Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nitty Gritty on Trip Planning

Consuelo and I have gotten down to the nitty gritty details of our trip-planning. We’ve spent the last 4 or 5 days with our heads together and both notebook computers burning up the internet.  And we really appreciate the suggestions readers have sent us... there is so much to see and do!

I sometimes make fun of Consuelo and her unfathomable (to me, at least) need to be organized, but after our Fall Foliage trip, I’m a true believer in her methods. She’s created a spreadsheet itinerary to outline our trip—from the day we leave home until we meet up with the Alaska Caravan Tour—then from when we finish with the tour, until the day we get home. Her spread sheet reflects where we’ll be spending each night, how many miles we’ll travel each day, how much it will cost us for campground fees, and if we’ve already made reservations. Of course, we’ve agreed that we will depart from this itinerary whenever we want to… we want to enjoy the freedom to change our minds and so the itinerary will provide us an “anchor” but not a ball and chain! And we’ll be giving a copy to friends and family so they will have an idea of our whereabouts.

For popular family vacation spots like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone, we’re making our reservations now! We don’t want to be disappointed because we can’t get a site at a popular park. With the exception of one place, we can pretty much get our deposits back with only a couple days notice and so this approach is the best of both worlds – peace of mind and flexibility.

Whoever would have thought all this planning would be so much work? But we believe our efforts will pay off with a truly great RV escape—it certainly was worth all the work on our Fall Foliage trip. Planning the Fall Foliage trip was simple compared to this undertaking… 3000 miles in 3 weeks versus 15,000 miles in 23 weeks!

This trip planning effort has also allowed us time to look into ways to save money here and there, such as…
  • Many military bases and facilities have small campgrounds, called FamCamps, with full hookups and, since they’re located on base, most offer many extra amenities such as laundry, grocery store, fuel station and other things we wouldn’t use (like golf courses, swimming pools, athletic gyms, etc). Since we’re both retired from the Air Force, there’s no problem in staying in these places; they’re usually far more affordable than most private campgrounds. Military FamCamps are typically available to Active Duty members, Guard and Reserve troops, Retired military, and DoD civilians.  Check out this web site for more information:
  • The Army Corps of Engineers operates many low-cost campgrounds with at least basic amenities. You can purchase Camping With the Corps of Engineers: The Complete Guide to Campgrounds Owned and Operated by the U.s. Army Corps of Engineers through Amazon.
  • Boondocking is a not-to-be-overlooked option. See the Resource links posted on the right side of our Blog.
We also realize that traveling back and forth across the Canadian border with two large dogs could present some challenges – of course Alaskan Discovery RV Tours had already advised us about the necessary veterinary paperwork required for each dog. But Consuelo had received an email from a friend who works in the dog agility competition circuit and she warned that Canadian customs would seize any open bags of dog food. So, I started researching to find what I could about visiting Canada with dogs in tow. After looking at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website, and not really finding answers to my questions, I submitted an inquiry and received a very polite email response within a couple of days. Here’s what it boils down to: We can only bring dog food that will be fed to the animal that accompanies us across the border; the food must be commercially prepared in the United States; it must be in its original package (they said nothing about it having to be sealed); and we are limited to 20kg, which is about 44lbs. That last bit may require some careful thought on our part, these 2 big dogs chow through their food pretty quickly! And I guess we won’t be dumping big bags of dog food into plastic containers to keep it fresh like we usually do…

Meanwhile, we’re continuing with our house cleaning efforts and getting ready for a trip to Key West. Yay… sunshine and warmth! We’ll be in Key West with some friends for about a week… not with the RV, however. Once we get back from Key West, we’ll have about 4 weeks until we leave on Our Great RV Escape!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We’re Making Progress…

Our spring cleaning efforts are still underway and we’ve been making some good progress sorting items out for donation and sale. We’ve sold a lot of items on Craig’s List and a few things on eBay. Craig’s List has become Consuelo’s new best friend! We continue to be astounded at how well things are selling. We listed a 9 year old Kyocera cell phone and got it sold in three days… OK, we only sold it for $5 but still it’s great to “place” these items rather than send them to the landfill.

Yesterday, Consuelo listed the big plastic cargo box we used as a camping tote on our Fall Foliage trip. Not 5 minutes after she had posted it, her phone rang and the man came by in less than an hour to pay her for it and take it away!

We’re still waiting for the weather to get warmer before we tackle the basement…. East Tennessee is experiencing a most unusually cold winter, making us all the more impatient to get this house cleaning behind us and depart on Our Great RV Escape! Consuelo keeps bursting into song, singing ‘”I want to be freeee!” – not sure what that’s all about :-)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cleaning Out Closets and Drawers. Oh My!

So, we’ve started a MAJOR spring cleaning effort, with our impending trip as the reward for this tedious hard work.

Who would’ve thought two people could accumulate so much stuff? We’ve only been in this house for about six years. And we’re making incredible finds in the backs of closets and bottoms of drawers. Admittedly, I ‘m a bit of a pack rat, and a lot of the accumulated crap is my fault. I also have to admit that it feels good to get rid of a lot of this stuff that’s just been sitting around for years. We’re throwing away, sorting stuff for donation and turning sales on Craig’s List and eBay into a fulltime job... Consuelo, with her mysterious need for organization, is turning cleaning house into a lucrative pastime. We decided to burn all of the music CDs into iTunes so we can enjoy via the ipod during our RV travels. By backing up iTunes onto an external hard drive and two separate computers, we feel comfortable selling the entire CD collection. Consuelo spent about 8 days straight working on this project (we had about 375 CDs!).

Although all of this has been a stressful ordeal in terms of the quantity of stuff we need to sort through, in some ways it’s been fun – kind of a reminiscent trip down memory lane: like when we discovered our old ski pants, the ones we wore more than 20 years ago, when we were learning how to ski in Germany… and we realized how tiny and cute we used to be and we laughed when it dawned on us why all those guys used to love to go skiing with us!

We’ve got the closet in the dining room done, the hallway coat closet almost done, the buffet in the dining room cleared out and the cabinet in the laundry room empty. And we’ve made a big dent in the library by moving many of the CDs –so there’s progress…We’ve still got the upstairs to do—closets and dressers (all those clothes… dreading that) and the basement – which will be the biggest, dirtiest part of the job… but we’ve agreed to wait ‘til the weather warms up a little bit – way too cold right now, bad enough that there’s cobwebs and dead crickets down there, we don’t want to deal with that in 30 degree temperatures!

Consuelo is starting to get a crazed look in her eyes.  I think she’s tired of all this - she muttered something today about missing her job! Ha, ha...