Lot Docking at Cracker Barrel

On our way to Florida earlier this month we lot docked at Cracker Barrel for the first time. We were pleasantly surprised.

Since we moved into our camper in August 2020 we’ve been plugged in at campgrounds except for when moving to another campground. Due to the length of the drive to Florida from Middle Tennessee we knew we would have to overnight or lot dock at either Cracker Barrel, Walmart, or a rest area. We decided to try Cracker Barrel mostly because we could get our coffee in the morning. Funny, but true!

We spent our first night lot docking at the Cracker Barrel in Dalton, Georgia. Before we chose that location, I looked at the satellite view of the parking lot on Google maps. We easily found the RV parking spots behind the store. The manager seemed genuinely glad we chose to stop there. We ate supper there, then breakfast again the next morning.

The next night we stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Tifton, Georgia. Again, we were enthusiastically welcomed.

We kept our small slide in. Thankfully we can access everything in our camper with our slide in. We turned on our lights only to use the bathroom. We used our battery operated fans rather than the fan in the RV. We honestly aren’t quite sure how long our batter will last since we’ve never dry camped before. It’s the battery the dealer installed-lead acid and only 75 amp hours.

We have learned that we love lot docking at Cracker Barrel. So far we’ve felt safe and welcome. We plan to stop at Cracker Barrel on our next multi-day trip.

Where’s your favorite place to lot dock?

Unexpectedly Falling in Love

I confess.

I’ve never been attracted to Florida. I’ve never wanted to visit Florida. I kinda thought those who visit the beaches are sort of a cliche.

So when Daniel said he wanted to go to Florida when we started RVing full time, I agreed just to be nice.

And, you know, I try to be open minded. I try to be somewhat gracious when I’m doing something just because the person I love the most wants to do it.

But something unexpected is happening.

We haven’t been here a week yet, and I’m falling in love with Florida.

The weather.

The trees.

The wildlife.

The people.

And I haven’t even been to the beach yet.

I’m really glad Daniel wanted to come here. I’m really glad I agreed. I’m so excited to see what Florida has to offer.

And I’m super excited to visit the beach tomorrow with Daniel and the dogs.

Is there a place like that for you? A place that you’ve just written off as not interesting? Did you finally visit and change your mind?

Planning RV Mods

RVers are always modifying our RVs. I think it’s just part of the lifestyle. No other RVer ever questions it.

We love our No Boundaries travel trailer. But there are a few things we’re planning to make her better for us.

1. Remove RV Toilet

We’re going to remove the factory installed toilet from our RV and replace it with a Thetford Porta Potti.

Thetford Porta Potti

We want to do this mostly to remove the need to empty our black tank and to increase the capacity to store gray water while boondocking. We also like that we can take the Porta Potti anywhere. So, if we decide to tent camp, we can take it. We can empty it in any toilet or RV dump station. Traditional RV black tanks must be emptied at RV dump stations. This must works for us.

2. Remove Refrigerator

Yes, you read that correctly. We plan to remove our RV’s factory installed Dometic refrigerator/freezer.

Our current fridge

We plan to use the space differently. We already bought a Yeti Tundra 65 to use as our refrigerator. We have four large Yeti Ice cool packs. We put in two while the other two are in the freezer and rotate them every 2-3 days. Once we remove the fridge, we’ll buy a small 12 volt freezer. We’ll put it at the bottom of the space where our current fridge is, then build shelves above to hold soft containers for storage for things like clothes or other supplies.

Our fridge currently operates on 110 or propane. We want to use as little 110 power as possible for boondocking. I don’t like propane for running a refrigerator. There are horror stories about fires caused by propane fridges. Yes, I know, there are horror stories about everything. But this is one I can eliminate. The 12 volt freezer doesn’t use much power. And we would likely mostly use it to refreeze the Yeti Ice packs

And, honestly, I can get more food in the Yeti than I can in the fridge just the way it’s designed.

3. Remove Microwave

Our RV came with a nice convection microwave. We’ve used it some. It works well. We don’t use it every day. Sometimes we go a week without using it. It’s a power hog-1500 watts! There’s no way I’d try to use it while boondocking. So we’re going to remove it and use that space for a bit more kitchen storage.

4. Redesign our Murphy Bed Area

We don’t mind the Murphy bed. We’ve actually gotten used to it. But when it’s up, during the day, it covers up a gorgeous picture window. It also creates a barrier to the small storage cubbies at the head of the bed. We cannot get to them at all with the bed stowed in the daytime position. We want to take out the loveseat in front of the bed and redo it in a more sturdy and comfortable fashion. We’d like to cut the platform that folds up so that it folds again level with the back of the loveseat. That would give us access to the picture window and the small storage cubbies. It would also make the camper a bit more open and roomy feeling. As roomy as you can feel in a 24′ camper.

Jade in her natural habitat, with the stowed Murphy bed behind

I kind of like the way this guy modified the bed. He didn’t do the loveseat mods that I want. But I do like the bed.

We would like to have all of this done by the end of the year. Sooner, if possible.

We’re definitely going to be busy.

Tell Me If You’ve Used This

Happy Monday!!

It’s a new week with new opportunities and new challenges. Hope it’s a great week for you.

So, we’re working on changing some things in our camper to make it even better for us. More on that in a couple of weeks.

Today, I’m asking for your help. Have any of you used this product? If so, I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments. If we end up purchasing it, we would use it for a freezer only.

If you have experience with a similar product but different brand, I’d love to know what you think?

Winter Storm February 2021

You know the Boy Scout motto?

Well, we were not great Boy Scouts.

We were most definitely not prepared.

We moved from our campsite near Knoxville, Tennessee to a campground in southern Middle Tennessee on February 12. We knew a winter storm barreled toward the south central part of the country, but after checking multiple weather apps it looked like it was going to perhaps just skim the edge of where we scheduled to camp for three weeks.

We were wrong.

Very, very wrong.

We arrived the afternoon of February 12. We headed into the nearest town on Saturday morning February 13 to buy groceries. We got up Sunday morning planning to go get propane, but the roads were covered with black ice. We tried to get out of the campground, but slid all over the place.

We turned around and came back to the camper.

According to the weather apps we use we were going to get up to 0.2″ of ice followed by up to 8″ of snow over the next several days. Temps that just a few days before were predicted to fall into the high teens were now predicted into the single digits.

Great.

The storm hit.

The temps fell.

Our water froze.

But we have much for which to give thanks.

On Tuesday, February 16 people came around to make sure everyone had propane. We were able to get both our tanks filled. With temps in the single digits at night we were burning through propane even though we set our heat at 55 degrees for a couple of days and did not use our stove except for coffee.

Even though our water froze in our camper, the spigot outside did not. We were able to tote water from outside to run through our Berkey water purification system to drink. We could also use the toted water to flush our toilet.

Until the black tank got full.

And frozen.

Thankfully we have a Thetford Porta Potti. That came in super handy. In fact, we like it so much we may remove our RV toilet and use the Porta Potti until we can get a composting toilet installed later this year.

We did not lose electricity. That in itself is amazing! We were able to run our small space heater on low to augment the propane furnace.

Finally, on Sunday, February 21 we were able to get out. We drove to Lawrenceburg for groceries and propane. I can’t describe how great it felt to get out and drive somewhere.

We learned a couple of lessons during that week. Probably more than a couple, but I’ll get to those in another post. I’m only going to mention a couple here.

First, God’s provision is no joke. Were we comfortable? No, not always. Were we concerned about our frozen water? Of course. But we had enough heat, enough water, enough food, solid electricity. We had everything we needed. There were many who lost power, ran out of propane, food throughout the country.

Second, neither of us is a fan of cold weather camping. I knew this about myself already. But that frozen week brought home just how much I dislike temps below 40 degrees. I’m all about chasing mild weather. And, that’s our plan going forward.

I made some other personal observations, but that will also be another post.

We’re just beyond grateful to be on the other side of the winter storm of February 2021.

Real RV Life

I’ll be the first to admit there is nothing now, never has been, and likely never will be anything about my life that is Pinterest ready. LOL

Y’all, real full time RV life is messy, dirty, cluttered, and often organization in progress at all times. Yes, it’s amazing and I’m so grateful we’re living it. But don’t believe the staged photos. Nope, don’t do it!

Also understand that most campers are not designed with full time RV life in mind. Most are designed for a week or two vacation a couple of times a year. Or a hunting weekend. Or a tailgate weekend. You get what I’m saying.

So we’ve discovered the sofas in our camper are some of the most uncomfortable furniture we’ve ever encountered. Of course, you can’t know that in the 30 minutes you spend walking through campers at the dealership.

Today we’re removing the jackknife sofa in the slide out of our camper. We had hoped to put a small table and a couple of chairs in that space, but the slide out in our small camper is over the wheel well. This means the slide out does not go all the way to the floor of the camper. Therefore we won’t be able to use the space for a table. That’s okay. We can still use the space for our little plastic dorm room cabinets and Daniel’s ukuleles and Jade’s bed. Much better use of the space than this horrible sofa.

The offensive sofa.

Praying very hard this works as planned. All I know is that I cannot spend one more day trying to work sitting on this thing.

Five Things We’ve Learned in our First Five Months of Full Time RV Life

This list makes it sound like we don’t love our camper and RV life. That’s not the case. We love our camper and our truck. It’s true we’ll love RV life more when it’s safe to travel again. But we are so grateful to be living our dream. 

However, it is true that you don’t know what you don’t know. Even after two years of research and lots of soul searching what we thought at the outset would work great for us turns out to maybe not be the best choices.

With that, here are five things we’ve learning from our first five months of full time RV life that we want to do differently.

  1. Our space is just a bit too small. Yes, we could get rid of more stuff. But honestly at some point minimalism transitions to austere which is not us. Our travel trailer is 24’4”. After living in her for five months, we agree that we would like to transition to a Class C motorhome in the neighborhood of 30’. It’s not that we want more stuff. We don’t. Truly. The clutter of having to stack things, leave things out on the counter that I would love to put away, having to shuffle things every time I get something out of the cabinet gets frustrating. 
  2. A dedicated bedroom with a door is a must. We chose a Murphy bed layout because we thought it made sense to not waste space on a room that is only used to sleep. We talked about having to go to bed and get up in the morning at the same time with the Murphy bed layout. We talked about the possible weirdness of our bed being in our living room. But after living in the space for five months we realize a dedicated bedroom is not a waste of space. Daniel sometimes likes to stay up later than I do. Right now he can’t really because our bed folds out into the living space. I must have some quiet time in the morning. I like to get up a little earlier than he does. With our current situation, that doesn’t work well at all. If this were a two week vacation, it would be fine. But living with our entire everything in one big room is not the best choice for us.
  3. Our next RV will be a motorhome. Not a huge one. We want a Class C around 30ish feet. We want to tow a small car. Don’t get me wrong. We love and are beyond grateful for our travel trailer and truck. Sometimes (most of the time) a small car is much more efficient than a big super duty truck once you’re at the campground and just driving around or going to the grocery. In a motorhome the dogs would be more comfortable on moving days instead of being cramped up in the backseat of the truck. 
  4. We need a dinette/desk/table. We need somewhere to work and to eat. We currently have nice folding trays to eat and to use as computer stations. It works. It’s not great. Our current set up is not even close to ergonomic. In all honesty, I’m not sure you could have a truly ergonomic workstation in a small RV. However, it can be much better than what we’re doing now. 
  5. Cleaning a smaller space is not necessarily easier. Yes, we have two medium-large dogs. Yes, they both shed. I really thought it would be easier to sweep and dust on the daily. Nope. It’s not. It does take less time, but there are all kinds of cracks and nooks and little tiny spaces hair can get into. And there’s no place for the dogs to go while I try to sweep up. I’m not sure how to make this better. We do need some type of very small vacuuming system. Although, I’m not sure where we would store it. 

Even with these five things we’d like to change, we wouldn’t change the choice to take a chance on full time RV life. We still think it’s the best way to live for us. I’m sure in five months I’ll have five more things I’ve learned. Every day brings something new, for sure. 

Settling in to RV Life

Now that we’re a month into our full time RV life. We are starting to settle in to living in a very small travel trailer. We’re learning to deal with not having separate rooms, except for the bathroom, and not having a bed available all the time since we have a Murphy bed. Adjusting to constantly having a little bit of clutter is taking me a little more time. I would love to have a tiny bit more storage space, but we don’t. So we deal with it. I think we will cull more things as time goes and we realize what we don’t truly need.

The Instant Pot may become a casualty to space. I’ve used it on two occasions here at the campground. I don’t know that I will use it when we start boondocking. We’ll see. I’m honestly not sure that using it twice warrants keeping it even at the campground where electricity is not an issue. I love my Instant Pot, but when you live in less than 200 square feet it’s not really practical to keep unnecessary items you only use 2-3 times per month.

We’re still trying to find a rhythm to our days. We’ve started staying up later, until around 11 pm, and sleeping until we wake up, typically around 7:30 am. This morning I did set my alarm and got up at 6:30. I just wanted a little bit more morning.

Trying to navigate being self-employed and learning to freelance are sticking points as well. Maybe not really sticking points, but pain points, let’s say. We’re both working on things. Wheels turn slowly, however

I did set up our Patreon page. I hope that grows organically. It’s not super formal, just a place people who want to support us can. In return there are a few photos and bits of information available in the Patreon posts that I’m not sharing anywhere else.

One thing that we do need to find a solution for is our black holding tank. The black tank is where the toilet empties. We want a better solution than a traditional RV toilet and black tank. We bought a Thetford Porta-Potti, but have not installed it yet. Honestly, I’m holding out a bit because I kind of think I want a composting toilet. I’ve done so much research, but feel like I need to do more. It’s an important decision.

Over all, we are loving RV life and are excited about the future while enjoying each moment.

Murphy Bed Mod

As is typical for any RV, there are a couple of things we’ve had minor issues with. One was the Murphy bed. For whatever reason, Forest River chose to use one sort of ineffective latch to hold the bed up.

Top is the original latch. Bottom latch is the one I installed.

The top latch in this picture is the original one. It sometimes latches. Sometimes it doesn’t. Eventually, it doesn’t hold and the bed slams into the back of the loveseat. Not cool.

So we went to Lowe’s and bought new latches that I installed in about ten minutes. I put one on each side. We plan to get a couple more just to take some of the pressure of holding up the bed. It’s a bit heavy since we added a 3″ gel foam and a puffy topper.

Here you can see the Murphy bed in place behind the love seat.

The first two weeks we had to leave the bed down all the time. It wasn’t that big a deal, but we lose a lot of space with the bed down. I wanted to be able to use the love seat and have the two feet of extra floor space during the day.

Problem solved for about $10 and 10 minutes of time.