Practice makes perfect

Well, we were so excited to have the new RV we decided to practice driving without the car (by we, I mean Andrew). A little over a week ago we loaded up the car with beds, food, and meds for two cats, and two dogs and went to Woodbridge, VA where we park our RV. We ultimately decided to rent a space at Holly Acres due to the small driveway at our house and because taxes are very high on RVs in Arlington, VA and don’t exist in Woodbridge, VA! When we arrived we were happy to find everything as we left it. We decided not to tow my car and we left it in the huge rented space with the tow-dolly. So, we popped the pets in (two rescue lab/pointer/pit bull mixes and two rescue house cats), put the food and other items in the storage compartments, and headed to my parents’ house about two hours away. We forgot how much traffic there is on a Friday evening on I95 and so the trip took more than three hours. Andrew was able to navigate highways, narrow and winding two lane roads, and a few roads with NO lines until eventually the stone road where my parents live. Practice makes perfect! He drove like a pro!

We did have some serious excitement on the way though. Cats should probably NOT be allowed to roam as you drive. It seemed like they were going to be okay, so we left them on the bed in the back. We started down I95 and within 30 minutes Rhyo, our 16+ year old calico, was perched on the back of Andrew’s seat! The width of the RV being what it is didn’t let me grab her off very easily. I held her most of the rest of the trip… not before she scratched the soft dashboard! About 30 minutes later our 14 year old tuxedo cat came up front. At this point it’s dark AND she’s mostly black so she was difficult to see under Andrew’s legs. So I had to scoop her up, too. By the time we arrived at my parents’ house I was covered in cat fur from two very unhappy kitties.

Once there we found a level spot in the drive way and used the self leveling system before opening the slides. All was set! We went to sleep. The visit was great! We spent a great deal of time on their porch and the pets all adjusted beautifully. The dogs played in the yard and slept well in the RV. The cats LOVED the front dash which was full of awesome views and sunshine.

To go home, we decided it was best for the cats to stay in the bathroom. So we moved the cat box, food, water and blankets back and had an uneventful ride back to Woodbridge. What a relief to not worry about their location as we are driving. Our younger dog, Gigi, is a nervous wreck in the car and the RV is not any better for her. To help her relax we researched melatonin after a friend suggested we try it. From what we found a dog her size could have 3 mg of melatonin every 8 hours. One dose is enough for many trips so we bought the dog treats designed for pills/capsules and gave her one! We of course had to give Kona a treat too so she gets one without the meds. After about 30 minutes she is pretty calm and we have found she often sleeps for most of the trip! She is easy to rouse though and is always excited to get out and talk a walk!

A good start for newbies! Practice makes perfect-ish!

Our first trip north

A few important newbie things we learned on this leg of the trip:

1. We need something to put under the jacks when parked on grass-even when it’s dry. We left huge holes! Sorry Uncle Lloyd!

2. We got about 10 MPG driving through the traffic of DC and the hills of PA during our over 4 hour trip towing a Hundai Veloster on a car dolly.

3. NEVER (and I do mean not even an inch) back up with the car on the tow. We nearly wrecked the car at a Sheetz because people parked where it is not parking and we can’t fit just anywhere with the RV. Sadly, if we waited about 4 more minutes they would have been out of the way. Lesson learned! Just block traffic a little bit and wait… patiently!


Part 2: We visited for a couple days and then continued on our journey to the Hudson River Valley for 5 nights. This was our first trip to an actual RV park (previously we practiced in the parking lot where we bought the RV in Florida, practiced in a Walmart on the long drive back to Arlington, and practiced at my parent’s house in the “Northern Neck”) with actual hook-ups! This trip was all planned thanks to Lazy Days (where we bought the RV in Tampa, Florida) providing us 14 free nights through Encore and Thousand Trails. The first official Encore site was Rondout Valley RV and was about 340 miles and 5 1/2 hour drive without traffic. For us it took about 8 hours including traffic, a very long gas stop and an Auto Zone stop (difficulty with the car). We got about 10 MPG driving between 55 and 70 MPH when there was no traffic backup.

A few more important newbie things we learned on this leg of the trip:

4. The Hyundai Veloster’s steering wheel will not lock so the steering wheel and tires will not stay straight! This is a problem when we are trying to tow the car and make any turns… the straps come lose as the wheels/tires turn! We will be looking into a solution for this soon. So far, Andrew bought these red ratchet tie-down things from Auto Zone (the above mentioned stop) and looped it through the front tire and ratchet it to the tow. Seems to help. We are marking up the rims in the process though.

5. The bumps on the not-so-well maintained highways have caused the pins to pop out of the car tow where the lights are secured! It’s just plastic and so we thought calking it might do the trick. It did for a little while, then we drove through NYC area and the roads were so made it came undone! We will be trying something else shortly.

6. Take your time and look around before putting out the slides- we didn’t have an issue because we thought of this!

7. Make a pack-up list to be sure you do all the things that need to be done prior to pulling away when leaving. We have seen little snap-on reminders to be placed on the steering wheel and other ways of making a list. We are just making a list on our tablet and then we can use it each time we pack-up in the future! The list is split into my responsibilities and Andrew’s responsibilities. We can pack in half the time this way! We can also add items as needed since it’s done electronically.

8. Always remember to close your ceiling fans when you leave (in case it rains) unless you have a cover.

9. Google does not tell you the height of the underpasses, so be sure you know the height of your RV including the air conditioners, etc! Be prepared to exit, turn around, and find an alternate route!


 Part 3: From Rondout Valley to Bar Harbor, Maine we made okay time except for the gas station stops! Wow-it can be difficult to find gas stations that will easily accommodate RVs… so be prepared to look around, find a stop that works so there are no issues with the tow car! We drove about 9 hours and still got just over 10 MPG. The trip was just under 500 miles.

A few more important newbie things we learned on this leg of the trip:

10. We really wished we had our Sam’s Club cards, etc. We signed up for them but they didn’t arrive in the mail until after we left. There are lots of programs to save money on gas and it’s worth it with the about we were pumping! I already bought a little coupon holder to keep the different cards in so they will be easily accessed when we need them!


Part 4 and 5: We drove from Bar Harbor to Gateway to Cape Cod. It took us about 6 hours and was a 340 mile drive. We were lucky since there was very little traffic and we made great time! This leg of the trip had 10.5 MPG! Then, after three nights we left and drove home! We continued to get just over 10.5 MPG.

A few more important newbie things we learned on this leg of the trip:

11. Google maps is not always correct. When we put the resort address into our smartphone we ended up being told to turn onto a one way dirt road without a sign for the resort. So, we looked for other routes and when we took this second route we found signs and a two way dirt road. Once on this road we saw where the one lane road ended, behind a locked gate! Good thing we listened to our gut and looked for another entrance! Keep this in mind, since with an RV you don’t always have the option to just turn around!

12. Know ahead of time if the spaces are assigned based on your RV or self selected! We arrived early, so when we were told to drive around and find a site we wanted… we saw several that would have been VERY tight with our slides! So, when planning your trip, call the resorts and find out how sites are designated… we could have been out of luck!

13. Some people spread their “stuff” out way past their site, like into ours! We decided not to address the issue with the “neighbor”  as his satellite and cords were on our site, where our dogs could end up tangled with their long leashes to be able to hang with us at the fire pit, because we were only there for three nights… but seriously, be a kind neighbor! We make the leashes for our dogs short enough to keep them only on our site.

14. We decided NYC was a scary area to have to drive through during the day so we packed up and left at 9PM (well before quiet time) and headed out. Good decision, as traffic was still heavy in areas and would have been nerve racking if there was more! Also, we stopped once we got to New Jersey (where you cannot pump your own gas) at one of the nice rest stops on the highway. We had the gas pumped and then parked between two semi-trucks for a few hours of sleep. Perfect!

15. Be prepared for your credit cards to be flagged for fraud! I guess all the traveling and diesel gas was enough to flag our accounts and we had to spend some time on the phone dealing with the companies while at the gas pump!

We bought a Palazzo!!! Let the adventures begin!

New Palazzo at our first Wal-mart stop!
Our new 2014 Palazzo towing my car at our first Wal-mart stop!
This was our "site" in the Lazy Days parking lot. We were headed out for a walk!
This was our “site” in the Lazy Days parking lot. We were headed out for a walk!

So!!! A ton has happened since my last post. We wanted to buy the 2015 Palazzo here in VA but the finance department at the dealer dropped the ball and didn’t get our loan put in to lock in our interest rate. That didn’t make us feel comfortable. If a dealer can’t even be bothered to sell the RV, then I am sure there is little to no support once purchased. We started looking across the country and as luck would have it there was a dealer called Lazy Days in Tampa, Florida. The salesman there was responsive to our questions and offered to throw in a tow dolly for the car if we were willing to drive down and pick it up! So we did! We left on July 2nd, sat through VA traffic, spent a night in a hotel, drove the rest of the way, and bought the 2014 Palazzo by 5:30 on July 3rd! What made this deal even better was that they let us stay on the property using the hookups! This way we could practice all that there is to know about living in an RV. This was also great because it gave us a couple night vacation in Tampa before the long drive home. This dealer also gave us a two hour-long orientation in our RV. We were shown all the hookup, tanks, given advice on things we might want to purchase for the black water flush etc. Wow! So helpful to newbies like us!

The Girls sleeping between the seats. Gigi is our nervous baby... she's taken 3 mg of melatonin here!
The Girls sleeping between the seats. Gigi is our nervous baby… she’s taken 3 mg of melatonin here!

After our education and rest we headed home with our two dogs sitting happily between our seats. We drove until we were tired and then found a Wal-Mart outside Savannah, Georgia that showed on the web that it was friendly to RV overnight parking. We parked and went in to check with the manager who was EXTREMELY friendly and happy to have us in the lot over night. We bought some snacks, fed and walked the dogs in the clean and wooded lot, and went to sleep. So much easier than planning for/finding a hotel! The next morning we made breakfast, showered and continued on our way to Northern Virginia!
We will post more as we play more! Our next trip is to Pennsylvania, New York, Maine and Massachusetts! Can’t wait!

Andrew on the first leg of the long drive back. We left around 6:00 PM to be able to get some of the trip out of the way at night. That's our favorite time to road trip!
Andrew on the first leg of the long drive back. We left around 6:00 PM to be able to get some of the trip out of the way at night. That’s our favorite time to road trip!
So... there was a little rain and the windshield wiper came unhinged! Nothing Andrew can't fix!
So… there was a little rain and the windshield wiper came unhinged! Nothing Andrew can’t fix!