Road Trip 2021: The Long Distance Relationship

We left Trenton, Maine and headed for the Farmington/Chesterville area. We wound up staying at the Skowhegan/Kennebec Valley KOA; it was further away from our destination than I would have liked but it was an amazing campground that we would gladly stay at again. (My review is available here.) Our first stops were near sites we wanted to see, so what drew us to this area? Friendship.

When I was in high school, I had several pen pals – up to 21 at one point. Over time, that number dwindled to just one and we have now been writing for over 40 years. And, as you’ve probably guessed by now, my remaining pen pal lives in Maine. There was no way I was going to visit the state and not take advantage of the opportunity to meet. So, we exchanged (more) letters and phone numbers and I kept her apprised of when we would arrive. I have to admit, I was nervous. I’m shy and writing is easier for me than face-to-face interactions, but I shouldn’t have worried. Our meeting was… easy. You would think we had known each other for years, LOL.

Kenn and I spent a day with Ruth and her husband, John. We went out for lunch and then stopped for ice cream. We spent the remainder of our time just sitting around our campsite and talking. Ruth asked one of the campground employees to take our picture.

John, Ruth, Linda and Kenn

One of the souvenirs I collect when we travel is (are?) Christmas ornaments. Somehow, I got home from our trip without an ornament for Maine. I turned to Amazon (of course) in my search for a Maine ornament but wasn’t happy with the selection; many of them were too similar to ornaments that I already have. Then, inspiration struck and I turned to Shutterfly where I had the photo shown above printed on a metal ornament. I think it’s perfect and look forward to it gracing our tree in all the years to come.😊

Here’s hoping that it won’t take us another 40 years to get together again!

Until next time, here’s to friendships and happy trails!

Road Trip 2021: Bar Harbor, Maine

We left the Lubec, Maine area and headed to the Narrows Too Camping Resort in Trenton, Maine. The campground was an easy drive from both Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. (My review of the campground is available here.)

I have to admit that, in general, I’m not a fan of “touristy” towns like Bar Harbor; the sheer number of people everywhere overwhelms me. I’m not comfortable stopping to look at architecture (something I love) or anything else because stopping is a good way to get trampled. Of course, if we were going to be in Maine and within spitting distance of Bar Harbor, we had to go. (We actually went twice.🙄) It was every bit as stressful as I expected it to be. The roads were narrow with vehicles parked down both sides which meant a big truck like Ruby was practically in the middle of the road. Parking was difficult to find. We found a park at the far end of town and parked there during both of our visits.

We did stumble across a really cool restaurant in Bar Harbor – Route 66. Route 66 features a lot of things I love: old architecture, high ceilings, stained glass windows, and vintage tchotchkes. The food was pretty good too.😉 We sat in the loft area of the restaurant which wasn’t crowded at all and gave us a good vantage point from which to view everything. It was a great place to relax, refuel, and prepare to take on the crowds again.

Route 66 interior. So cool!
Vintage tchotckes at Route 66
Fried mac and cheese bites. Yum!

While I may not like touristy towns I did take advantage of our visits to Bar Harbor to buy souvenirs and a few Christmas gifts. When in Rome, right?🤷‍♀️

We only planned three nights, two full days in the area. It rained the first full day which gave us an unexpected but much needed down day. The second full day we reserved for Acadia National Park but I’ll save that post for next week.

Until next time, happy trails!

Road Trip: The Wheels on the Trailer Go Round and Round

We have had our Micro Lite since January 2019; prior to our recently completed road trip it had less than 3,000 miles on it. In just under a month, we added almost 5,000 miles. Needless to say, this extended “shake down” revealed a few issues and we came home with a list of repairs to be made. However, the first – and biggest – issue was a major one.

Yep. We had a blowout. These tires were the original equipment and one of the main recommendations in the travel trailer groups I’m in is to replace the original tires as soon as possible for a couple of reasons. First, manufacturers by tires in bulk and they may sit in a warehouse for 2-3 years before being placed on your trailer. Second, the original tires are frequently called “China bombs” for their supposed country of origin and propensity for blowouts. We discussed replacing the tires before our road trip but that discussion was as far as it went. I was driving on I-81 near Frackville, Pennsylvania when this happened. However, when I think back on this incident, I count my blessings:

  • This section of I-81 wasn’t busy and we weren’t surrounded by semis like we had been in Virginia
  • Our Micro Lite has two axles so we still had three tires to keep us rolling (slowly)
  • I was approaching an exit where I was able to get off the interstate and pull onto the shoulder where we could inspect the damage
  • There was a whole lot of nothing at this exit but we saw signs for a Cracker Barrel and limped our way there and availed ourselves of their RV parking while we changed the tire. (We also treated ourselves to lunch. At this point we both needed and deserved a break.)
  • While we ate, I did a quick internet search and found Ken’s Tires less than two miles away in Frackville. My Kenn gave them a call and they had a tire in stock that could become our new spare. Our server gave us directions (including drawing a map) and, once we finished lunch, we made the trip to Ken’s Tires and had the new tire installed on the wheel. They had us back on the road in less than 30 minutes.

So, with one disaster averted, we began a renewed discussion on what to do with the remaining tires: try to find somewhere to have them replaced while we were on the road or wait until we got home. We decided we’d feel better if we went ahead and got the remaining tires replaced. We were flying by the seat of our pants for most of this trip – the only reservations we had made in advance were in Lubek, Maine. We couldn’t afford to get off the road in search of new tires and miss our arrival date. Lubek is a tiny town but we knew one of our next stops would be in Farmington, Maine and there were several places to buy tires in that area. Kenn settled on Tire Warehouse in Farmington and the phone calls began.😂 (Kyle and Brandi deserve some sort of award for all of the calls from Kenn that they patiently fielded over the next several days.) The GE Endurance tires that we wanted are back-ordered and wouldn’t be available until February 2022 so it was onto another brand. After much research, Kenn settled on Hankook tires and Kyle was able to get them in prior to our arrival in Farmington. When we arrived at Tire Warehouse, the staff replaced and balanced our tires and had us back on the road in about 30 minutes. Oh, and as for our decision to go ahead and replace the tires while we were on the road… the technician changing our tires sliced his hand on the exposed steel belt on one of the other tires. So, we had at least one more blowout in the making. Yikes.😬

Stay tuned for more (probably not as exciting, LOL) posts about our road trip over the next few weeks. Until next time, happy trails and check those travel trailer tires y’all!

Meals on the Go

I have a love/hate relationship with cooking. It doesn’t come naturally or easily to me and it’s never been something that I have particularly enjoyed. That said, I did the cooking for the first few years of our marriage; Kenn took over a few years in. (I think he was tired of watching me stress out over every meal, bless his heart.) However, once I retired, it was only fair that I take over the responsibility once again. Less than a year later, the pandemic hit and eating out was no longer an option. Cooking may not be fun for me, meal planning is even less so. We had used the Hello Fresh meal kit subscription a few years ago and decided to sign up once again. Using Hello Fresh works for me on two levels: one, it gives us a chance to try things we normally wouldn’t and two, that’s two less meals I have to plan each week. Surprisingly, I’ve also discovered that I enjoy the prep work; I don’t mind getting in the kitchen and zesting, chopping, an mincing up a storm.

Now, we are planning our first long road trip with the travel trailer which means meal planning without the assistance of Hello Fresh. It also means meal planning within the limited storage of a travel trailer. We sat down and listed a few of our favorite meals and the ingredients of each. I know we’ll eat out occasionally during our trip. After all, part of the travel experience is trying new/regional foods. (My love of all things huckleberry is a direct result of our 2019 road trip. It’s too bad we don’t have huckleberries here in the South.) However, we know that we have a tendency to repeat the same handful of meals over and over. Pasta also features frequently since it’s so easy to prepare.

Image courtesy of Depositphotos.com

So, dear reader, I need your help. What are some of your favorite meals to prepare when you’re on the road? Do you have any cookbooks or online resources to recommend? (Insert puppy dog eyes here)

Until next time, happy trails!

This is a Stickup

You can put your hands down, it’s not that kind of stickup. 😀 Maybe I should say this is a stick “on”. If you’ve spent any time at beaches, campgrounds, or trailheads you’ve encountered vehicles whose rear was covered in decals and bumper stickers espousing the things that are important to the vehicle owner(s) and commemorating the locations they’ve visited. Our Highlander, Bonnie, was well on her way to becoming one of those vehicles. (Now that Bonnie has a home with my daughter-in-law, she is sticker free. Bonnie, that is, not my daughter-in-law. Although, technically my daughter-in-law is also sticker free.)

Kenn is a minimalist when it comes his Tacoma, Paco. Paco has no stickers or bumper stickers. Now that I have Ruby the Big Red Truck, I seem to be the same. So far, Ruby has no decals or bumper stickers and I don’t see this changing any time soon. (She is sporting an N7 license plate on the front in support of Mass Effect, my favorite video game series.) However, the same can’t be said for our travel trailers. We have added stickers for many of the various campgrounds we’ve visited to each of them. One of biggest decisions is where to put the decals. On our Micro Lite the decals are going around the window on the slide. I still have several decals I need to apply. I guess I need to set up a reminder to get out and get it done some morning before the good old Georgia heat and humidity kicks in.

Yay! Captions are working again!

A few years ago I gave Kenn one of the US maps many RVers use to show the states they’ve traveled to. We never got around to putting it on our RPOD which I guess worked out for the best since we would have had to purchase another one for our Micro Lite. However, we need to put it in place before we head out on our road trip this Fall. Of course, that means we have to decide where we’re going to put it which is where we stumble.

Map available from Amazon.com

Do you have the state map? If so, where did you place it?

Tips for Travel Trailer Newbies

Kenn and I purchased our first travel trailer in 2014. We’ve learned a lot over the ensuing years – usually the hard way. The purpose of this post is to share what we’ve learned so you don’t make the same mistakes we did. (Don’t worry, there are plenty of other mistakes you can make, LOL.)

  • First and foremost, you need to make sure the vehicle you plan to use to tow your travel trailer is up to the job. Don’t just focus on the dry weight of your camper; you’ll need to take into consideration the weight of the items (food, clothes, etc.) that you will be carrying. If you plan on dry camping, you’ll need to take into consideration the added weight of water in your fresh water tank. (Note: Water is heavy, y’all.)
  • If your travel trailer’s power cord doesn’t have a built in surge suppressor, buy a stand alone! We learned this lesson the hard way with our first travel trailer. We got hit with a power surge on our first trip which meant our trailer spent the next several weeks at the local dealer for repairs. This was followed by several more weeks at the shop when it turned out the initial repairs were incomplete.
  • Make sure you have a jack that is rated for the weight of your travel trailer. We had no need for a jack until we had a blowout on our second travel trailer. This is when we learned that our new trailer didn’t have a jack. Rest assured, once we got back home and recuperated, Kenn made a trip to Harbor Freight and corrected this oversight.
  • Roadside assistance is a great idea. Both of the travel trailers we’ve purchased new have come with a year of roadside service. Unfortunately, it had expired by the time our blowout occurred. If roadside assistance hadn’t also been available as a part of our insurance I’m not sure what we would have done. (Even with the roadside assistance, sitting by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in the Georgia heat for four hours was no fun. I was pretty close to heat exhaustion by the time the tire was replaced and we were back on the road.)
  • Make sure the hitch is latched. This seems obvious, but we bounced our travel trailer off the hitch three times before we got into the habit of quadruple-checking. We were fortunate that none of the instances occurred on busy roads but it was still stressful. Now we both check multiple times before we pull out.
  • In addition to checking the hitch (again), make sure all of the storage hatches are closed and locked, the stairs are up, and the door(s) are closed and locked with the safety bar in place. Even though we call ourselves doing all of these things, there have been two or three times we’ve had a good Samaritan call our attention to a problem while we’ve been driving down the road. (Thank you good Samaritans!)
  • Invest in a box of disposable gloves. Emptying the gray and black water tanks is never going to be a fun process but at least gloves make it a little more sanitary.
  • Make a checklist. Since we had a tendency to forget the same things over and over, Kenn made a checklist for us. Not only does it include items for the travel trailer such as the things I’ve listed here, it includes common food items such as olive oil, salt, and pepper, and clothing items such as jackets and hiking boots with plenty of blanks for us to add items specific to each trip.
  • Cut yourself – and any traveling companions – some slack. No matter how much you plan and double-check, there’s always something that can happen. When it does, you’ll get through it. It might not be fun, and it might not be easy, but it will be okay. (I’m still working on this one. When I get stressed, I get snippy/snarky so this is totally a “do as I say, not as I do” moment, LOL.)
  • Most importantly, have fun. After all, isn’t that the whole reason behind having a travel trailer?

Do you have a travel trailer? What tips would you add to this list?

Review: Tallulah Gorge State Park

Tallulah Gorge State Park is located in Rabun County in extreme northeast Georgia. Tallulah Gorge is one of the parks that we have made many day trips to through the years but September 2020 was our first time camping there. We stayed in Site 36 which I dubbed “the worst site in the park.” This site itself was fine; it was a corner site with access from two directions. So, what made it so bad? The tiny clump of trees at the corner which meant that no matter which direction you chose, the travel trailer would have to be at a ninety degree angle to the tow vehicle in order to back into the site. We’ve had a travel trailer for several years now but backing into a site can still be a test of the strength of our marriage; this one stressed both of us. However, in spite of our stress levels – and the guy who decided he had to drive through our site while we were backing in (seriously, dude?) – the process went easier than we expected. The campground host came over after we got set up and told us that we had done a good job; I really appreciated that.

There are lots of things to do at Tallulah Gorge and they all involve hiking/walking. There is a suspension bridge, a rim trail with several scenic overlooks and the gorge floor. Gorge floor hikes require a free permit that must be picked up from the interpretive center on the day of your hike; permits are limited to 100 per day. Also, those planning to hike the gorge must wear proper footwear, meaning no Crocs or flip flops. I highly recommend the gorge hike if you get the opportunity.

We did the gorge hike with our boys when they were young. Close to the end of the hike we had to work our way across the river so we could climb out the other side. Our oldest son still insists that we almost let him “wash out to sea”. He was actually safely tucked away in a small pool. It was his younger brother who was headed over a small falls. We snagged him before he went over but life was exciting for a few minutes, LOL. Ah, memories! On another note, I wouldn’t trade being a “boy mom” for anything.

One thing to remember when visiting Tallulah Gorge or any outdoor location in Georgia is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Our visit was in September which is when the brutal temperatures of August are behind us and things begin to cool off. However, “cool” is a relative term. Temps in the 80s (Fahrenheit) with a humidity level of 60-80% is brutal for those of us who live here much less those who aren’t used to such high humidity.

Note: For some reason, WordPress decided not to let me caption my photos. (insert eye roll here) The first photo is, obviously, Tallulah Falls. The second one is from underneath the suspension bridge. Why? Just because I like geometry of the supports.

Until next time, happy trails!

A Change in Plan(ner)s

I didn’t get to travel much when I was young so Kenn and I wanted to make sure our boys had a chance to see a little more of the world. We couldn’t afford to take them on cruises or jet off to international locations but we could at least get them out of the house and introduce them to the sort of places that we love. (They would probably say we took them hiking far too many times, LOL.)

Time and money management were always important on our trips so I planned everything down to the nth degree. I researched the locations we were planning to visit, booked the hotel rooms/cabins, and planned out our activities for each day. Looking back, I may have occasionally over-planned, but it was a labor of love.

Keeping up with details, planning, and organizing are just a part of me and have served me well both at home and at work. However, I think the last four years of my day job sort of burned me out. I enjoyed what I did but it required an extreme amount of organization; my days were ruled by a schedule that was usually booked at least a week in advance. Now that I’m retired, I’m enjoying having flexible days without having to account for every minute of my time.

Somehow, without our even discussing it, Kenn came to my rescue because he is now the one doing most of the planning for our trips. We decide together where we are planning to go and when and he handles making the reservations. I’m still the money manager but I’m happy not having to deal with all of the details.

We cancelled our road trip plans last year due to the pandemic but this year we are fully vaccinated and ready to hit the road. We’ll be taking a trip up the east coast this fall. This will be our first time traveling long distances with our travel trailer so I’m sure we’ll be learning many lessons along the way which, of course, I’ll share here. 🙂 As proof of his new role as Chief Trip Organizer, we already have reservations at a campground in Maine. Go, Kenn!

Until next time, happy trails!