I believe there is NO swimming).

There is also a log cabin (the doors are locked) that adds to that home in the mountains feelings.

They also have dog kennels with a roof so your hounds or other dogs can rest outside while you shop.

After a snack and some water for the hounds, we headed out the back roads towards Adrian, Michigan.

Tim and Mary Johnson

Shipshewana Indiana

Monday, July 4, 2011

One less fix

Wrapping up and packing for the trip to Indiana. Looking at the Michigan Road map, we will head out on US 12 to M 66 South to Sturgis before pulling into Shipshewana North.

But first we have to run back to the big box store for plumber's putty to reseat the sink. The putty has dried and with the bumps and bounces, the sink is leaking enough to keep the floor damp--especially when the stop is in place and we are using the sink to wash dishes.

Tim and Mary

On the road to Indiana

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Scheduled maintenance

July 03, 2011

After the initial 800 miles of traveling, checking and repairing that which breaks while in motion, there is always the everyday maintenance that still needs to be done.
We will have to wait until Tuesday to get the replacement coverings for the holding tanks. We want to use a lightweight metal or aluminum in place of the ¼ inch under lament that was used from the factory. If it needs to be replaced we might as well use the most durable material available to us.
We also got down under the kitchen sink and noticed the wallpaper in the lower corner looked like it was getting wet. There was some water on the floor. Last week Mary saw some water on the tile along the cabinet base. We thought the dogs’ water might have tipped. When we found more water under the cabinet we realized it had to be coming from outside.
Since it hadn’t rained for 2 days, it was a mystery as to where the water was coming from. I walked to the curbside rear of the 5er and saw that water from the A/C unit was raining down the side and draining out against the edge of the unit. We had to wait for morning when the A/C would have been off long enough to let the side dry.
Today we did an over all inspection of the seams and seals. Grabbing a tube of latex caulk, we started sealing the corners. Though there are no other signs of water damage, we decided to do caulk all the windows as well. With the caulk dry and secure tomorrow, we will give the Coachmen a wash and wax before heading to Shipshewana on Tuesday.

Tim and Mary Johnson

On the road to Indiana Tuesday.

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's been 2 weeks

We have installed the laminate edge on the slide and will have the corner molding installed over the laminate / tile tomorrow.

I will be glad to get on the road come Tuesday. A few days to relax and do no remodeling or chores. To be travelers / tourists will be nice.

Adding personal touches

June 30, 2011

We have tiled the desktop. We also replaced the lights in the slide. The PO had two different lights, which almost worked when the divider was in place, but with it opened up into one space we felt the lights had to match.

The big box home retailer had just two or three that were flush enough to the ceiling with a pull chain. We picked one that had the jelly-jar look, but a cream colored base. We picked up a can or rattle paint in a hammered bronze finish. With the new paint, the lights have an industrial look.

We picked up molding for the front edge of the desk. We stained it walnut and applied one coat of urethane. It too will be installed tomorrow. On the back wall around the desk area we have installed 12 x 12 inch cork squares. We will add ¼ inch black elastic to hold photographs and other papers.