Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Preliminary Route and Campgrounds (maybe)

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

I've decided on a preliminary route with campgrounds from here to Bayfield, Wisconsin. 
Preliminary route and campgrounds
Once I decided on the destination (Bayfield, WI), I had to choose a route to get there. There were a couple of options to choose between. One was to go to Memphis and then head north. I eliminated that one because I've been on large portions of that route before and was wanting to cut some new trails. I couldn't head due north or that would take me through the Ozark Mountains. They are nice to visit but I planned to pass through and Arkansas doesn't have a very good north-south route, yet. Interstate 49 will eventually solve that problem on the western side of the state but that is several years down the road. I was then left with swinging a little west into Oklahoma and then head north towards Minnesota before angling over to Wisconsin. I've been in Oklahoma a couple of times and said in the past I would not be back anytime soon due to the incessant wind that always blows through that state. But if I'm heading north, and don't want to go through Arkansas or swing wide to the east, I'll have to back up on what I said and head to Oklahoma.

The main program I use to develop a route is Good Sam's Route Planner. I'm sure there are others just as good or better, but I'm familiar with this one and familiarity trumps a lot of things. I don't use it exclusively because it doesn't include everything I need. Some of the other programs are Allstays, RVParkReviews, Passport America, and of course Google Earth. Once I see a possible campground, I'll use Google Earth to zoom in and look at it from above. If it is totally wooded, I'll pass of that campground. I've been in some campgrounds with overhanging limbs which make it hard to maneuver and I don't like camping with tree limbs overhanging Liberty. I know a lot of people are looking for shady sites but I'll take an open sky site anytime since my AC works just fine (after I had the front one fixed about a month ago). Google Earth will also give me a good idea about the roads leading into the campground. Most of the time I can go down to a road view to actually see the road. You have to look at the date of the video to see how current it is. Sometimes it is several years old but mostly it is up to date. Remember that if you can see a painted edge line on the roadway, that generally means the lanes are at least 11 feet wide.   

My first choice of campgrounds are always federal, state, local or casino campgrounds. These are usually reasonably priced and generally are laid out logically with easy access. Some of the older state parks are too small for Freedom and Liberty. After that group, I'll look at privately owned parks using Passport America first since they offer 50% off on their campgrounds. Some have a lot of date restrictions so you have to look at each campground. Also, Passport America doesn't verify the condition of the campgrounds they have in their program. Some are pure trashy while others are resorts. You have to be careful since the last thing you need is a surprise at the end of a travel day. Checking the condition of the campground is another job for Google Earth and RVParkReview. Next is Good Sam's campgrounds. They offer 10% off of their campgrounds and are most always in pretty decent condition. As a last resort, I'll use KOA. They are more expensive but almost always well maintained. 

My first stop will be a Corps of Engineer's (COE) campground on Lake Hugo, near Hugo, OK. I'll buy my Senior Pass there. I have two options (life is all about having options). One is a $80.00 lifetime pass or a $20.00 annual pass. These passes gives me free entry into National Parks, National Monuments, etc. It also gives me 50% off of campground fees at federal campgrounds like COE Campgrounds. I have opted to go with the $20.00 pass since I have a hard time predicting the future and am unsure I'll need a pass four years from now. I hope I will, and if I do, I'll buy another annual one. I'll save at least $20.00 on my first stay at a COE campground.

The route and campgrounds I've chosen may change but generally they should be OK. I'll start making reservations in a few more days and that may make me do some changes. I know the campground in Iowa doesn't have any vacancies on Friday's or Saturday's for the entire summer. I'll have to make adjustments in my travel times accordingly. Also the final campground is a first come, first serve campground so it is a big unknown if I'll even have a campsite when I get there. I'll try to time that one for a weekday as well.

I'll also adjust my travel as to the weather. I'll be going through tornado country and will have to keep a sharp eye out on the forecasts. I really like the National Weather Service's, Weather Prediction Center program. It is very accurate in predicting the movement of weather fronts but is only for a 2 1/2 day window. There is also a link on that page to goes to a 7 day outlook that is a little less reliable but mostly OK. For short range prediction and current weather, I like Accuweather. There have been several times when I have driven down the road while keeping an eye on Accuweather radar to see where the storms were located. I've sped up or slowed down to avoid them.

My take off date is still set for the 12th of June, plus or minus a day or two. How is that for commitment. But like some fulltime RV'ers say, their "travel plans are made in jello."  

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Back On The Road in a Couple of Weeks

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

Well, let me see if I remember how to make a blog post since it's been a few months. It is difficult for me to make a post when I'm not traveling. That will hopefully be changing in a couple of weeks. Brandon has been improving continuously as a result of his heart by-pass surgery (end of November) and the start of his nightly home kidney dialysis (first of January). It has now become a waiting game for a pancreas/kidney transplant. About a month ago, Brandon went "active" on the national transplant list but immediately went "in-active". At first, that sounds silly but there was a reason for it. When he went active, that meant he was active in the national computer register for transplants and all of his transplant data was entered. That is also called, "getting on the list" and is a very big step in the process. The reason for his "in-active" status was a lung scan back in the spring showed a spot on one of his lungs. It wasn't noticed at first because it was small but was found during the transplant teams double checking of all tests. There were two choices, either do a biopsy or wait six months from the time of the first scan so another scan could be performed to see if the spot grew in size or shape. Everyone was in favor of the second option. We are only slightly concerned about the spot since it was previously found about thirteen years ago when Brandon had his heart stints installed. He was supposed to have gone back to have a follow-up scan done back then but somehow he inherited some "hard-headedness" (from his mother) and never followed-up. Apparently it hasn't grown since it is still considered very small. We considered trying to get the thirteen year old scan from the Houston hospital but figured it would be just as well to wait the short time and do a follow-up scan here. That scan should be done sometime in June. If the scan shows an OK situation, then he will go "active" again. I keep a check on the waiting list online for the transplant center that Brandon will use. They currently have 21 people on the pancreas/kidney (P/K) list with 15 of those being active. The center has only performed 3 P/K transplants this year after doing 17 transplants in 2017. But the good news is the dialysis is working great and Brandon's physical condition has improved since starting it. Also, after all of the required tests by the transplant team, Brandon is in excellent health and is a good candidate for a transplant. The transplant will solve his diabetes and kidney failure problems leaving him with only the residual effects of the two strokes. He still has his usual good attitude about everything and is emotionally, mentally and physically in pretty good condition considering everything he has been through. 

So, after talking it over with Brandon, I've decided to hit the road for a while. If not, it would be as if I was hovering over him which wouldn't be good for either of us. It will also allow me to escape the hot and humid summer here in Louisiana. My preliminary leaving date is June 12th and this blog and the ones to follow prior to me leaving will be used to document how I go about planning for a trip. Now there are several different ways to go about planning such a trip and this is simply my way. Some full-timers just point their rigs in a direction and start driving until they get tired and then stop in a campground or a Walmart parking lot. That way is not for me. I guess it is the old engineer in me, but I like planning and it can be fun to do it. So it will be interesting to me to put my planning process in this blog and I hope other find it interesting also.   

So, one of the first big decisions is where to go, where to go? The way I travel is to find a destination point that is far away, say 1,000 miles or so, then look at various ways of getting there. It is never a straight line. I try to limit my moves between campgrounds to about 200 miles or so. So if the destination point is 1,000 miles away, I need to find four campgrounds scattered out along the way. I'll try to find the campgrounds near places I want to see but what I have found most often is to find a good campground first, then look for things to see within about a 50 mile radius of the campground. I'll stay at a campground a minimum of 2 nights unless I'm deadheading somewhere which is very rare for me now-a-days.  

So what will be the long range destination this time. Some in the past were Bangor, Maine when I first hit the road. Then it was Crater Lake in Oregon followed by Glacier National Park. It has been difficult for me to settle on a destination this time. Definitely not a southerly destination since it's too hot this time of year. To reach cooler weather I need to go either northeast towards the New England states or northwest towards the Pacific northwest or just head due north until the weather cools off. I thought about those places and eliminated the northeast since I didn't want to get into the heavily populated places. I don't mind them that much and can handle them OK, but I'm just not in the mood for it. I looked seriously at going to the northwest again, but it meant passing through some of the places I have already been. Remember, it is 800 miles just to get across Texas. I wanted to see the Big Bend Area of Texas, but by leaving so late in the year, it will be too hot for me and will have to wait for cooler weather. That left me heading due north. I then remembered an old destination that I never made it to. After leaving Glacier National Park in 2015, I was headed for the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior when I got the call about Brandon's first stroke and turned south while in South Dakota and dead-headed back to Louisiana. Well, I checked, and sure enough, it is much cooler on Lake Superior than it is in Louisiana. Yeah, I know, I really didn't need to check but I wanted to know some numbers. I have a nice website that gives me all the climate data for all the major cities and county seats in the U.S. so I checked for Bayfield, Wisconsin and found the average July temperatures are 77 degrees during the day and 56 degrees at night. That will be 15 degrees cooler than in Louisiana. 

To summarize: Bayfield, Wisconsin will be my new long range destination point and I'll be pulling out around June 12th. That leaves me about 2 weeks to prepare. 

A quick preliminary check-list:
1) Determine my route and campground stops. Make reservations since the word has been spreading among RV'ers that campground sites are going quickly and first come-first serve is risky.
2) Find things to do around the campgrounds I choose. This will determine how long I stay at each campground. 
3) Take Freedom to the dealer for servicing and a quick once over. 
4) Clean Liberty and get her ready for traveling. This will take longer than usual since everything inside of her is scattered everywhere. Once traveling, when I  decide to move I can be rolling in about 45 minutes. 
5) Order some new sewer hoses and water hoses since they have been laying around in the sun for 6 months. 
6) Stock up on coffee, paper products (towels, plates, bowl, toilet paper, kleenix), plasticware, dawn, Lysol wipes, bug spray, etc. I know I can get these on the road and will replenish as needed but I want to stock up now. 

This post is getting long and the check list will grow. I usually write it down on a white board I have hanging on a wall. Oh well, this is enough for now. The next post should be in a day or so and should include my proposed route. 

One sign an RV has been parked too long. A bird began building this nest on my ladder. I haven't seen the bird yet, so not sure what kind it is. 

Another sign. A bluebird built her nest in the void above my kingpin. I've seen this bluebird coming and going for a month or so. I think she may be finished.

One good reason for being parked so long is to see Olivia play wee-ball. My daughter took his picture. I think it looks like some of those black and white pictures at the end of the movie, "A League of Their Own". 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.