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PVC Laundry Ladder Racks

One thing RVers miss from home is a laundry line. Even if you don’t have a washer/dryer in your rig, occasionally you may need to wash out something in the sink, dry pool towels, etc. It’s nice to have a laundry line then but most campgrounds prohibit stringing one between trees. A few very snooty campgrounds forbid ALL outside laundry so be sure to check the rules. What to do then for the many campgrounds that allow racks? Camping World sells one that folds in and out and mounts on the RV or RV ladder. They also sell a bumper mount one and one that free stands outside or in the shower. Those are all good options.

Camping World Folding Laundry RackCamping World Bumper Laundry RackCamping World Standing Laundry Rack

For those of us that like to make our own,  PVC pipes and fittings make building a laundry rack very easy. You can glue it all together permanently or glue only where absolutely necessary and leave the rest loose to break it down and store it. You can make it any size you like. In my travels, I have seen many different designs and studied them. Here are a few I saw:

Ladder PVC Laundry RackHanging PVC Laundry RackLadder PVC Laundry Rack 2

If you have a hankering to make one for yourself, here are some specific plans I found on how to make a PVC ladder rack. Click here.

Smartphones and RVing

I have finally joined the smartphone crowd. I have been putting it off for some time due to the cost of plans for them which frankly is obscene. How does anyone justify $130 a month just for a phone?! The cost of satellite TV is bad enough but then they hit you with that for a phone. OUCH! To add insult to injury, they charge for a plan then they charge to have a phone on the plan which, umm, is completely useless without a phone. Then they limit the plans severely so you can’t fully enjoy your phone without paying even more money out. They advertise hard and induce you to use smart phones for all kinds of things then they whine that you use it too much. What a great con these major rip-off artists are running!

It took me two years of searching through plans and patiently waiting for the right plan, right coverage, and right phone to come together. I made one slight misstep along the way with a Trac Phone. While they do have some decent phones, I for one won’t pay $500 for a PHONE no matter what it does. That is too much money to risk on something in my pocket every day. Phones tend to jump out of your hand to commit suicide on rocks, in any nearby water, etc. I bought one of their cheaper “sort of smart” LG phones only to find there aren’t any apps available for it in an app store though you can find a few java apps here and there to manually add to the phone. The plan cost was very cheap which I liked and it did allow me to browse the web in stores to research items, browse the web when I needed to find some place, and send email and texts for work. Don’t get me wrong. I do like the phone and the browsing but I wanted the apps too. If you don’t need apps, Trac Phone has great coverage on Verizon or AT&T depending on the model and it is very inexpensive with easy top up online or excellent automatic monthly top up. Mine also came with triple purchased minutes so that I had plenty of minutes for only $21 a month. Now that is what a phone plan ought to cost! The phone itself was only $99.

So why the need for apps? I’m a geocacher and there is an app for that so I can find geocaches anytime anywhere without having to load up my GPS with locations before I leave home. I travel a lot and need to be able to find campgrounds, overnight boondocking spots, and interesting places to visit on the go. I read only eBooks these days and don’t always have my Kindle with me but do always have my phone. I’m studying Spanish free through an online site and find it easier to study on my phone. I have friends and family I keep in touch with through social sites which have apps for that. I need to be able to find the cheapest gas in areas I am unfamiliar with. I have an app that turns my phone into a flashlight when needed. I can record any situations I get into for documentation or safety including a cop stop. There are many other things in my life that apps accommodate and then there is the fact I am working on an app of my own for one of my other websites and need to be able to test it.

Motorola Moto GMy new phone is a Motorola Moto G true Android smartphone with Consumer Cellular. Consumer Cellular has always had good plans and very good coverage nearly everywhere I have traveled with a plain jane phone of theirs. Unfortunately, they haven’t had much in the way of smart phones until they recently added the Moto G to their line and it is awesome! Not only does it do browsing and all the apps I need, it also is a decent size for reading books, plays mp3s, has GPS, has decent battery life, plays games, the sound quality is very good, it supports Square for taking credit card payments, supports Bluetooth, takes decent pictures and has a flash, makes movies and automatically uploads them, does Wi-Fi, and it takes voice commands. WOW!  That is a whole lot of functionality in a $150 phone. On top of that, it allows me to set a limit on data so it shuts down automatically and notifies me before I go over. I can bypass it if I choose to, usually after I change my plan to finish out that month.  Rather than wait for the phone to be mailed to me, I went to the nearest Sears store to pick it up then called Consumer Cellular to activate it. If you have a phone already which uses a sim card, you can just buy a new sim card from them to use their service.

Consumer Cellular plans also shine. First, there is no commitment. You pay them a $25 activation fee and that is the end of your commitment. No flipping 2 years to worry about. While you must choose your initial plans, you are allowed to change them up and down at any time before the month ends to save money and they send you notices when you use 80% and 100% so you can change your plan rather than incur overage charges. Their talk minutes plans are separate from their data and text plans so you can signup for exactly what you need and change them separately as needed. It’s not as cheap as Trac Phone but it is still much cheaper than the other big name companies. I’m paying between $50-$60 a month depending on how much I talk or use data. They also let you share with other family members for only $10 per additional line. To make the deal even sweeter, I gave them my AARP number which gets me a nice little discount every month.

I think having a smart phone along when traveling can be very helpful for RVers. There are many RVer and tourist specific apps as well as common apps we would use. Most apps are either free or less than$10. You can scan your multiple grocery reward cards with an app to use instead of the bulky cards. You can get coupon codes delivered to your phone. You can reserve a Red Box movie with it and save on rentals with special codes texted to you. You can shop online or get more info in box stores on products by scanning QR codes with it. You can reserve a campsite over the Internet with your phone. If you get in an accident, your insurance company app can help you file a report and get help. A smart phone can save you money and save your arse in many situations and heck, it is a lot of fun. Just don’t get too caught up playing Angry Birds or Hay Day. Both games are very addictive.

Searching For Popeye

As you may have noticed, while searching for America in my travels, I have also sought out the odd roadside attraction. I’m a big fan of the “World’s Greatest, Biggest, Longest, Whatever”. One of my favorite websites and books is Roadside America. To me, it just seems like a crime to pass up a shot to see the “World’s Largest Frying Pan”, “World’s Largest Peanut”, the largest Paul Bunyan statue, the Airstream or Cadillac ranches, the peach tower, a giant tire, a huge ball of string, an elephant you can live in or use as a bar, a castle built from old used newspaper printing plates, etc. There is usually some fascinating history attached to them and some interesting, if not odd or unusual, person behind them. With this in mind, I set out to find Popeye in Crystal City, TX nearby. I found Popeye, twice.

I first saw Popeye a year ago from a distance across from the H-E-B grocery store. He stands in a pavilion built on a spit of open land that divides the main thoroughfare from the side streets and old town stores. At the time, I was too busy to check him out but my curiosity finally got the better of me the other day so I Googled him. Popeye was the result of a contest in 1937. Being the “Spinach Growing Capital of the World”, Crystal City was looking for something to celebrate that and what better than the sailor who gets his strength by eating his spinach every day to promote it. I remember eating spinach as a kid only because Popeye ate it. The statue also honors the creator of Popeye, E.C. Segar who died under mysterious circumstances at only 38 years of age.  Ah, but the statue I saw in the pavilion is not the original. It is a decoy. In a stroke of brilliance at a time when vandals and high school rivalries were damaging statues or making them disappear all together, the town had this copy made and put on display in a prominent place to lure them away from the true Popeye statue which stands in front of City Hall located two to three blocks away on a side street. I snapped pictures of both for you below.

Decoy PopeyeOriginal Popeye

 

Near the “fake” Popeye is a storefront boasting the Spinach Festival. Oh boy! Can’t wait for that!

Crystal City Spinach Festival

I also spotted a closed down Popeye Buffet farther away and there is a Popeye Park about a mile away.

Just a few feet from the second Popeye statue pavilion is an old caboose as a reminder of the trains that used to run through town. The caboose door is always open and the city stores some Christmas decorations in it. I went inside it and found the “IYamWhatIYam” geocache hiding in a magnetic key box. Woohoo! I love combining the fun of a roadside attraction with the fun of geocaching! Score!

IYamWhatIYam Train CabooseInside Train Caboose

So that is how I spent my day searching for and finding Popeye in Crystal City, TX several times over.

Gate Guard Ladies Luncheon

Like many other jobs, gate guarding has many unique experiences and challenges. Often we are out in the boonies alone working unsupervised 24/7 with the occasional odd situation, storms, ranch animals, bugs, heat, cold, gate runners, sudden schedule changes with accompanying traffic, and so on to spice things up. The best way to survive is to band together to share info on guard companies, new gates available, RV problems, vacation tips, guarding tips, etc. and to get away from spouses for a couple hours while doing something “normal”. Like any other field, networking is essential to success and improves safety when you have the number of someone nearby to call in an emergency. To these ends, we have informal luncheons once a month for both women and men. Occasionally, they will bring the luncheon to a guard that is working alone and can’t otherwise attend.

I got to go to the June ladies luncheon which was held in Carrizo Springs at Miguelitos. Business cards for guards and a good RV repairman were exchanged. The tips offered were plentiful and I met several new people. Many of us only know each other through our Facebook group so this was a great way to see faces and get better acquainted. The food was very good. I highly recommend their taco salad. It’s a very busy restaurant with lots of oilfield workers eating there for lunch along with regular townsfolk.

I had a wonderful time with some great people and hope to get to another luncheon some time. The luncheons really are valuable in many ways.

Gate Guard Luncheon

Fast Cash for the RV Life

People always wonder how us full-time RVers manage to make money on the road. There are lots of workamping jobs out there both as temporary and permanent positions not to mention seasonal work. Making money while traveling is entirely doable. Even if you have a pension and/or social security though, now and then you may need some extra bucks. I remember one summer when I was traveling in the northeast and gas was over $4.50 a gallon. Ouch! Add the cost of the numerous toll roads in those parts and you can easily run out of traveling money. You could pull in somewhere for a while and take a regular job or you can hop on the internet to make some fast cash at numerous sites. Most of them will not pay you enough to earn an actual living but they do provide that little bit of extra cash when needed and they can be fun to work with. Here then is a good article on some ways to earn money online fast:

Fast Cash Sites

I have done the paid forum posting with a different company than the one mentioned in the link. I enjoyed the work itself. I didn’t enjoy the person running the company I was working with so I didn’t stick with them. Be aware there are a lot of rules involved you must pay heed to and there are very specific time frames. You must be very organized and I found using a calendar like Google Calendar or Lightning for Thunderbird helps to stay on schedule. It is a business and you cannot miss a deadline for any reason.

Another fast cash idea I have done myself is selling at swap meets. I was helping someone sell the contents of his storage shed. If you find something that is in demand and can get it at a wholesale price, this could work for you. Craft work also sells well depending on the venue. DIY devices like an easy satellite dish leveler can sell. Sodas, popcorn, and peanuts always do well if allowed.

The Right Truck Box

One of the downsides of pulling a 5th wheel is the hitch which takes up a great deal of space in the back of your truck and prevents you from using a shell. That forces you to use the interior of your truck to store most of your shopping bags and miscellaneous gear for security and to keep them from flying out of the back of the truck or getting wet in rain. If you have a crew cab, it isn’t so bad because you can store in the rear seat area. However, if you have a standard cab, you have very little space to store anything and none if you regularly have a passenger. I knew this would be an issue when I bought my truck. The solution, of course, is to add a truck box. Truck boxes are available in many stores such as Wal-Mart or auto stores but you can also find them on Craigslist, Ebay, and Amazon. There are may different designs to choose from so you need the dimensions of the available space in your truck bed and you need to carefully consider what your needs are. When I bought my truck, the owner also had a truck box to sell which unfortunately someone talked me into buying. It was totally wrong for my use and I knew it would cause problems but I bought it. It was more suitable for someone not towing at all or towing a travel trailer. It was all wrong for towing a 5th wheel because it sat 4 inches above the truck rail which meant it would hit the 5th wheel every time I turned sharply on uneven ground which could not always be avoided. It got very stressful when I started gate guarding where I move my RV often to new gates and am usually backing in and turning on uneven ground. It also sat so high that it blocked my view of the hitch so that when hitching up alone I had to constantly stop, get out of the truck, and go check my position. This made hitching up take much longer and contributed to me being unable to pull myself out of a flood in time when every second counts. Below is the old box sitting on the back and up for sale after I removed it from behind the cab.

Old truck box

I finally found the right box for my truck and bought it recently. I knew I wanted it to sit on the floor of the truck bed for proper support for heavy items I might place in it. I knew it should be no higher than the truck railing to avoid hitting the 5th wheel and allow me to see the hitch. I didn’t want the paddle handles to open it because they hurt my hands. Push buttons would be much nicer. I also wanted the biggest one I could fit in the space to not only hold the usual items but also hold packages, shopping bags, and a suitcase or two when I go on vacation. BTW, duffle bags are a great alternative to suitcases for RVers because they can conform to the space of a truck box easily and when back in your RV, they fold up small for easy storage in a closet or under the bed. After spotting what I thought I wanted at Tractor Supply in New Braunfels, TX, I had a chat with a salesman about my needs. He went right to the box I had picked and told me I was the second person that week who had come to him with those same needs and that was the one to go with. Lucky me, it was also on sale $50 cheaper. Woohoo! Deal!

New truck box

Removing the old box from the rails took a little effort and body twisting to reach the nuts on the bolts but I got it off. Installing the new box was a breeze. I slapped on the foam they provided on the bottom and drilled holes down through the bottom of the box then screwed it down to the truck bed. After cleaning up and lining the bottom with plastic, I tossed in my usual stuff and OMG I had a ton of room left for lots of vacation things or other stuff, even a weed whacker. I am in LOVE! It is so much nicer. Hitching up is also much easier now. I’m a happy camper. I placed a For Sale sign on the old box and sold it off to someone who doesn’t tow and just wants to get his work tools out of the back seat of his crew cab. Now that is what that box was designed for.

Now I’m looking either for a V shaped box for the tailgate area (have seen one on a truck), a tall though smaller box for just one side, or I have a design to make a snapping vinyl cover for that area for grocery hauling. A net works but a solid cover would be better. About the time I get this truck exactly like I want it, I’ll probably sell it. Story of my life. LOL.

Indoor RV Parks

Probably all RVers caught in cold climates in winter dream of an indoor RV park to shelter them from the harsh winds, biting cold, and icy snow. I know I have. An air conditioned indoor park or a cave would be nice in the super hot summer in Texas too. I have always pictured multiple domes connected as a community with a recreation and office dome in the center. Of course, it has always been just a dream for those of us without the funds to even start such a venture. Happily, others have managed to make the dream come true. There is one such indoor park inside the mountains in Kentucky as an emergency shelter. Recently, another has been built for the workers in the North Dakota oilfields where housing is scarce and the winters are brutal. It isn’t cheap to stay there but is a true godsend to the workers and their families in RVs. Check it out!

 

Kentucky Doomsday RV Resort

 

North Dakota Indoor RV Park

Bernie Flies and Katrina Drives

With an 8am plane flight scheduled the next morning to get Bernie home to Idaho, we had to get up pretty early and skip breakfast. Thanks to Bernie, I finally got to see what the Transit icon on my GPS is for. I searched all over the GPS for a listing of the airport but was having no luck. Finally I looked under Transit which I had never looked at before. There I not only found the airport, but I found the exact terminal she needed to go to. The GPS did a great job directing us in and through the airport maze. I dropped her off and said goodbye until the next cruise. We both now know we want to cruise again. Unfortunately, my next two vacations are already planned so my next one will likely be April 2015. I’ll have to be content with my memories until then.

Heading home wasn’t in my plans just yet. I had personal business to take care of in Livingston, TX for one night and then off to New Braunfels (again) for a couple nights to see my doctor (again) and do some shopping. I had planned to do some tent camping but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was too wet and cold to sleep on the ground. I had to motel it. In Livingston I stayed at the Economy Inn just south of town on 59. Nothing fancy but for one night it was OK. I wouldn’t vacation there. Just so you know, the pool they claim to have no longer exists. They filled it in with concrete so they wouldn’t have to bother with it and have never updated their listings. I hear breakfast doesn’t exist either. I wouldn’t know since I had a fridge and microwave in my room to use.

While in Livingston, I finally tried out Church’s Chicken (since I haven’t been able to find KFC down here in Texas). It’s cheaper than Popeye’s and good but not a replacement for KFC. NOBODY does coleslaw right but KFC.

I saw my insurance agent who happened to be at the Escapees park while I was there. I have said it before, if you want really great service and prices from someone who cares, knows their stuff, and isn’t just trying to sell you something, call Chris or Charles Yust with CandCRVInsurance. DON’T tell them I sent you. I’m one of their more “messy” customers but they still do great work for me and I love them!

Once my personal business was finished, I had to leave in a thunderstorm with high winds to get to New Braunfels. If I had my trailer with me, I never would have travelled in that. It was not at all fun. Thank goodness Chris and Charles told me the best way to get around the horrible Houston traffic. It was worth the tolls but I had to reprogram my GPS to get it to use the toll road. I had turned off toll roads long ago when the toll roads all over the East coast ate my bank account and spare change. I drove straight to the Red Roof Inn which I had checked out and programmed into my GPS long ago as a backup for vacations. I got one of their King rooms which I liked very much. It is very large, has an L-shaped desk for business travelers and computer geeks, and had a fridge and microwave oven which I love to get. Their pool does exist though it was too cold to try it out. The location is excellent right in town near the Wal-Mart and HEB. I would stay there again.

I had to get my Texas driver’s license while I was there and I have to say it was the first time I ever enjoyed the experience. Their office is automated using a kiosk you sign into with your cell phone number and text alerts sent to your phone. Whatever you do, don’t reply to the one telling you how long a wait you have with the letter “M”. It adds another 20 minutes wait time. Don’t ask how I know. Oops! The gals working there were very nice and one was especially funny. When the office started to fill up, she turned to us and started telling us “Go ahead and go to lunch if your hungry. We’ll text you when it is your turn. Ladies, go get that new Easter dress or shoes you know you want. You have time. We’ll text you. Guys, you need a new tie for Easter, don’t you? Maybe you have some other shopping to do. Go for it. Oh look there’s a smart one leaving.” She waved at me as I trotted off to lunch. After lunch, I started heading back when I spotted a propane place so I pulled in and filled my empty propane bottle in the back. Geez! The price of propane sure has soared! So glad I figured out how to heat my RV solely with the free electricity I get from my company’s generator. Just as they were finishing, I got a message that I was next in line. They weren’t far but by the time I got there, I missed my turn. No problem. All I had to do was reply to the “we missed you” text message and they put me next in line. What a great way to run a DMV! Love it. Got a temp license. Hope the picture is decent when I get my permanent one in the mail. A girl can dream.

I got a chance to hit up Red Box to see Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It was very good. I stayed up late to watch it with a Domino’s pizza I had ordered in. Haven’t done either of those in quite awhile. Can’t wait to see the next Hunger Games movie. One of Katniss’ beaus has got to go because her flipping back and forth is making me dizzy. What they did with the dress was terrific as a form of flipping the finger to President Snow. All I’m going to say.

Finished up the shopping and made the doc happy with a visit. It was time to go back home though I had no idea where my home was. We were released from my gate while I was on the cruise and my support folks had to move my trailer off the ranch. I was homeless! I was about to call to get a destination to go to when one of them called to tell me we got called back again so they took my trailer back to the same gate. Criminy! What a waste of time, effort, and gas! I returned back to the gate and work. Traffic is not slow but easily handled. I’m getting some sleep at night. Zzzzzz.