Traveling North

IMAG0116Michigan.  This is not a state I had ever imagined traveling to (before our decision to travel that is), and definitely not one I thought I would have much interest in.  However; this proved to be a state that I found to be very beautiful.
We were lucky in locating, a campsite in between Ann Arbor and Lansing which was great because we got to spend a day in each of these cities. Our campsite was on a lake that was quite busy, as it was the weekend, but it IMAG0130was near a really awesome park that was like nothing we had been to before.  The kids loved it.
Our first day we went to Lansing, because it was a Saturday and we wanted to tour the capital building which is not open for tours on Sunday.  It worked out really well because we ended up getting to park for free.  Being from a smaller area, paying for parking is not something we think about, and I honestly get annoyed about it.  DSCN4543DSCN4518DSCN4519DSCN4514DSCN4523

 

The capital building is beautiful, and it was very interesting to learn about some of the history of not only the capital itself, but the state as well.  They gave out coloring books to the kids that were also full of interesting facts, they have been relating these to us as they color in the pages. IMAG0133 It is great.  The other stop we made, after a delicious lunch at the soup spoon café, was at the children’s garden.  It was done so well, and the kids loved all the different gardens they had planted.  I will highligIMAG0136ht a few of our favorites, there was a pizza garden where they had all plants needed to make a pizza, a peanut butter and jelly garden which contained a peanut plant as well as strawberry plants, and a crayon garden that had flowers of all sorts of colors with crayons of the same colors in the background.  There were so many neat things about it that it would probably take an entire post to DSCN4549list everything.  It was an interesting and educational day for all of us, and we hope to make it back someday.
Ann Arbor was our next day trip.  We had some errands to run when we first got to town, this included a stop at Target where we bought the kids each a new (small) toy that had been promised to them, because they had been such good sports and so helpful in getting rid of all our stuff (including most of their old toys).  The destination here was the Hands on Museum.  We are so glad we found this place, with the ASTC membership we purchased it was totally free for all of us.  There was so much to do here that once again it would take an entire post to describe it all.  Honestly it was so much that we didn’t even get to it all.  Some of the highlights were the water play room which had so many levers, tubes, IMAG0149balls, and spouts that we could have spent the entire time in there alone, there was also an ambulance that the kids could sit in, as well as, get in the back where they had a video playing of real EMT’s and what they do, the other thing the kids really had fun with was the floor game where there were images of beach balls that they would step on and send flying into objects on the other teams side.  It was a great place for the kids (and adults) to spend a day, and we were all sad when it was time to go.IMAG0142
All in all Southern Michigan surprised me.  It was such a pretty place and so green compared to what we are used to.  There was so much to do that we wished we caould stay longer.  Even the campsite surprised us, because at first weren’t even going to stay due to the fact that the site was not at all level and the neighbors were loud and running through all the sites without care, but we are glad we decided to stay after all.  The kids gaot to swim in the lake, play at the park, and our neighbor that showed up the last night even gave us free firwood and turned out to be a life saver with our disaster on moving day.  Really hope we make it back to Michigan.

First disaster

DSCN4458Up until this point in our adventure we have been pretty lucky and had very little go wrong. A few missed turns and an ear ache have been the only real negative things to happen. When we went to break camp in Pleasant Lake Michigan we had a serious disaster happen.

Everything was going very smooth with the hitch up procedure and both Sarah and I were thinking that it was going very fast. Then we backed up to get off the leveling chocks. That was when we realized our major error; we didn’t raise the electric jack! Since it was still on the ground it bent the tube that extends to the ground. I tried to take the jack off so we could leave to buy another, but the bend in the metal tubing made it impossible to take off.

Life has a way of resolving itself though and fate saved us on that day. Our neighbor was a nice man from a few miles away who quickly became our hero. I had befriended him the night before when he asked me to keep an eye on his fire while he ran home to get more firewood. When he returned he gave us enough wood for a roaring fire for the night. In the mornings we said our goodbyes until we damaged our jack and were stuck. Then he jumped in and saved the day for us. He helped me work on getting the hitch off and went home to get a come along to pry the bar straight enough to take off. He also helped soothe our mental wounds with stories about both him and his brother doing the same thing.

This incident was difficult and humbling to say the least, but it was also  uplifting. It restored my faith in humanity which was in a desperate state after all that has happened in the last few years. Because of our neighbor stepping in and helping us, we only had to pay for a new electric jack. The owner of the RV parts dealer took pity on me and gave me $50 off, so the total cost was only $150. A bad incident for sure, but it could have been much worse. My father always taught me that everyone makes mistakes and that it is ok, but we should learn from those mistakes. Only time will tell if we learned to hitch up properly everytime, but doubting the goodness of mankind is one mistake I won’t make again. A few bad apples don’t spoil the batch as long as you take the bad apples out of your life!

First Camp

We IMAG0107originally wanted to make our first camp right near where we purchased the travel trailer, in case there was any problems with it. Unfortunately a storm came in, so in order to avoid it we traveled north a few hours to Amish country in Ohio. There we found our first camp site at Scenic Hills RV. This was a perfect place for us to start our grand adventure because the sites were level gravel with a grass area next to them. It had full hook ups including Wi-Fi and they even provided free fire wood!
IMAG0117After setting up camp (super easy due to the level site), we started moving into our new home. It was nice to get our stuff out of the car and into the travel trailer.
The kids made a friend almost immediately and he even helped gather firewood for us. All the campers were friendly and the park was extremely quiet and peaceful. I know the kids were happy to get their toys out and a Lego party ensued. Mom and Dad were just happy to be able to cook dinner and do laundry, plus we could open the car doors without things falling out!
IMAG0122Amish country is beautiful scenic farm land even if it is a bit touristy. We visited a cheese factory and sampled every kind of cheese you could imagine, then we purchased two small packages to take home. Miles had us visit a joke shop so he could pickup a practical joke and Journey purchased some fortune telling fish. The best part for us was the bakery where we got a free slice of pie and bought the most delicious homemade milk shake ever for the family to share. It was so good, we also bought doughnuts to eat the next morning that were also delightful.IMAG0116
We wished we could stay at this campground longer, however we had to keep moving on down the road. Next stop Michigan!

 

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Getting the travel trailer

After spending five days driving across the country we finally arrived in Ohio and were ready to pick up our new home. We were trying to be early to the walk through, but google maps sent us the wrong way. There was a moment of doubt on my part when we pulled up in front of a house instead of an RV service business. It raced through my mind, did we just get scammed by someone? Then I looked over everything again and realized that google maps had sent us to the north portion of the street instead of the south portion. We turned around and drove to the south side and there was the RV service business where we were to pick up the travel trailer!

The walk through was very thorough, but a lot to take in. We had a check list written down to make sure we had all our questions answered, however; in the excitement of seeing our IMAG0104new trailer we left it in the car. We had been in Rockwood’s before and had seen our unit online, but here we were in our actual travel trailer. Of course everything looks so new and clean, but we know that won’t last. We became acquainted with the travel trailer and then had to set up the hitch.

The hitch we purchased wasn’t too difficult to set up, but it did take a while to set up and it wasn’t what I pictured in my mind. I thought it would be level and I would have the proper tools in hand to make a quick easy job of it, but life doesn’t always work out the way you want. We were on a slight slope, it was raining out, and I didn’t have the proper tools in hand. We were supposed to stop at a store on the way to get the exact tools, but that didn’t happen. The shop guys helped out a little though and we made it work. We hooked up the hitch, bought the necessities to camp for the first night (sewer hose, surge protector, chemicals, toilet paper, water regulator and hose), and then we were off! IMAG0107

We were intending to camp right near where we purchased the travel trailer for the first few nights, but a storm system came in. We decided to head north a few hours to get out of its way, which gave me a chance to tow for the first time. When you get your new travel trailer, no one tells you a single thing about towing. Luckily I had researched online and already knew a little about it. The biggest problem I had with my first tow was my own fault, I didn’t mount the electronic brake controller for some strange reason and it had to sit on my knee. It made it much more difficult to tow, but we made it work. Towing a 29’ travel trailer is tricky, but the Armada did a good job of it. It is a little scary when you cross a bridge and the cross winds hit the trailer and there is a moment when it seems like disaster. But then you just squeeze the electronic brake a smidge and everything settles down and becomes manageable again. I wasn’t looking forward to backing into the first camp site, but I lucked out, and the first one was a pull through.

After spending several nights’ tent camping, the first time setting up camp with the travel trailer was a breeze! The site was almost all the way level, the connections were conveniently placed and everything on the travel trailer is electric making it super easy. IMAG0116Then we had to move into the travel trailer and unload the car. Everyone was happy to have a little space and now when we take the car somewhere stuff doesn’t fall out when you open the doors! Now where to next!?

Phase One

IMAG0059I thought I would share a little with you about the adventure we had in getting to our new home.  It turned out we could not get the travel trailer we preferred locally.  They just did not have the floor plan, the brand, or the price we desired anywhere nearby, so we started to expand our search as the sale of our home grew nearer.   To get exactly the one we wanted at a price we could live with we had to begin our journey by traveling to Ohio (without a home).

               There had been a miscommunication with the power company about the disconnecting of our power, because they did it a day earlier than we had wanted them to, so we left the house a day earlier than we had originally intended. Luckily we had some really great friends that got us a room at the Silverland Hotel in Virginia City where we spent a great first night without a home, but with an indoor swimming pool.  Our second night was spent with my Grandma which was also great.  We got to spend some time with her and my Uncle before we left town.  This is when the adventure really began.

               We knew that we wanted to get to Ohio as soon as possible to get our travel trailer and start this new chapter of our lives.  The destination was the easy part the getting there was slightly more challenging.  We only made one reservation at a campground in Peoria Illinois, this was done because it was a holiday weekend and we knew campgrounds would be busy.  Other than that we really had only planned out how far we wanted to try to make it each day and looked at a few places we might possibly eat during our travels.  Our first destination was Salt Lake City, however; we didn’t quite make it.  We drove as far as we could that first day, it was getting late, so we just pulled off the road, and set up the tent.  IMAG0022IMAG0027_1The camping was free but nothing really ever is. The railroad tracks were so close that it shook the ground all three times it went by that night, the kids slept right on through, but obviously the adults were not so fortunate.  We woke up in the morning basically in the middle of nowhere, packed up the tent and found a scorpion right under our tent!  We got back on the road.   

               Our next day was another long one.  We made it all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming where we encountered rain, something us Nevadans are not very accustomed to.  We had planned to camp all along the way to Ohio, but rain we had not planned on.  So regardless to say we did not camp in Wyoming, and we almost didn’t get a hotel room either.  We pulled into a rest stop/tourist information center (which was actually really cool and the kids were already asking to go back) to try to get some coupons and stuff for hotels in the area.  When my husband started to look online for rooms they were all booked and I literally think he got us the last available room in the whole town.  When we arrived the IMAG0057receptionist was on the phone to the online booking people telling them to stop letting people book rooms because they were full.  It was really fortunate we got the room though because we were both very tired from the lack of sleep our previous night and from driving all that day.

               In Nebraska we stopped off in Lincoln to eat and pick up a few supplies, but drove straight on into Iowa.  There we got a really nice campsite near a river.  The kids found an injured hummingbird that couldn’t fly and it kept their interest for quite some time.  It had been raining still, and we were worried we wouldn’t be able to camp again, but luckily it let up just long enough for us to.  Unfortunately, the rain made a campfire a lost cause although we did try.  The kids were pretty disappointed.  We made it up to them though by taking them to the park for a little while the next morning and it was pretty awesome because it had a merry go round!  Now back in the car we go. IMAG0082

               Peoria Illinois, was our next stop.  It was nice to know we had a specific destination this time, but the rain followed us all the way.  It barely let up for us to camp here, and it was cold and drizzly.  They were going to shoot off fireworks across the Illinois river and we IMAG0093would be able to see them from the camp, but some people weren’t sure it was going to happen the weather was so bad.  But luck was with us and we saw fireworks (even though it was the 3rd not the 4th) on the Illinois river.  It was pretty cool because they were shooting them off from all over so we could see them all along the river.  We had intended to stay at this site another night because they were having another firework display on the 4th, but the people at the travel trailer place had scheduled us for our pick up at 10:30 AM on the 5th, and not wanting to have to leave camp at 3 Am to get there on time we decided to try to get a little closer to our destination.  Another day of driving.

               When we looked at the map, after leaving Peoria, we thought we would make it to the border of Indiana and Ohio somewhere.  We stopped in Indianapolis got gas, parked outside of McDonalds to tap into WiFi and decided we would just go all the way into Ohio, and ended up about half an hour from our new home.  We stayed in a hotel room that was so awful we couldn’t wait to get our trailer, not to mention the days and days of seeming endless amounts of driving.  We also had our car packed so full that things fell out pretty much any time a door was opened.  We were all fairly tired of it by that day.  Finally, we got to the lot and saw our new home and it was glorious!

              

                

Armada Time

DSCN3768Well as mentioned before we finally decided to go ahead with our plan to travel the country. The next step for us was research, research, research! First we had to figure out what sort of living arrangements we would prefer. A good friend of ours had two class A RV’s, so I immediately asked him for advice. He actually recommended against an RV and suggested a travel trailer. He thought the insurance and registration too much, plus you have to tow a vehicle to be able to explore the surrounding area. Our current car couldn’t be towed without a full tow trailer, so I thought his advice sage and we started looking at towables. Continue reading

The Plan

MSarahy family and I are planning to soon embark on a grand adventure. To some our idea would be scary and uncertain, but to us not doing so seems the scarier choice. We bought our home 3 years ago today, and since then it has gone up in value a great deal. So we will sell it. This is when our adventure will begin. The plan: buy a travel trailer and explore the USA.

Experiences. That is what life is really about (to me anyway). What better way to do it than to see the country together as a family. My children are home schooled and I feel that this adventure will give them knowledge, experiences, and an education they could never receive sitting in a classroom or even in our living room. There are many reasons we want to do this, but that is a big one.

There has already been much planning and learning we have put into into this plan. We began to consider this idea when we realized how much money we could take away from the sale of our home. My husband has not been very content with his job for years and I have never loved the area we live in. We don’t hate it but we never loved it either. So why stick around? But there is also the question of where do we go from here? We have not been to many parts of the country, mostly the west coast and a short time in the south, so it is difficult to say for sure where we want to end up. So what better way to decide than to see it all. Our goal is to find somewhere we can really be happy and love living or maybe we like the nomad life so much we just keep going, who knows where life may take us.

The planning of this whole adventure has been important to us, we are not the type to just jump into things. So far we have been researching, researching, researching, and a little more researching! There is a lot to think of before we embark. Of course selling our home has been looked into, buying a new vehicle that can tow a trailer and comfortably fit our family of five, the trailer itself of course has been a major part, how much we might save versus how much it will cost, selling off our stuff, and many other odds and ends as well. The more we plan the better we feel our experience will be, and the more we get excited about this adventure as well.