Travels with Pickles

Home

Everything You Hate About Your HOA, but in a KOA

WP_20170614_008

Every year we make the pilgrimage to see Dave’s father and step-mother and this time I booked us into Hidden Valley RV Resort for two weeks at the beginning of June.  It had recently become a KOA, literally during the off season it switched over to a KOA, and thus I felt a little more comfortable booking us into an unknown campground.  There are many factors and decisions that go into us choosing a campground, but KOA has to this point always been a safe bet.

It wasn’t a safe bet this time around.  In fact, there was much discussion between the two of us as to what our eventual star rating would be for this experience.  I also didn’t particularly want our first campground review to be a non-five star review but sometimes life presents you with lemons.

Accommodations

optiopn7-150x150

The above picture is taken directly from the KOA app and the Hidden Valley RV Resort website.  As you can tell it is a paved driveway with a berm on one side with a built in alcove for the picnic bench and your outdoor chairs.

IMG_20170618_0805133

So, imagine my utter shock and joy when we pulled into our site and this is what we got.  No private alcove, no built up berm, no lush green grass just an average pull through site with nothing to justify it’s nightly rate.  And to be perfectly blunt, it wasn’t the worst one of the pull through sites, I would have been more upset with the one that had a power box on it directly outside of where our back door would have been.

Let’s be clear here, prices are already very high in Wisconsin during their short camping season so when I pay high prices I expect the pictures to be realistic and accurate.  This was not worth the cash expenditure we laid out.  The non-paved pull through sites were exactly the same as what we received except they paid less.  This isn’t about the money, although considerable at $80 a weekend night, it’s about booking one thing and getting something else.  First time it has ever happened to us at a KOA.

Staff, Store, Security, & Wi-Fi

Wish the story was going to improve at this point but sadly it is not.  Wi-Fi at the park was exceptionally bad.  Not just the type of bad that full-timers complain about, but BAD bad even during the week when the park was emptier.  It was flat out unusable and came with ridiculous restrictions.

Screenshot_20170618-084411  IMG_0908

If the park Wi-Fi is truly that bad, and believe me that was a good moment when I tested, then why bother to advertise that you have the amenity at all.  When the park was packed to capacity on weekends, there was no chance of signing the attestation let alone using the Wi-Fi.  This is the first KOA we have stayed at that had unusable Wi-Fi and did not have Tengo Internet as an option.

The staff was friendly but not overly helpful.  Like every KOA we’ve stayed at they had the curbside pickup of trash.  Only unlike every KOA we’ve stayed at, trash was picked up on a whim.  We personally had trash site curbside for over eight hours before it was picked up, even though trash pickup drove by it multiple times with an empty golf cart.  We watched our neighbors site have the exact same experience, except they left and new people arrived to have someone else’s trash littering the space.  What a pleasant experience that must have been!

On the subject of trash, at check in you are informed that recycling is mandated and they hand you one white and one black trash bag.  Our rig isn’t set up for recycling and leaving an open trash bag outside for critters, creepy crawlers, and the puppy to discover just isn’t a realistic option.  Also, black trash bags for trash is beyond annoying!  Please explain to me how the most common color for kitchen trash bags on the market is white but your campground decides that nope, recycling trash belongs in white trash bags.  We don’t normally carry black trash bags on board, so off we had to go to find black trash bags to accommodate the rules.  I was annoyed every single time I threw anything away.  We both strongly suspect that the rules for recycle exist so that the campground can profit from the trash of it’s customers.

Security is non-existent.  There is a “guard” shack as you pull in but it is only ever staffed on Saturday’s that we observed.  Even then, it’s a bored and disinterested teenager waving vehicles on through.  This was a vastly different experience than other KOA’s.

The store sells candy, fire accessories, etc.  There are no basics to pick-up like milk, beer, or marshmallows.  There is access to the concession stand in the store, and they do deliver to your site.  Ordering from the concession stand requires exact change if you are having food delivered or a credit card.  We can highly recommend the chicken fingers and the mini corn dogs.  But stay far away from the pizza unless you like a soggy cracker crust and overly sweet red sauce.

Amenities

Dog Park

Fireball was three and a half months old when we arrived, having a dog park was important to us and we were looking forward to Kamp K-9.  Imagine our reaction when we discovered that “Kamp K-9” was not fenced and was near the busy road leading into the campground.  Sure, we went a couple of times but always trying to balance our concerns for their safety and Fireball’s need to burn off energy.  I can honestly say, if Wally had still been alive when we were here we would have skipped the dog area.  He would have taken off and gone where the smells led him joyfully.  We weren’t the only people we talked to during our stay who were also uncomfortable with “Kamp K-9” and the inherent hazard it posed.

The Pool

This campground is a mixture of permanent seasonal residents that own their lots and overnight campers.  There are in excess of 200 sites.  It is far from an unreasonable assumption that there would be pools and hot tubs to accommodate the varying number of residents and guests.  Instead what exists is a pool and hot tub suitable for a campground that has fifty sites or fewer.

IMG_20170615_1542112 There it is folks, the hot tub for over 200 camping sites.  Yep, you can totally go to the local spa store and order the exact same spa for delivery to your home.  It seats … wait for it … seven adults!  That’s right seven adults in the spa.

IMG_20170615_1543101  It was a complete joke.  It was far too small for the number of adults in the campground.  Oh yeah, they limited hot tub time to thirty minutes.  So if the drive in was stressful or you just got back from a long day with the family, don’t expect to relax in the hot tub for any length of time.

IMG_20170615_1542297 Not the best picture of the pool but you can see the deepest depth in this shot, 5’0.  Yep, I could (just barely) stand flat footed in this pool.  It is an odd kidney bean shape and was jammed packed full of adults standing around, kids playing, and/or oversized pool toys being used.  So, the pool was unusable as well.  It was also the only pool in the entire campground. 

Pool and hot tub had weird hours 8-8 daily with adult hours between 3-4 in the afternoon.  So if you want to relax in the water under the stars, that just isn’t going to happen here. 

But despite all of these flaws, this wasn’t the biggest flaw of the water amenities.  No that honor was reserved for the emergency phone located outside of the gate, up the stairs, and somewhere in the office.  Yep, not making it up there was no emergency phone located within the gated pool area.  Dave and I were not the only adults utterly baffled by this.  Heaven forbid there is ever an actual emergency, I pray that someone is able to get inside and find the emergency phone quickly.

IMG_20170615_1639033

Standard Information

State:  Wisconsin

Discount Clubs:  KOA discount applies, although the campground still flies the Good Sam’s Club flag out front.

Site Number: 196

Standard Review Items

Ambiance:  It’s pretty but it is marred by the overall experience. 

Cell Reception:  AT&T reception was exceptional.  Verizon was ok as well.

Drainage:  Our site and the campground as a whole, did drain well after every rain storm and standing puddles were not an issue or concern.

Level Sites/Utilities:  Site was reasonably level, utilities were stable.  We did lose power once, as did the entire campground, but that was weather related when a super cell moved through the area.

Night Sky:  There are no street lights and utility boxes at each site were unobtrusive.  However, be warned the abundance of golf carts speeding around at night lit up like a Christmas tree can destroy the darkness in a blink of an eye.

Office Staff/Manners:  Friendly, but just, if that makes sense.  Unlikely to volunteer any information and getting information out of them was like pulling teeth.

Overall Amenities:  We can say that they are non-existent for the money spent.  Sure they have a pool and a dog “park” but in comparison with other campgrounds they are non-existent.

Pet Friendly:   Pets are welcome but because of the issues with Kamp K-9 we wouldn’t consider it truly pet friendly.  I fully expect when a KOA says it has a Kamp K-9 our dogs will be safely fenced and taking them to the dog park will not involve risking their lives in the process.

Pet Services in the Area:  Being sandwiched between Madison, WI and Janesville, WI there are sufficient pet services in the area.

Road Noise:  The campground is off of I35 but it’s at least two miles from the off ramp.  One would expect the road noise to be minimal.  However, that would be a false assumption.  It was in the 90’s when we were there in early-mid June.  Road noise will only increase in cooler weather.

Rule Enforcement:  There was some enforcement of the adult hour at the pool but it was one warning with no follow up.  Other rules (I.e. no clothes lines between trees) were routinely not enforced.

RV Services:  None, no seriously non-existent.  The brochure they hand you at check in tells you that the RV dealership down the road makes mobile calls.  Called, nope sorry they really only handle seasonal issues and deck build-outs on seasonal trailers.  There are no other mobile RV techs that service the southern Wisconsin area, the last one died of a heart attack in 2016.

Satellite Friendly: Our satellite was inoperable, awaiting warranty replacement of the turret, during our stay.  The campground is covered in tall cottonwood trees and so there is a strong possibility that the trees in a particular site could interfere with satellite reception.

Store:  A tourist trap, with large markups on items geared toward the kiddos.

Storm Shelter Facilities:  Office/Clubhouse was the only listed storm shelter for the entire campground.  I highly DOUBT the office would hold the number of people that could potentially be in the campground at any one time.  I also know that there is no possible way that all of the people and their pets would fit in the office.  I would have chosen to ride out any potential weather warning with the pets rather than risk going to the office with no room and without family members.

Wi-Fi: Yes it exists, no it should not be relied upon or counted as an amenity for this campground.

Summary

Dave and I spent a lot of time trying to come to an agreement with an overall rating.  I wanted a one star rating, Dave felt that one star was vindictive.  We settled on two stars, strictly because there is a lot of room for improvement.  KOA quality team needs to come and stay for more than an overnight visit.  In fact, I would recommend they send in a team undercover.

There are so many things that failed to live up to what we’ve come to expect from KOA’s.  The visit wasn’t enjoyable in any respect.  The pool situation, Kamp K-9, laughable Wi-Fi, site not matching what we paid for, and the road noise all combined to make this a miserable two weeks.

We compromised on a two star out of five star rating.  There are many areas available for improvement by Hidden Valley with and without the help of KOA corporate.  The surrounding campgrounds are no better but that is no excuse for the conditions at Hidden Valley.


cropped starcropped star


Our One Year Anniversary

WP_20170428_001

One year ago today we moved out of the house permanently and into The Gump.  So, after a year what has the experience taught us and do we have any regrets? 

Regrets

Let’s knock the bad out first, regrets do we have them and what are they?  I think the short answer is no, we have no true regrets.  There have been peaks and valleys in the last year but no true, long lasting regrets.  The biggest valley was caused by the weather in the Pacific Northwest.  Incessant rain for months on end is enough to make anyone stir crazy.  It’s hard to escape outside and do anything when the rain is far in excess of what is normal for an area.

20170222_094822

I think the only other regret we have is our failure to stow the satellite the first time we broke camp after moving out of the house.  It was an expensive lesson in the importance of visual reminders when packing the house on get away days. 

What We’ve Learned

We truly love one another and more importantly like one another as individuals.  If you don’t like the individual your fulltime with, love won’t be enough and the little annoying things we all do will become blown out of proportion.  Yes we’ve had disagreements and arguments but we worked through them.  Yes, we have days that we drive one another bat crap crazy but we know how to walk away and find something else to do.

WP_20170429_004

The decision to purchase a toy hauler versus a traditional fifth wheel or Class A was the right decision.  Having the patio down and fresh air and sunlight streaming through the back door makes all the difference in moods and feeling trapped.  The days when the weather doesn’t permit that patio to be extended are days we’ve learned to distract ourselves and to be extra forgiving towards one another.  The animals are happier with the patio down too. 

20160626_06411120160918_175704

We always knew that Pickles was a solar powered bird but what we learned this last year is that the rest of us are far happier when the sun is out and we can bask in it’s rays.  Chasing the sun wasn’t part of the first year’s planning but it will be from here on out.

V__DC7A 20160718_104610

That big smile on Dave’s face is there because the sun actually came out after weeks of never ending rain when we were in Oregon.  Oregon taught us the importance of planning for sunny locales while not expiring from heat exhaustion.

20170114_152638e

We’ve also learned that the big risk we took by starting fulltiming when we did was completely worth it.  Yes, it’s been as expensive as living in a sticks and bricks but the entire family is healthier.  Dave and I have both lost weight and are stronger.  More importantly, we gave Wally the best possible last year of his life.  He got to play in snow and bask in the snow.  The risk extended his life and allowed him to live not just exist.

20170301_110013

Where We’ve Been

We have slept in eleven states this year, well not counting Dave’s business trip.  We prefer some states over others, not just for their scenery but the people we’ve met along the way.  South Dakota is by far our favorite place.  Not only is it always gorgeous but the people are welcoming and friendly.

20160918_174731

The Southwest is hot and dry and we were there in the summer.  Even coming from Phoenix, we’ve learned that living in a metal box means that it will be a challenge to keep cool.  Reflextix only goes so far in keeping things cool and the trade off is too great for us (living in darkness to keep cool is not worth it).  However, New Mexico is truly beautiful and we will return in cooler temperatures.

20160710_172407

We have spent nights in private campgrounds, state parks, and Indian casinos.  We have been at bare bone campgrounds and have stayed at high end resorts.  We have learned not to judge potential campsites solely on their satellite image, if we had we would have missed one of our favorite stops this year on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.  Even the best site can be ruined by other campers and campground personnel.

20160717_150905

Leroy has had the most adventurous life a turtle could ask for and she too agrees that following the sun is far preferable than cold weather.  She is healthy, happy, and thriving.  Her improvised tank has served her well over the last year.  By far, Leroy’s favorite location so far has been Minnesota.  The weather cooperated and allowed her to bask in the sun as she pleased.

20160731_120808

The most magical spot of the year we couldn’t camp unfortunately.  We took a day trip to Blue Water Lake State Park in New Mexico to test the cell signal.  There was zero connectivity but it was still a magical trip.  The park is home to wild horses and they are beautiful.  We will be back someday to camp here.  The inner eight year old in me cannot pass up the opportunity to spend time with wild horses.

20160731_114422-PANO

The Future

What does the future hold?  We don’t know but we know we are excited for the future.

20161126_161111

The road ahead is clear and bright.  Fireball can never replace Wally but she has added her own brand of chaos and love to the family.  She’s learned to ride in Lana like a trooper and is happy with new smells and places to explore.

WP_20170514_008

We have enjoyed life in the last year.  We are no longer hiding in our house from the extreme heat.  We are at peace with the choices we have made.  Our marriage is stronger and we have made memories we would not have made otherwise. 

20170323_070439

The future holds more adventure, more glorious sunrises and sunsets, and more love.  This year we will hike more and see new places.  We shall make new memories and explore new places.

20160730_141306

Stay Tuned…

DSCN0353

Over the last two weeks inspiration has struck and there are some additions coming in the following weeks to the blog. 

The first addition will be our detailed campground reviews.  Don’t worry we will still post general reviews on Campendium but for our honest, no holds barred opinion those will be posted on our site.  So if you want the good, the bad, and the ugly on where we’ve stayed then just click on the Campground Reviews tab to find all of the campground reviews in one convenient location.

The second addition will be our outstanding regional finds.  Whether it be a terrific local grocery store or some incredibly tasty local food find.  These won’t be restaurants, to be honest we rarely eat out.  These delicious finds will have their own dedicated tab as well, just click on the Regional Gems tab to find these. 

As always, both campground reviews and regional gems will be posted to the blog home page.  If you subscribe to posts by mail these will come as usual without an additional steps on your part. 

Soap Nuts or Why We Gave Up Commercial Laundry Products

WP_20170524_003

When we decided to go fulltime, I knew that I didn’t want to lug liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener around.  I also knew that spilled powder detergent would just be a pain to clean up should it spill.  So, I begin investigating options and quickly discovered soap nuts.  I ordered some and began experimenting with them while we were still in the house.  Now, you couldn’t pay us to go back to commercial laundry products.

What are soap nuts you are probably asking yourself.  Well, easiest answer is they are exactly what the name implies, hard spheres shaped like a nut that contain natural surfactants.  Our laundry no longer smells like a commercial definition of clean, you know that stench that masquerades as lavender or “clean” cotton.

WP_20170524_006

That’s a selection of soap nuts from the currently open bag in the closet.  As you can see, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  For a typical combo two-in-one RV washer, I use between five and seven nuts depending on shape and size.  The amount of nuts varies based on your personal preference to be honest.  The soap nuts not only launder dirty clothes, they also act as natural fabric softener.  The amount of nuts varies depending on the level of softness you prefer in your clothing. 

When you order, the order comes with a cheesecloth bag to place the soap nuts in for use in the washer.  I used the bag at the house but in The Gump, I use the soap dispenser.  Either method is fine, if the bag is used the nuts will dry out while the clothes dry but that will not harm them.

WP_20170524_001

There are a couple of tricks to be aware of.  First, they do not produce visible bubbles that are common with commercial detergent.  Second, new soap nuts have a brown interior and when the surfactant is used up, the interior of the nuts turn into a grayish brown color.  Third, a two pound bag of nuts will last us anywhere between 12-18 months.   And lastly, it will take you several weeks of trial and error to dial in on the right number to use for your personal preference.  Don’t give up on the nuts, they are working.  If you chose, you can use commercial fabric softener along with the soap nuts.

When the soap nuts are used up, we flush them down the black tank.  What is left of the surfactant gets used up in the black tank and cleans the tank a little.  They flush out with the rest of the waste, scrubbing a little as they go.   

As for the water in the gray tanks, it is free of chemicals.  If you wanted to, we wouldn’t hesitate to drain the gray on the ground.  There are no funky smells emanating from our gray tank. 

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact us and we will try and help to the best of our ability.

TV Box: Curse flipped into a Blessing]

20151215_171010

That’s us during the PDI process sitting in front of the TV box for the outdoor television.  We ripped out that box this winter with gleeful abandon.  Not only did it disguise a water leak from the TV box (only discovered because I rarely wear socks, let alone shoes and we replaced the sofas of “awesomeness”, but the sharp corner dug a hole in the back of the recliners  (you remember, those recliners never intended to  recline by Dutchmen).

So, when we replaced the loveseat this winter with new La-z-Boy recliners, there was no chance we were leaving that box in place to puncture the new recliners.  So, instead we were left with a gapping hole showing the electronics, the plug to the refrigerator, and an air leak from the TV box.

We got lucky, we found the exact fabric and pattern of the new recliners (albeit in gold not cream).  We promptly ordered a yard, duck cloth and batting  to make a replacement cover for the TV box.  The materials arrived and I was faced with relearning to sew or freeze death.  I was just as quickly stumped by the prospect.  I’m good with straight lines and patterns but this was neither.  Luckily, family was coming and they all knew how to sew and offered to help.

My Aunt Susie came to the rescue and in no time she had engineered a solution and had me sewing.  The end result is a vastly improved thermal barrier, far more attractive, and it won’t punch holes in the recliners.

WP_20170504_015

We attached it to the top of the TV with Command velcro hooks.  It stays in place while traveling.  it disguises the electronics, and vents excess heat out the bottom which is not attached.  If the TV box should leak again, the fabric will tell me before my toes.  Best of all, each time we see it we are reminded of family and their love.

Thank you Susie, we are more appreciative than you will ever know.

One Nighters between Stops

WP_20170514_001

There are times when no matter how well I plan we can’t get from Point A to Point B in one day.  Our preferred stop-over on these occasions are Cabela’s along our route.  I always call while route planning to make sure the particular Cabela’s in question allows for overnight camping.  Only once has the answer been no, but it wasn’t surprising since it was in Colorado and a city ordinance prohibited overnight camping in non-campground settings.

Cabela’s are well lit, spacious parking lots, and have dog kennels.  Some have horse corrals as well should you be traveling with horses.  We haven’t used the dog kennels yet but it is nice to know that should we need one for a couple of hours they are available.  Each one we’ve overnighted at so far has long RV sized parking spaces so it’s not like you are parking amongst guests shopping inside when you pull in for the night.

The benefit of Cabela’s over Walmart is obvious.  You aren’t trying to squeeze your RV into a parking lot designated for cars and people determined to get in and go shopping.  Cabela’s are not open 24 hours and thus there are not people driving in and out at all hours of the day.  Cabela’s sells firearms and thus chances are better than not that you or one of the neighboring RV’s will be armed.  Thieves and miscreants are less likely to mess with potentially armed and dangerous RV’ers.  Every Cabela’s we’ve stayed at has been routinely patrolled by law enforcement and not private security.

WP_20170514_005 

The Cabela’s in Mitchell, SD is by far our favorite.  The onsite lake and huge grassy area make it a dream overnight spot.  There is plenty of room to walk the dogs, picnic benches overlooking the lake, and there are lots of RV parking spots.  There are also several restaurants within walking distance for a decent meal.  On our last stop over, last week to be precise, the parking lot was reasonably full by 7PM.  As the high season here in the Midwest progresses I would be leery of arriving much later to get a RV parking spot. 

WP_20170514_010

As you can see, the bedroom slide is out and jacks are down.  Normally we would have raised the satellite but we were having satellite issues this trip.  There is more than sufficient room to extend all of our slides but this time around, I declined to do so.  It was Fireball’s first trip as an RV Pet and she is still unsure about the whole slides going in and out. 

WP_20170514_007  WP_20170514_008

As you can see, the girls didn’t object to being at Cabela’s the next morning.  In fact, Sangria really wanted to jump in the lake.  It was annoying and amusing all at the same time.  80 pounds of stubborn Lab determined to go swimming at 6AM is not necessarily my first choice.  Fireball was content to inspect the grass and attempt to catch birds.

Our next planned Cabela’s overnight stop is at corporate headquarters in Sydney, NE at the end of August.  I know that particular stop will be packed and so it will be an early start for us that trip.  Fireball will be six months old by then and should be an old pro by then.

Introducing: Fireball

V__1B2A

When Wally passed we knew we would get another dog eventually, we just didn’t think it would be less than two weeks after his passing but life had other plans.  As we pulled out of Winchester Bay, Sangria, Leo, and Pickles were all distraught not fully understanding why we were leaving without Wally.  It was heartbreaking on top of our already broken hearts that morning.  By that afternoon, we realized Sangria’s grief would overwhelm her if we didn’t find a way to channel her grief.   As we drove, I began looking at dog breeds that would meet our unique needs and requirements.

Pickles adds a complex set of requirements when adding a dog to the household.  No dog breeds with strong hunting instincts, no breeds that aren’t easily trainable or highly possessive, no herding dogs, etc.  You get the picture.  We also knew we didn’t want a small dog, a breed that was excessively yappy, or  giant breed.  Our first choice was a rescue dog like Wally was but as we drove and I looked at all the surrounding states, there was no rescue dog that met our needs.

Low and behold, I discovered Fireball in Spearfish, SD where we were headed.  The posted pictures of her and her sisters were shocking reminders of Wally.  Their coloring, the crossed front paws, the look on their faces were all reminders of Wally and I felt guilty.  We weren’t trying to replace Wally, he could never be replaced.  But something in those pictures told us we needed to call and inquire about the puppies.  We meet Fireball, her sire, and her then family on our first Saturday here in Spearfish.  It was love at first sight, for us and Sangria.   She is a purebred AKC Fox Red Labrador Retriever.

V__4C0B

She came home the following Thursday, a red headed ball of needles and fur.  She immediately lifted Sangria’s spirits and forced her to play and go on walks.  No longer could she sit on the sofa and mop.  Fireball, yes she’s named after the cinnamon whiskey but after all we couldn’t name her Cinnamon that’s a stripper name!, wouldn’t leave her big sister alone.  Bounding, jumping, biting, and forcing her to play.  It was the best thing we could have done for Sangria.

V__AA63

Fireball has adapted to RV life with no issues.  By the second morning, she was bounding up and down stairs like they were nothing.  She hasn’t violated quiet hours, she drags us and Sangria out on walks on a regular basis, she grown a lot in the month that we’ve had her, and she has gone on a 2 mile hike and didn’t once refuse to walk the trail. 

WP_20170504_013

The girls play constantly when Fireball is awake.  She pounces and demands that Sangria be more active.  She could care less about Pickles, and only on occasion does she chase Leo.  She is smart as Wally was.  Dave firmly believes that Fireball is Wally reincarnated and I believe that Wally is sending her tips and tricks from heaven.  She is so like him, both as a puppy and an adult dog.  Fireball has eased the grief in our souls.

WP_20170425_007

She has gotten a taste of a late spring snow storm and of warm spring days.  She reveals in being outside.  As soon as the back doors are opened in the morning, she shoots outside and lays on the patio surveying her kingdom, much like Wally used to do in the backyard supervising the golfers.  She barks when she believes people come to close to her family and growls when she decides it is necessary.

WP_20170422_001 1

We’ve slowly been introducing her to rides in Lana.  For a three month old puppy, she’s done extremely well.  When she’s unsure she snuggles up close to Sangria for reassurance.  We were scheduled to leave on Sunday this week for our next destination in Minnesota, a roughly nine hour drive.  Those plans were made long before Fireball was in the picture.  Nine hour ride is too long for a three month old puppy and so we are breaking the trip up into two days.  Luckily, we have that option and think it will make it easier on all of us.  The trip will undoubtedly take us longer that normal because we will be stopping more frequently but hey, that’s life.

WP_20170505_003

She has grown a lot in the month.  She has brought us joy.  She was an unexpected gift when we needed it most.  She is a female Wally while still being her own, unique person.  She is exhausting and exasperating at times, but we can’t imagine life without her now.  We miss Wally but know we made the right decision.

WP_20170503_001

A special shout out and thank you with our deepest gratitude and appreciation to the lovely people here at Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort.  They gave us an isolated spot when they knew about Wally and didn’t put anyone next to us our entire stay.  They gave our family the space to grieve Wally and introduce Fireball to the family.  If we didn’t already love staying here, this trip would have solidified our love of  for this resort and the people that make it such an enjoyable place to stay,

Excellent Service: Juneks

WP_20170429_016

Two weeks into our lovely stay in Spearfish this spring, Lana began throwing check engine error codes.  First two, Dave drove her into the local dealership, Juneks, to have the error codes cleared.  They quickly cleared the error codes, related to Diesel Emission Fluid (DEF), and sent Dave on his way.  The next day another error code was thrown, this one promising to render the Dodge into a FORD (Found On Road Dead).  Error code promised that in 150 miles speed would be reduced to 5mph until the problem was corrected.  Obviously, when you are towing a fifth wheel 5mph effectively renders your vehicle and home dead on the side of the road.

Dave called and brought the car in early the following morning.  Even though we bought the truck in a different state, we were given a loaner car without hesitation or cost to us.   Later that day, Dave gets a call explaining that the error codes were related to as yet unreleased service bulletin pertaining to the catalytic converter and DEF.  Richard Holso, who is the Service Manager, got the unique joy of telling Dave that five days before his first business trip since we left the sticks and bricks house that the truck might be out of commission for up to three weeks.  The news hit us like a ton of bricks, not only were we literally stuck without a means of moving The Gump but we now had the possibility of being stuck without a means of transport to get him to and from Rapid City for his trip.

Richard promised to do everything in his power to get the truck repaired and returned to us before Dave left on his trip.  Richard even told Dave that the loaner was his for as long as they had Lana to locate the part and complete the work,  I will admit, stress level around here was sky high but there was nothing we could do but keep our fingers crossed and pray.  Imagine our joy and relief when we find out on late Friday afternoon that they had located the part, with the assistance of District Manager Candice Evans, and the work had been completed.

Since we’ve had Lana back, no error codes or worries about pulling The Gump.  We head out this weekend headed toward Wisconsin for a visit with Dave’s family.  We greatly appreciate the entire staff at Juneks and the effort and service we received.  We will not hesitate to return and feel comfortable recommending the dealership.

In Loving Memory, Wallaby 2001-2017

Wally and Phil the Flamingo

This will be one of the hardest posts I will ever write.  On April 3rd in Reedsport, Or Wally suffered a stroke in the wee hours of the morning and passed away mid-afternoon.  He was the most amazing dog and we were privileged to be his family.  He hung on until family joined us in Reedsport for a week.  Everyone he loved, and who loved him in return, was there and got to spend time with him before the stroke.  To say he is missed is an understatement of epic proportion.

WP_20130710_021

He rarely got on the furniture, even as a wee puppy, but if he thought Grandpa was close he would scamper onto the closest piece of furniture to wait for him.  Grandpa, my dad, was his favorite person in the world and was for the moment he was rescued.  Don’t get me wrong, he loved everyone  but Grandpa was Grandpa. 

20140318_170442

He would lay outside in our backyard and soak up the Arizona sun for hours, even in the blazing heat of summer.  As he aged, the warmth of the sun would ease the aches and pains that come with aging.  But he was always on guard and checking to make sure no nefarious gardener was sneaking through the back gate on his watch.

20160527_18224620160509_071637

He loved the back patio and you could always find Sangria and Leo out there with him.  He would watch the changing view for hours on end, content to watch the world pass by. 

20160718_081948

Wally is the reason we jumped headfirst into fulltiming without hesitation.  We had stone floors in our house and a stone patio backyard.  It was becoming harder and harder for him to get up off the floor and we wanted to give him the best life possible in the time he had left.  His quality of life improved from our first trip our and we have never regretted our decision.  He got to play in snow once again which he loved, frolic on the beach, hang out at the lake, and plenty of long car rides to hang his head out the window.  He loved life.  He loved us. 

20160409_104213

The hole in our hearts is still gaping.  There is an emptiness that can never truly be filled.  We will love another dog but Wally was and is irreplaceable.  He loved chasing squirrels.  We didn’t see a single squirrel our entire stay in Oregon until we drove home from the vet on the 3rd.  And sure enough, there was a squirrel sitting on his hind legs calmly waiting as we drove by.  We both saw it and broke down. it was a sign.  He is in heaven playing in snow, frolicking on beaches, hanging his head out the wind as the car speeds down the road, and soaking up sun.  He is at peace.  He is with our children. 

20160731_122114

For almost sixteen years, he was our constant companion.  He now watches over us and will continue to be with us as we honor his memory.  We love our amazing red headed dog.

20141231_082809_HDR20170315_162904

First Quarter 2017

We spent the first quarter at Winchester Bay RV Resort.  Several months on the ocean sounded like heaven after a blazing hot summer and chilly late autumn.  What we didn’t anticipate or expect was the tremendous amount of rain this winter would bring.  As of this post, we have received 36.7 inches of rain between 26 December 2016 – 22 March 2017.  By any definition that is a lot of rain in three months.

The Canadian geese were quite at home in the soggy conditions.  The two above were frequently seen strutting through the resort, just one of many pairs.  It was a rare moment to see them so comfortable and content.  Meanwhile, inside the dogs were huddled in their respective spots drying off. 

Leroy was in seventh heaven.  Lots of water constantly raining down on her and on rare days she got to bask in the sun.  This particular day I caught her trying to escape her pond.  She wasn’t successful but I think she will be the only one to miss the near constant rain.  Although, I think she’d give up the rain for warmer days and more consistent sun to bask in regularly.

Ever wondered what snow on the ocean looks like?  Well, we no longer have to wonder since it snowed in January.  It wasn’t just a mere dusting of snow either.  It was well over nine inches of wet, heavy snow.  Wally was overjoyed but he was alone.  The snow was beautiful but we were ready for cool days and sun.

Picturesque but gray is the best descriptor of our three month stay.  The weather isn’t normally so wet and inhospitable so we aren’t judging the locale by the weather.  We didn’t get out to do much to be perfectly honest.  Work was hectic and consuming, weather was miserable, and there’s only so much dreariness a soul can take.  

The Gump rarely was bathed in brilliant sunlight with the back patio open for more than a few brief hours at a time.  But when we were blessed with clear skies, the patio was down and we all migrated to the patio to bask in the rays of the sun.  We already knew Pickles was a solar powered bird but what we learned during our stay is that the rest of the family is equally as solar powered.  Settling down some day in the future in the Pacific Northwest is highly unlikely, there’s just not enough sunlight.

The views have been awe inspiring and have been thoroughly enjoyable.  The resort itself is the kind of place we enjoy in general and will return and pray the weather is more cooperative.  The walking path is paved, broad, and peaceful.  We all enjoyed walking along the ocean and marina.  It’s a full mile path which results in tired dogs at the end of the day.  At every opportunity we lit a fire and enjoyed the fire as the sun set over the pacific.

 

One tip, if you are parking overlooking the ocean beware of the power of the surf if you have rear windows or park nose first in a motor home.  The picture below is right outside The Gump and was like that for almost a full quarter mile of the walking path.

We will return later in the year, before the start of the high season or after it’s conclusion.  We wouldn’t truly appreciate the noise of the ATV community and packed quarters.  We have a small family reunion happening here until we leave the first week of April.  We are looking forward to seeing them and spending a weeke wrapped in the loving embrace of our crazy family.  The weather isn’t forecasted to cooperate but that’s alright, four rigs should be plenty for us to visit and catch up.