Monday, January 17, 2011

Project for a Rainy Day

Sometimes people ask us “just what do you do with all of your time?” thinking that just because we’re retired and living in a motor home that we don’t have anything to do.  Kitchen - BeforeBut the reality is that we’re home owners, and our home needs repairs, updates and improvements just like any other.  So, with a couple of rainy days in the forecast, I decided to take on a project that Brenda’s wanted for a while – a tile backsplash for the kitchen area.  After browsing at Lowe’s, we finally found a laminate tile that looked like ceramic, and best of all it was “peel & stick”.  Tile Without GroutThe first step was figuring out how the tiles would be placed to alternate between the plain tiles and those with a design.  After that,it was just a matter of peeling & sticking, using an piece of 1/4 scrap wood to separate the tiles for the grout.  This part wasn’t particularly difficult, except the bending and stretching to reach the area behind the cooktop.   I’d considered using decorative molding stained to match the woodwork to provide a frame, but after trying a piece we decided it was too much. 
Finished ProductAfter all the tile was in place, it was time for the grout.  I bought pre-mixed and colored grout, and although I’d never “grouted” before, it wasn’t too difficult, just messy and time consuming.  But the difference was worth it; the tiles look great!  We’re really happy we did it – total cost was around $50 and it took about three hours.  Finished Kitchen

This project adds to a number of improvements we’ve made.  We previously  replaced all of the day/night shades with custom wood mini-New Year's Dinnerblinds, and last year replaced the table and chairs with a buffet or server.  It has a hinged top that creates a “counter’ for us to pull up our stools, and we can enjoy our meal sitting side-by-side, looking straight out the window.  As a bonus, it has lots of storage that we were lacking with the table.  We found ours at the Oak Express (but it isn’t oak).  Another myth we’d like to dispel is that you can’t set a beautiful table in an RV.  This picture is of Brenda’s New Year’s dinner with traditional Czech-style pork roast, potato dumplings, and sauerkraut with caraway seed. 

Sunday, January 09, 2011

2010–The Year in Review

2010 Travel Map2It’s hard for us to believe that we’ve completed five years on the road!  We’re so lucky to be living our dream, and have no plans to return to the life of a stick n’ brick house and an unchanging view from our window.  This year, like any, had it’s memorable moments and a few not-so-memorable moments, and here’s our wrap-up:
imageWe started our year in New Braunfels, TX, our winter home for the past three years, on a sad note when Fido, the campground cat left us but seemed to reappear as a younger, more energetic cat.  We continued to enjoy exploring the area, and had the opportunity to share time with fellow full-timers and bloggers Kirk and Pam, and Laurie and Odel.  It’s always interesting to share time with fellow travelers and hear of their adventures.
Door Damage2In March, we headed North to spend the summer on the Oregon coast, but at a Flying J truck stop in Amarillo, our coach was the victim of an unprovoked and damaging attack by a pole on a steel barrier.  With two damaged cargo doors, we veered to the Northeast and headed to the Winnebago factory in Rushmore w flagsIowa to have the doors replaced and repainted.  The factory did it’s usual outstanding job, and soon we were on our way again, headed West on I-90 through our “home” state of South Dakota.  We needed to stop in Rapid City to renew our driver’s licenses, and while there, visited Mt. Rushmore NP, which amazed us with it’s beauty and magnificent visitor facilities. 
Continuing West through Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, we crossed the Sierras into California and headed North to the Oregon coast.  We arrived in mid-April, beginning our volunteer stint with Shoreline Education for Awareness (SEA), a non-profit Shell Island Sea Lionsorganization that believes education is the key in preserving the shoreline habitats and wildlife of the Southern Oregon Coast.  In partnership with US Fish & Wildlife’s Bandon Marsh Wildlife Refuge and Bullards Beach State Park, we were quickly immersed in seminars which taught us about the coastline mammals, birds, and history. SEA Sign We can’t say enough about the people in this fine organization; they donate countless hours, in sometimes miserable weather, to provide an invaluable service to the community and visitors.  SEA’s volunteer coordinator, Pam, was just amazing person – she made everyone feel at home, always had a smile, and was an incredible host and gourmet chef at our weekly pot luck dinners.  Guarding the Snowy PloverWe taught children about marine mammals, helped them dig up all manner of critters and crustaceans at low tide, provided on-site information on the endangered Western Snowy Plover, and our favorite, manned shoreline overlooks and explained to visitors what they were seeing.  At one overlook, the rocks were covered with seals and sea lions.  Simpson Reef Sea lionsThe noise of a couple of thousand of them barking and yelping almost made conversation impossible, and while they were the center of attention, there were Bald Eagles, Gray Whales, and even an occasional Killer Whale to marvel at.  All in a breathtaking area of rugged cliffs, sea stacks, and towering pines.  What an amazing experience! 
Sometimes, though, family needs intervene and always take priority, and in June we left Oregon to return to Ohio and help Brenda’s mom  who was Ron, Brenda, & Mom2having difficulty living alone in her home.  While Brenda stayed with her mom, the cat and I stayed at a nice area park, helping out when we could.  We managed a few interesting trips while we were there, the most memorable to the home used in the filming of The Christmas Story.  The house, restored to it’s movie set condition complete with a tour provided by the actor Christmas Story House2who played Randy, was great fun to see.  And who could resist a trip to the museum to see hallowed memorabilia like the actual coat worn by the evil Scut Farcus?  But all of this paled in comparison to the moment in the gift shop, when I stood in front of the Leg Lamp section, mesmerized by the incredible beauty and meaningful style of this truly Major Award, and Brenda said, Oh, all right, go ahead and buy one!  A chorus of angels filled the air as I selected my prize, which has become the centerpiece of our windshield table and an immediate conversation starter with people passing by. 
Leaving Ohio with Brenda’s mom comfortably established in a beautiful assisted-living facility, we headed Northeast to Erie, PA for a brief stay on the lake.  It was a quiet time along the lakefront, and we enjoyed the Sunset at Erie2colorful sunsets and maritime museum.   Looping back to the East toward Dayton, we visited Longaberger Baskets where I was disappointed to learn that all they made was, well, baskets.  We stopped and spent two weeks at Dayton, where we spent a couple of weeks visiting friends, catching up on chores, and visiting the Air Force Museum, before heading South.
Brenda’s bucket list includes visiting every casino in the U.S., so we drove South through Memphis to Tunica, MS where we spent time exploring the many casinos in the area.  We didn’t win any money, but made up for it by putting a serious dent in Paula Deen’s seafood buffet at Harrah’s casino.    The buffet was divided into different types of her famous recipes, and although Brenda sampled most of them I spent most of the evening in the “Uncle Bubba’s” seafood section depleting their oyster supply.
Motorhome being towedApproaching Texarkana, we had one of those “aw darn” moments when the motor homes temperature gauge spiked and we learned that we needed a new fan hub on our engine.  After three days and a significant dent in our finances, we were on our way again.  All in all, it was as painless experience as could be expected; just one of things we expect to experience (hopefully not often) having a home on wheels.
Ezekial Airship2Entering Texas, we decided to take our time in a meandering route that took us South of Dallas and West to Fort Davis, one of our favorite places to visit.  We stayed in interesting  towns like Pittsburg, Gun Barrel, and San Angelo, and came across unusual roadside attractions like the Ezekiel Flying Machine. Fort Davis NP In Fort Davis, we settled into one of our favorite sites, then revisited the McDonald Observatory, the town of Alpine, the Mysterious Marfa Lights, and even took a trip to the border to explore the area around Presidio.  As December approached, it was time to head for our winter home in Camp Huaco Springs, where we started our annual doctor and dentist visits and renewed old friendships.  We’ll be here until spring when we head North for our next year of adventure!
Our Favorites for the Year:
Bullards Beach SP SiteBest RV Park – A tie between Bullards Beach SP in Bandon, OR, and Davis Mountains SP in Fort Davis TX.  Both are located in beautiful natural settings, have lots of wildlife, and are close to interesting attractions.  Although we stayed at some beautiful RV “resorts”, the state parks remain our favorite.  You can see our reviews here.
Coquille Pt view2Most Scenic Area – The Southern Oregon coast.  Sea stacks, crashing surf, towering pines, sea lions, whales, eagles, and even a Tufted Puffin or two….what an incredible place!  Runner Up:  The Black Hills of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore.  We’re going back this year!
Brenda’s best CasinoThe Mill Casino in Coos Bay, OR.  Not the biggest or fanciest, but lots of customer-friendly incentives and a great restaurant.
Best Dining ExperiencePaula Deen’s Buffet at Harrah’s Casino, MS.  Not your typical buffet, more like dining in someone’s home.  Friendly staff, beautiful surroundings, and ohhhhh, the food!  Runner Up:  Nel’s Coffee Shop in Fort Davis, TX.  The best sandwiches in West Texas, but even if they weren’t, we go just to see Nel’s smile!
Most Disappointing Area -  Northeast Ohio campgrounds.  Overpriced,  limited hookups, and the weekend seasonal campers and their drunken parties all add up to a hope we won’t have to stay long term again.
Girl at ScopeMost Memorable Experience – On an overlook above a reef covered with thousands of barking seals and sea lions,  watching the face of a child who’s just seen the close-up face of a baby harbor seal through our spotting scope.  Thanks, SEA and Pam, for allowing us to be a part of your team!
Hoity Toidy BarSign of the Year – You know you’re in Texas when you come across a place called the “Hoity-Toit Beer Joint” and its motivational message!
It’s a new year!  C’mon back and visit with us as we continue the Travels of the Damn Near Perfect Couple!