Wednesday, October 2, 2019


We're off!

The significance of this post's title: our starting odometer reading.

Anyone want to guess how many miles we'll drive in a year? I'm thinking somewhere between 15k and 25k, but who knows?

Launch day, Sept 30th, was nuts. Besides preparing to head off in the RV, we also had to close up our seasonal cottage, which is a fair amount of work. Naturally, we procrastinated and left many chores until the last minute. (We were also enjoying time with friends and family right up until the night before our scheduled launch, so really, no regrets.) When Monday morning rolled around however, we were car-less, having left it with our Somerville condo neighbors the day before (thank you Jack and Kristin!). This made some preparations a bit more challenging, since the RV was parked down the hill at the Summer Village guest lot. We still needed to move most of our clothes over (after doing last minute laundry) as well as the contents of our fridge and freezer, and a variety of this-n-that! Fortunately the Summer Village gatekeeper was OK with Mark driving Wandah right up next to the cottage, for dozens of back-and-forth provisioning trips. Overall, it was a hectic start, and our original plan to leave at noon turned into a 2:30 departure, but we did it!

Enough kvetching already! Once on the road, we had an easy trip to Rhode Island, and spent the evening rearranging the disaster we'd created by jamming lots of stuff into the RV, willy-nilly, in our desire to get going. We are certain we over-packed, but also couldn't decide what not to take. We had failed somehow to heed repeated advice: "pack light", "you won't need it", etc. Easy to say, hard to do.

Which of these things could have been left behind? portable propane grill, digital dual head tire pressure gauge, air compressor, USB fans, 50 amp dogbone, Zero Gravity chairs, the extra blanket, mini teapot, the Bananagrams?  At least we saved a little space by getting a 3 quart instant pot, instead of bringing our existing 6 quart. Woo hoo!

The RV space is starting to feel a bit more liveable already. We're eating and drinking down the backlog (the fridge was jammed!) and much of our things are quickly finding their natural "home".

On Tuesday, we had a nice time at Colt State Park and riding along the East Bay bike path. We rode a total of 12 miles, at least 90% at "PAS 0" (Pedal Assist Strength level 0, i.e. no assist). We had the best cheese steak ever (really, quite fabulous) at Barringon Pizza - our turn around point, just steps from the bike path.
Starting Bike Mileage. What will it be in a year?
Barrington Pizza
Ocean view just off the East Bay bike path
Love the new bike rack!

Life is good.
La Vie Est Bon
After our day out, Lori put up this wall decal in the RV as a reminder for us to count our blessings.

The particular blessing Mark noted this day was how handy it can be to have your house with you all the time. No need to pack a lunch on outing days - we just duck into the RV and make a sandwich. Forgot the sunglasses? Need an umbrella? Change of clothes? So much easier when home is always near.

Internet & media
It took us a long time to decide on an internet strategy. We could rely on campground wifi + comcast hotspots + phone tethering. Ultimately, we bit the bullet and got a Verizon MiFi hotspot with unlimited data.

It's fast and very convenient.  It would have been miserable connecting each time to a new, and possibly sketchy public wifi. When there's a good cell signal we get 80+ mbps down. We also got a chromecast to send video from phone, tablet or laptop to our TV. Seems to work pretty reliably, and the quality is good, too.

Food Food Everywhere!
Under the dinette seat, behind the TV, over the stove, over the dinette..  Maybe we brought too much (was 2 large cans of diced tomatoes overkill?) but it seemed a shame to throw it out. Maybe over time we'll reduce the backlog. Not that we managed to do that at home so well. Some of these jars have been in the back of cabinets for years.

The rear portion of this space also serves as Lori's craft cabinet. It was not easy leaving so much behind!

Tubs, tubs, tubs - Lori organizes the world!

With our limited space, and a need to keep items from rolling all around when we're moving, we needed a variety of storage options - from baskets to bins to buckets! We're still trying to figure out what works best for each space but, so far, so good.

We can fit seven baskets in the over-the-bed cabinets to hold our clothes. Three for Mark and four for Lori.

Under the vanity, there are four covered tubs. One for cleaning supplies, one for Mark's toiletries and two for Lori.

The closet holds twenty-five hanging items. Ten for Mark, fifteen for Lori.

Is anyone seeing a pattern here? 

Well, that's it for now, folks.  We'll be heading off to CT next, with a visit to Mystic and also Gillette Castle State Park. Thanks for following along!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

"Wandah" Making the Rounds

Not All Who Wandah Ah Lost
         - JRR Tolkien LOTR quote as spoken by a Bostonian.

She has a name: Wandah (or Wanda? I'm not entirely sure).  We just know we've got the wandalust so we are going to wandah around the country for a while.

Wandah has been seen in public several times now, including 3 overnights (once with full hookups!) and several showings.  When not at her temporary home at Marty & Paula's in Westford, here are her appearances so far, in order:
  • Visit to Mom (in Hudson, MA) direct from the dealer
  • Overnight in Dennis Port, MA - for Jonathan's big day
  • Visit to Josh and Sandra's - Westford
  • Two nights at Boston Minuteman Campground, Littleton MA
  • Visit to Cabela's Hudson - Lori's family over from Clinton MA
  • Visit to Cindy and Rich's - Sudbury - for "The Barn" preschool teachers & alumni
We have several more visits and overnights to come in MA, NH, and ME.

The First Reveal

Our first overnight was on the Cape. Our good friend Jonathan had a milestone birthday celebration, a huge shindig with scores of out of town guests and accommodations were scarce. So we brought our own! Somewhat more comfy than for those who tent camped in the back yard. This first time out we "dry camped": no water from hose or holding tank, which simplified things substantially.

A great time was had by all, and we enjoyed seeing old and friends and meeting new ones.

Dennis Port

Practice Camp 

Our first real camping practice was just a few miles away, in Littleton, MA. Full hookups: Water, Sewer, and 30 amp electric.

Water: We hooked up the water supply (pressure limiter -> filter -> hose -> RV) and had good pressure throughout. A quick connect hose coupler has now been ordered, as hookup/disconnect would quickly get tedious.

Sewer: The rhino-flex made its debut, connecting the waste pipe to the sewer. Didn't need the support ramp since there was a nice natural downhill slope.

Electric: The EMS showed a clean 30A and the connection was fast and easy.

In summary, all systems checked out. No leaks, water got hot, shower was fine, toilet did it's toilet thing as expected. The freezer froze and the refrigerator chilled. So did we, with a little late night TV via the roof antenna. (The campground offered a cable hookup but we hadn't brought any co-ax).

Lori put up the quick set screen house (getting faster!) and we set up all the chairs and folding table. It rained overnight, and there were no leaks with the slide-out out. All good!  Our first evening meal was salmon, pan fried over a propane stove. Quite tasty. Does camping always make food taste better?

We had some campground fun too. In the evening we had guests Josh and Sandra who showed up with Mexican takeout. Yum! We talked well into the night.  The next morning on a walk around the grounds we found equipment for cornhole, tether ball, and horseshoes, and played them all.

Teardown went smoothly as well. I did my first "dump" sequence - first black water, then gray of course, and I even did a black tank flush!  There's a connector on the side that goes to a spray head inside the black water tank. This rinses it all clean. The sewer hose has a clear elbow so you can see when the water runs clear. Oh joy!

Boston Minuteman Campground, Littleton
Ready for guests to arrive
Mission accomplished. Now we know we'll have an easy time whenever there are hookups. Soon we'll want to try "boondocking" which is self-contained camping. That's where advanced skills come into play, balancing our 3 primary resources: water, battery power, and propane, with key goals of: keeping the electric fridge running, staying warm, and staying clean - i.e. shower, toilet and dish washing. Apparently running out of water often occurs first so if we boondock we'll have to learn effective water conservation practices. We think we can do one day pretty easily, but two or three may start to really test our skills.

Wandah the Debutante  

Wandah had a coming out party, graciously hosted by Rich and Cindy at their home in Sudbury. The attendees were Barn preschool teachers and two husbands. We put out the slide and the awning, and relaxed in zero-gravity chairs with cold drinks and snacks. Champagne followed with a toast to our coming adventures.

Cheers to Wandah
Rich and Cindy's in Sudbury

Lori shows off her speed. 2:27, a record!

Provisioining & Mods

We continue to stock Wandah with gear. Pots pans bowls plates silerware knives towels bath supplies... You don't tend to think of how many things you use in a day until you're forced to make hard choices about what will fit. Lori is big on containerization. We have a dozen plastic tubs to organize things. Tubs for different kinds of clothing, tubs for cleaning supplies, even a junk tub with miscellaneous stuff.

Some recent additions we're happy with include 1) A vertical set of pouches that we fastened near the door to hold flip flops, flashlights, remotes, anything we'll use a lot going in and out. 2) A privacy curtain, that divides the bedroom suite (lol) from the living room and kitchen. This means we won't always have to close every shade, drape, and curtain in order to get dressed. 3) A behind-the-door waste basket. Every inch counts!  Thanks Grandpa Ron for some great ideas.



 After testing out half a dozen ebike models, we chose the same kind that our son Luke recently bought, Aventon Pace 350s. We feel these are a good value, relatively light for ebikes, decent build quality, and enough power and range to meet our needs. And they're fun! Start to pedal and there's a surge of assist power. To some it feels like you have superhuman leg strength. To others, it's like a ghost helpfully pushing you forward. Either way, it makes riding fast and effortless. We strongly considered getting manual bikes, but heard so many positive recommendations from other campers that we decided to go for it. Sure it's less exercise when the boost is turned on, but since this will be our only local transport option other than Wandah herself, we didn't want any impediment to getting out and doing stuff.  And in some places there are wicked hills. No fun getting hot and sweaty when you just wanted a leisurely tour, or to make a run to the store for supplies.
Our Aventon Pace 350's

We're quite happy with the bike rack as well. It holds two bikes up to 60 lbs. each (ours are just 45), is easy to use, and has a locking hitch and bike cable. A zippered cover keeps the bikes dry in bad weather. Nice!
Rocky Mounts Monorail 11415
Well that's all for now folks. See ya next time!


Monday, August 5, 2019

Quick looks, outside..

And inside.

Friday, August 2, 2019

First Steps

It's finally happening.

For the curious, our camper is a 2019 Winnebago View, model 24J. Its dimensions are 25'8" x 11'1" x 7'6".  I'll let you guess which dimension is which. For the really curious, here's a specifications page

Our first stop was Mark's mother's house shortly after we picked up the camper from Flagg RV in West Boylston. Since then we've been slowly loading it up with gear that we'll need on the road. There's a lot of plumbing related stuff like the fresh water hose, flushing hose, waste hose, hose ramp, water pressure limiter, and toilet additive. Behold the Rhino-flex 20ft sewer hose with clear elbow!
For the electric supply we were advised to get an "EMS" - a fancy power quality regulator and circuit breaker.
Apparently you can't trust campgrounds to have regulated water pressure or clean power.

We're constantly facing the conundrum of what to bring and what to leave, and we're already in danger of overdoing it. Mark's tool kit weights about 30 lbs and he still doesn't feel comfortable about what he's had to leave out. This, despite advice from seasoned RVers that they carry just the basics.

We got "zero gravity" lawn chairs after trying them in the store and liking how nicely they recline and cradle you. Someday we may even get to sit down long enough to enjoy them
But only one of the RV's seven external storage compartments is big enough to hold them. Are we wasting that precious space? Lori was adamant about getting an "instant screen house". We think it will be a godsend to allow us bug-free outdoor time in the evenings. It's 6' long, so it'll have to go in the "bunk" area above the cabin, the only place to store it "out of the way".
Yes, the preparation phase feels like one massive equipment and supplies buying spree. Diesel Exhaust Fluid? Check. Oil, coolant, distilled water? Check. But we still don't have: a bike rack, a portable grill/stove, cookware, or all the standard kitchen gadgets like a can opener. Everything must survive road travel, so forget carrying glass or ceramic dishes. Plates need to be cushioned from each other or they'll rattle on every bump. The list is seemingly endless. And that's just for daily living. What about hiking?  We need the right shoes, water bottles, day packs.  And how to record our adventures? Mark got a neat little gadget, the DJI Osmo Pocket.
That head unit is a gimbal image stabilizer, which he says should result in smooth pans and less "shaky cam" than with phone video. Another 10 or 20 hours practice and he'll have learned most of the features. But then what about video editing? One more learning curve.

So while we're excited to get going, this first phase is filled with lots of expense and effort and, frankly, stress and anxiety as we fumble our way through the planning. And we don't even have a single stay booked yet!

We trust that once we hit the road, and get a few stays under our belts, we'll finally be able to relax a little.  Mark's office daydreams about this adventure were filled with dramatic ocean or canyon or mountain views, or blissfully relaxing camp side with a cold beer. He didn't expect to spend hours looking for the best portable air compressor, or agonizing over whether to add another 100 watt solar panel, or swap out the standard 12 volt coach battery for two 6 volt batteries with more total capacity. Do we need PhDs in RV-ology to "get it right"?  Sometimes it feels that way.

But enough whining! We feel so fortunate to have this opportunity and can't wait to get going. Next will be some "shakedown voyages" to start getting the hang of this whole #vanlife thing. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Big Trip

Check. Check. Check 1. Sibilance. Sibilance. Check. Check. Check 2. Sibilance. Sibilance.
Is this thing on?

We (Mark and Lori) are planning to use this blog to update friends and family about our "big trip".  For those new to this crazy scheme, it goes something like this.

0. Retire (done)
1. Buy an RV  (done)
2. Fill it up with stuff (working on it)
3. Take a few practice trips (thinking about it)
4. Hit the road, sometime in late September.
5. Travel "clockwise" around the US and Canada, staying in nice weather as much as possible.

The idea is to spend approximately one year, traveling and living full-time in the RV - with the exception of a brief visit to the Boston area at Christmastime. We want to visit lots of state and national parks with a main goal of enjoying some of North America's most scenic areas of natural beauty. We've collected some "points of interest" here.  We may also check out a few offbeat attractions, e.g. from the atlas obscura.  If you have suggestions for "must sees" feel free to share.

We hope to see many of you soon - either before we leave, or somewhere on the road!