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Gelin’ and Foamin’

Novaform_bed_topper02Yep. I’m gelin’! No, I’m not talking about Dr. Scholls. I’m talking about my bed. While on vacation a few months ago, I picked up a 3″ thick gel memory foam topper for my RV mattress. I have had the RV mattress for around 9 years now and it has never been particularly comfortable though I wouldn’t say it was all that bad either. I can sleep on it but have to turn constantly all night due to my bad back. This would be a problem with any standard mattress and my back. While I have been aware of mattress toppers for many years, I have been avoiding them. My parents used the 1″ egg crate toppers made of standard foam and liked them but I truly doubt those would be enough to make a difference for me. Memory foam, I have always heard, gets hot. It doesn’t “breathe”. So, I waited. I waited for something better to come along. I had about given up when I spotted a conversation on the topic on Facebook. Many users were gushing over a topper made with gel beads injected into the memory foam to handle the heat issue. I started doing some investigating and checking reviews on Amazon and other sites. They were mostly extremely positive. Of course, something that personal is not going to be right for everyone so I specifically looked for those mentioning back issues and found many happy users. With all that in mind, I stopped in at Costco while on vacation and spotted the Novaform 3″ gel memory foam topper sold in a box. Luckily, my RV mattress is actually close to a standard queen mattress size. If it weren’t, I could still cut the topper to the right size if needed. I bought it and kept the box in my motel room until I got back from vacation.

Once I got home, I opened the box to find the topper tightly rolled up inside and a set of directions. Silly me. I usually read the directions before doing something. I cleared all the sheets and mattress covers off the bed and put the new mattress roll on top of it. Per the directions, I carefully cut away the outside wrapper while being careful not to cut the topper. Then I stood back and watched the show. It was like lighting one of those black snake tablets on the 4th of July. It grew and grew! I didn’t touch it as advised. I just let it stretch and stretch more out. Finally, it stopped while double over in half. When I was sure it was done, I unfolded it and moved it gently into position. *Note: a new memory foam topper does have a bit of a smell for the first few days. It wasn’t all that strong and didn’t particularly bother me. I let it air out for a couple days and slept on the couch.* The topper came with a new mattress cover which I put on. Then I grabbed fresh sheets while praying that they would fit a bed that was now 3 inches higher all around. To my amazement, the sheets fit fine! No special sheets required.

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Now it was testing time. I crawled up on the bed. Oh my! It was like crawling onto a cloud! I laid down on it and felt fully supported as well as cuddled. No pain yet. Then the real test came, laying flat on my back. Wow! I can actually lay flat on it. On just the RV mattress, I have to keep one leg bent up to take the pressure off my back when laying flat. This is nice. Bedtime couldn’t come soon enough for the final test. I crawled onto my cloud and wafted off in the middle of a Texas summer night with the temp in the bedroom in the 80s and my usual fan blowing a breeze on me. I slept soundly all night with no sweating and very little turning over. Yay! It’s a keeper. I have been very happy with it for the past few months and now day dream about going to bed on my cloud.

Along with the topper, I have been looking for a new pillow. My favorite pillow of 25 years was standard foam with breathing holes through it that I bought at Sears so long ago. It finally got so old that it was falling apart and getting too thin. I tried to replace it with several different polyester filling pillows over the years but none felt right and the filling tends to bunch up and get obstinate, especially after you wash them. I looked all over for a standard foam pillow but only found one that was too thin and not stiff enough. Where did all the standard foam pillows go? It was like trying to find chocolate or lemon pudding cake mix. I loved them as a kid but they’re nearly impossible to find in grocery stores anymore. Of course finding a regular full Sears store has gotten more difficult now too.

I tried one memory foam pillow I found at Camping World but hated it. I woke up every couple of hours all night and it was too high. I took it back. I wasn’t going to try another memory foam pillow till I came across one in Wal-Mart. It wasn’t cheap but it looked promising. It is solid memory foam but one side is covered with gel. They call it a summer winter pillow. In summer, the gel side keeps you cool. In winter, you flip it over to the non-gel side to stay warm. I like the gel side for when I go to bed with my hair wet too. I’m not a hair dryer person normally unless it is truly freezing outside. The gel must work because I did have to flip the pillow over the other night when we finally got some cold nights here. Brrrr!

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My pillow quest did not end there though. I still needed pillows for the other side of the bed and my couch which I sleep on a lot due to work requirements. While cruising through Costco with the new foam topper, I found packages of 2 shredded gel memory foam pillows for only $9.50. I took a chance and love them too. They provide good support and when they smush into odd shapes like polyester pillows, all you have to do is shake them to redistribute the contents easily. You are not permanently stuck with the odd shape as with the polyester pillows. Quest over. Nighty night. Zzzzzzz…

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Winter RV Heating With Sunpentown

Any RVer can tell you how expensive it is to run the built in propane furnace full time during the winter months. You can easily go through one 30 lb. bottle in 2-3 days depending on the temperature you set the thermostat at. Getting propane delivered is not always possible and getting into town every few days Is not necessarily convenient. If you work 24/7 as I do as a gate guard, getting into town often or getting propane delivered is just not possible. Many RVers augment the furnace with electric heaters to save on propane. Some campgrounds, especially those who cover your electricity cost, have banned electric heaters. Others bill you for the electricity you use when staying weekly or monthly so they can allow electric heaters. Be sure to check the cost per kilowatt they charge before renting a space so you don’t get a nasty surprise from a campground overcharging for the cost and be sure to read the meter when you arrive and again when you leave. Keep in mind also that furnaces are ducted and routed so as to keep enclosed areas and tanks warm as well to avoid freezing pipes. On nights where temps dip below freezing, you may need to run the furnace at least some amount or open the doors to cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom to allow heat to get in them.

One of the big advantages of working as a gate guard during the winter is getting unlimited free electricity (not to mention the free site!). With propane so difficult to get, most gate guards heat almost entirely with one or two electric heaters. I have one very small Big Heat electric heater which does a great job (even after 15 years of use!) though the fan is a bit loud and it uses an analog thermostat. Before winter hit, I decided I should have a second heater to be sure I stay warm. After researching several types, I bought a Sunpentown Ceramic Heater from Wal-Mart. It stands about 2.5 feet tall but is very narrow so it doesn’t take up much space and it is cool to the touch which are both important when using it with the slideout in. It is very quiet. It includes a washable filter which is nice to have on a dusty Texas ranch. The thermostat and readout are digital and more precise. It can oscillate to spread the heat around if needed. It runs on Low, High, and Automatic. Unlike the very similar Lasko model, you can also run just the fan with no heat. My favorite feature, though, is the remote control. It sure puts out the heat too. With the exception of only one night, I have been able to heat my 5th wheel entirely with just the Sunpentown Ceramic Heater. The bedroom tends to stay warmer than the living room so I keep it down in the living room toward the back and pointed toward the bedroom. I have to remember to turn it lower at night or it will burn me out of the bedroom with its efficient ceramic heat. During the summer, it easily fits in a closet. I am very happy with my new heater. It wasn’t available in the store so I had to order it online from Wal-Mart but it was worth the short wait and they delivered it right to my gate for free. That’s what I call service! I would definitely buy it again if I needed to and I give it 5 stars.

 

Sunpentown ceramic heaterSunpentown heater remote

Exercising the RVer Way With Wii

As a full-time RVer for many years, I know how hard it can be to get proper exercise on the road and in our small domiciles. Oh, there’s the occasional hiking trail, walks around the park, and if you get lucky, swimming pools and exercise rooms. Some campgrounds, especially popular snowbird destinations, even offer water aerobics classes. Those are all good but regular exercise every day can be difficult on the road. In my job as a gate guard, it is even more difficult since I work 24/7 and can’t leave the gate.

Enter the Wii game system by Nintendo. I have played Wii bowling before at a couple of campgrounds but had no idea until recently how much more it could do. After looking at exercise equipment and discarding much of it as possibilities due to RV weight restrictions and lack of space, I started looking into the Wii which I had heard other RVers mention for exercise. What I discovered was completely astounding! Indeed, not only do they have interactive sports games to get the heart pumping and sweat going, they have numerous exercise programs that provide instruction, mentors, workout partners who won’t whisper embarrassing remarks behind your back or show off in front of you, lighter programs and heavier workouts, goals and tracking, encouragement, and a whole lot of fun ways you wouldn’t even imagine to burn those calories and work on specific areas of fitness.

My first purchase was the Wii system itself. There were three options. A new Wii U system costs around $299. Eek! I’m sure it is very nice but gaming is not really my aim and I don’t need all the options it comes with. I just want to get fit. The little add-on fit watch is kind of cool but I can get that with a Fit Bit if I really want it. The next option is to buy a first generation Wii used for only $79. That is a very good option. I found used Wiis available at Game Stop, Ebay, and jjgames.com.  There are around 1500 games out there for it including fitness games and they too can easily be found used at very good prices. With a full Wii you get internet access to play with others, removable storage for saving, menu updates, etc. How long the updates and Wii online will last is up in the air since Nintendo has discontinued the Wii. I opted for a third option, the Wii Mini. It is a Wii with all the extra goodies like internet and storage stripped out. I have no desire to use the Internet features and waste what little bandwidth I have with my hotspot MiFi. It’s smaller and sits horizontally rather than vertically which works well in my limited space. Due to the size, it is extremely portable. It also runs Wii games with built in memory to save games. It runs the Wii Balance Board though you will likely have to find one used. I like the red color of the Mini too! The Wii Mini is currently $99 and can be found at any Wal-Mart locked up with the other game systems. Both the used Wii and Wii Mini are good choices in my opinion. For the Wii, you may need to buy an additional Motion Plus sensor which is included in the 1 controller that comes with the Wii Mini. You may be able to get a package deal on Ebay for a used Wii with a bunch of controllers, games, Motion Sensor, and Balance Board included. I had some concerns about the Wii using the internet and running up a costly bill if a relief guard used it while I was on vacation elsewhere or if I have my grandkids over to play so for me that was a deciding factor.

Nintendo Wii Mini

Next, I looked around for the Balance Board and some fitness games. I found a board at Game Stop for only $14 in excellent condition. New it is $59. I knew I also wanted Wii Sports to practice my bowling. I was pleasantly surprised to find it also includes tennis, baseball, golf, and boxing. The sports alone really get my blood flowing and heart rate up so playing them is part of my daily exercise routine. If you hear someone in the RV next to you yelling to kill the umpire and “Bring me home, Jimmy.”, it is likely me next door. Fair warning, I am now listed as a pro in Bowling. Strrrrrike! :-) There is also a newer sports disk called Sports Resort that may be worth checking out.

Wii Balance Board

For specific fitness routines, I looked for Wii Fit Plus. Note the Plus version is better and contains more than the original Wii Fit. Wii Fit Plus contains lots of exercises for strength, balance, aerobics, yoga, timing, eye-hand coordination, and more for both beginner and advanced levels. The yoga and strength portions have numerous visual choices of exercises to choose from. You don’t have to do them all and an instructor does them with you. I avoid those that involve my bad knees at the moment. The other portions contain lots of incredibly fun games to help with your balance, body awareness, aerobics, and so on. Last night I flew like a bird flapping my wings over the bay to land on various stands in the water for points and finally landed on a ship. I got in a huge snowball fight with other kids and snowmen. (BTW, if you talk to Tommy’s mother, please tell her he threw first. ;-) ) I skateboarded. I ran an obstacle course. I used a Segway to pop beach balls. I got to dance with a group stepping on and off my balance board. I ran 1.7 miles through the countryside past windmills and waterfalls and without ever leaving my living room. I was in a bubble that I tried to navigate down a river past native villages without popping. I skied. I led a parade, bicycled through town, bumped my butt and hips into cushions, juggled, hula hooped, and more. It was F-U-N! What’s also nice is you can build and save a custom workout all your own. Wii Fit Plus also checks your BMI, weight, and balance through the balance board and tracks them for you. It can track exercise outside the Wii Fit Plus game as well through logging. The balance board is used in many of the exercises and games. Wii Fit Plus may also offer to help get you started on working on something it sees you have a problem with by suggesting an exercise to do. I LOVE Wii Fit Plus and I have the sweat stains to prove it! For those of you more reserved folks, there are plenty of just plain exercise routines so you don’t have to let your inner child loose if you don’t want to though I think you’ll be missing a lot if you don’t.

For a little more diversification to make sure I keep up the exercising, I checked out Gold’s Gym dancing disk and one of four Zumba dance disks courtesy of Ebay. Dancing burns a LOT of calories fast. While I’m not much of a dancer (more like an elephant in a china shop), I still like doing it. The Gold’s Gym program was good but not as good as Zumba. It uses the same Latin rhythms and moves but the steps are more complicated and the tutorials not as easy for us elephants. I love Zumba 2! It has dances for all levels and you can do them individually or as a whole class. The classes do multiple songs and dances and include a nice slowdown and stretch dance at the end. The better you mirror the actions of the dance leader, the more action occurs on the screen such as fireworks and whistles. The better you do the dances, the more the program unlocks. The dances are fun and let you shake your booty and ta-tas all you want.  The tutorials are excellent and can be run slow or normal speed to learn the steps. I just learned to Cha-Cha! One short class of 5 dances lasts about 26 minutes and burns around 260 calories.

I did find that I had to remove the extra rubber cover that came on the controller. While I like the feel of it, it interferes with quickly putting the controller in the Zumba belt you must wear on your hips (Be sure it comes with any Zumba disk you buy or can get it separately.). The rubber cover also interferes with shoving the controller in your pocket fast for other exercise programs.

What is also nice about using a Wii to exercise is that you can pause it by pressing the “+” key on the controller which is very important if someone knocks on your door, the oven bell goes off to beg for attention, or another truck comes to the gate.

Along with the Wii, you can add weights to get even more out of running and flapping games or other exercises. You can also add resistance bands to target specific muscle groups. I use a resistance band every other day to help build up some arm muscles since I don’t really have any. If you aren’t an elephant, a jump rope can make a nice addition to use outside.

In any case, you can still travel and stay or get fit in an RV. You just need to think smaller and virtually.

Locked Out and Locked Up

RV Door LockAs many of you may have heard, there was a recall a couple years ago on certain RV door locks that were failing to unlock if the key was turned the wrong way in them. My lock was one of those though I was not experiencing that particular problem. I actually had a different problem. While it would lock, just about ANY key would unlock it. Oops! Something was broken or stuck. Can’t have that. So, I replaced the lock which was extremely easy to do with just a few screws to remove. Still, I managed to get locked out one time after that when the awning rod I was keeping next to the door fell and lodged itself in the door handle so I couldn’t pull it to open the door from outside. With some brainstorming, recent experience, and a bit of luck I managed to get in the rig to get the rod out of the way. I won’t tell you how for security reasons. I no longer keep the rod near the door. Be sure to check what you are keeping near your door and what it might be capable of doing. Also check on possible entries into your RV should you get locked out. For simple key issues such as losing your key while you are out or leaving your key inside with a spouse who then decides to go somewhere and locks up, having a hide-a-key can be priceless. You may also want to let your next of kin know where it is just in case. I use a key vault myself. Not only do they need to know where it is hidden, they need the access code.

Most recently, I got locked in! I knew something wasn’t right when closing the door or locking the deadbolt because it seemed harder to close and way too easy to lock the deadbolt with no resistance. It then failed and locked me in. I unscrewed the inside lock plate and saw the deadbolt was disconnected and blocking the door from opening. I could see a screw that holds a separate plate over the deadbolt had fallen out and allowed the deadbolt actuator rod to also fall out. Attempts to pull the deadbolt back in just pushed it farther out though I can see now how it MAY have been possible to get the rod back in it in the first position it was in. With some effort, I was able to push the whole lock assembly out to open the door. Be aware that it is connected to a plate on the side of the door that you can’t get at when the door is closed. I lucked out and was able to still push it out while only slightly bending the plate. I picked up the pieces then had to slightly pull back the door jam molding to retrieve the deadbolt which had fallen down inside the wall. Putting it back in was easy and now it all feels right again. Whew! I’m free again!

PVC Project Book

Are you a full-time RVer and a project person? Maybe you want to find something easy to make and maybe sell without carrying a bunch of woodworking tools and machines in your already loaded RV. Want to make something you have seen other RVers have made or paid good money for? Whether it’s a flag pole, laundry rack or hamper, potato cannon, marshmallow gun, furniture, camping gear, shelters, or whatever, you will likely find it in the PVC Project Book or other books at this link. Remember playing with Tinker Toys as a kid? The fun isn’t over just because we grew up! With PVC pipe and fittings we can make all kinds of useful or fun items easily with a minimum of tools and time. If your hubby is starting to act bored or grumpy, look in the book and suggest a project to get him busy and off that couch. If you get lucky, he’ll want to improve the design which will keep him out of the way and happy even longer. But, there’s no reason women can’t enjoy making things from PVC too. Get in on the fun and you may just find a new source of additional income too.

Battle For The Bathroom

The heat of the day had faded away on a light breeze as the sun prepared to retire for the evening. It was not unlike any other fall day out in the green and brown rural nothingness of Texas far away from anything that resembled civilization. Work and life had slowed to a nice lazy flow. It was a good time to change uniform from the cool shorts of the day to the warm long pants of night. As I glided into the quiet bathroom, my mind in a slightly tired haze, the peace was shattered by a high piercing screech. Aaaagh! My ears cringed in pain. Had the air conditioner broken? Was the vent fan going bad? But neither was on. I quickly stepped back out and shut the door to locate the obnoxious noise. I listened and moved my head as a sensor. It was indeed coming from the bathroom. Opening the door, again came the unbelievable racket. I looked about but saw nothing. I reengaged my sensor again and tracked the cacophony to the bathroom vent. Something moved. Something small and dark with a twisted smile and sensors of his own hopped. I opened the vent further and yelled, “Ha ha! Take that!” as I switched on the fan in hopes of slicing into a million pieces any dream he might have of taking up residency with me as I have previously done to so many other suitors. Alas, he was smarter than the others had been. He crouched under the fan and laughed sardonically at me while his thick rear legs rubbed together to further inflame my passion. Not one to take such a show of audacity, I jumped into the shower, twisted the round, deep vent screen till it came loose, then quickly slammed it against the wall to trap the fiend. He found an opening and crawled out from under. I moved the screen over him again. He jumped out of the way. I dived for him. He ran to the left. I dived again. He zig zagged right. One final lunge and I had him caged! He tested the walls of his prison and probed for a way out. There was none. Very slowly I moved the screen over the shower drain to offer him a false exit. He took it. As the shower water now came raining down to push him further on his journey, I sealed his fate with the plug. So long, my enemy. Farewell. Don’t write!

Tossing Game Plans

If you have been a camper for very long, I’m sure you have seen the various tossing games camp folk play. The two most popular are Ladder Golf and Washer Toss. You can buy very nice looking retail versions of the games for your own family in many retail stores such as Wal-Mart  or on Amazon but they aren’t cheap. Maybe you would like to have a custom decorated version to make your family games stand out from the rest. Personally, I think it would be fun to throw bean bags or washers into the mouths of large family pictures, pictures of great icons I have visited like the Grand Canyon, etc. I found plenty of FREE plans on the internet so you can make your own! I hope the following list of goodies is helpful.

The best place to start is at TossingGames.com. They are setup like forums which is a little weird but in the forums they posted all kinds of instructions for making games and you can ask questions about the designs if anything isn’t clear to you.

Here are some other more specific links:

Ladder Golf1 or you may prefer the Ladder Golf2 design. If you have never played Ladder Golf before, checkout the official rules here.

Washer Toss games come in square 1 hole and rectangular 3 hole versions. For the rules for the different Washer Toss versions, click here.

Basic Cornhole Game
Note: Cornhole bags are 6in x 6in and are filled with 16oz of whole kernel feed corn. The better bags are constructed from Duck Cloth and are double or triple stitched for durability and strength.

Beanbag Baseball is a game that Escapees RV Club members play at rallies sometimes.

Another fun tossing game is tossing toilet paper rolls through a toilet seat. I don’t have the specific plans for it but it is played with a toilet seat mounted to a vertical board or the top of a box with the center hole cut out. Tape the toilet paper to be sure it doesn’t unroll. But please, DON’T squeeze the Charmin’! You can play it as singles and in teams. If you want to give out prizes, Tootsie Rolls seem appropriate due to their resemblance to… well, you know.

I also found this interesting item to keep your drink cold while playing and to keep score – Score Keeper Cozie $12.99

October Seeing Huge Phone Data Deals!

Whether you are an RVer or not, you should be contacting your cell phone provider or their websites to check on their deals this month. AT&T and Verizon are both offering to double your phone data for the same price you are currently paying or with a minor upgrade. All you have to do is call them or upgrade online. I have heard Sprint may be offering a similar deal. This is a tremendous opportunity you don’t want to miss even if you aren’t currently using what you have. Don’t waste any more time reading, get on it NOW!

For those of us using MIFI devices from AT&T for internet rather than a cell phone. We are still hosed at only 5 gigs which is so not fair to us. Apparently, the simple MIFI only plan I got just a year ago is no longer offered and I am grandfathered i.e. stuck with this. The only option is to switch to their ridiculously high priced phone plan to get up to 30 gigs which I don’t really need, especially at 3 times the price I am paying now and I really like my phone and phone service through Consumer Cellular.