Monday, March 31, 2008

I finally made it to New Mexico!

Well....I'm on the road heading west! (Let's all do a happy dance!)

I didn't make it to Del Rio as I had intended as the coach needed a new spare tire. Of course, the only time I could get in to have this taken care of was on the Friday I was planning to head to Del Rio. I had the service performed at Potranco Automotive in San Antonio, TX. Please note, they did not honor their original quote claiming they couldn't get the tire they quoted. My spare tire ended up costing me $300.00! Quite a bit more than the original quote! I felt the sting of the old "bait and switch". What could I do? They knew I was leaving town and I didn't have much of a choice. That really sucked for me!

(Before going any farther, I want to thank my friends Dave and Larry who helped me load my car and motorcycle onto my tow dolly. The bike didn't quite make it up the ramp and thanks to these two wonderful guys a disaster was averted. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I couldn't have done it without you!)

I left San Antonio on Friday afternoon after finishing up with the tire replacement. I made it as far as Ft. Stockton, TX where I spent the night at a lovely little RV park right off of I-10 at Warnock Road, Ft. Stockton RV Park. I think the best thing about this former KOA campground is they have a full service cafe (Roadrunner Cafe) serving breakfast and dinner at great prices. Menu prices top out at $8.95. I had the catfish dinner and portions were generous. Their convenience store stocked all of the necessities including beer and wine! The park is quiet and it was easy to get in and out of my pull through space. All sites are gravel, not much shade, but well kept. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The only negatives I can comment on is placement of the the sewer hookup which is located far away (to the rear of the sites) from the electric/water hookups. You'll need an extra long hose to reach or you can do what I did...hit the dump station on your way out. Also, they claim to have free WiFi, but while I was there I could never get connected. There is no CATV. Amenities include: pool, playground, horseshoe pit, basketball court, outdoor BBQ pit/patio and laundry facility. Rates are reasonable. Using my Good Sam discount I paid $24.30 for one night.

The next stop on my journey west was in Deming, NM. A quaint little (tiny) town, where (as my good friends Dave and Audrey told me) all the action can be found at K-Mart and WalMart both of which are conveniently located right next door to each other. I stayed overnight at Little Vineyard RV Park located on Business I-10. This park was busy (in and outs) and a bit noisy, but nice. All sites here are loose gravel, not much shade, but I did manage to find a site with a tree affording me shade in late afternoon. The laundry facilities are nice and clean and inexpensive, only $1.00 per load to wash and dry. They advertise free WiFi, but I was only able to connect one time. It didn't work 99% of the time. CATV worked perfectly! Rates are reasonable. Using my Good Sam discount I paid $22.25 for one night. Visit Little Vineyard
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I made it into Silver City, NM on Sunday...hitting WalMart to do my grocery shopping before heading over to my current location at a really neat RV park, the Rose Valley RV Park (just one stop light away from Wally-Mart). Wow! This place is great! I was going to stay downtown, but I'm glad I ended up here. Situated about a mile outside Silver City, Rose Valley is off the highway so it's very quiet. The park is large: 44 quietly secluded acres and looks just like a rustic old-timey western cowboy town circa 1800's, but with modern amenities. This park is gorgeous...very new and well planned. There isn't much shade as most of the trees are young and not fully grown. When designing the park, it's evident the owners went out of their way to preserve the natural vegetation and beauty of the land. All pull through sites are long, wide and spacious, though all are not level...not surprising considering the park is located in the middle of the mountains. Back-in sites are a bit smaller yet are still quite spacious. Each campsite has a privacy barrier which is made from sheets of tin attached to large upright rough-hewn posts and logs which make for a nice front yard and wind break. WiFi here is also free and once connected, it works perfectly! There is no CATV. Amenities include: fitness room, laundry, and group facilities.

Rates here are a bit more expensive than other RV parks in the area, but in this case you get what you pay for! I plunked down $180.00 for a week's stay in a pull through site. Pull through sites are $180.00 per week regardless of length of stay. I was thinking of upgrading and staying for the month for $300.00, but when I checked with the front office, they only had two spaces available for the month of April at a rate of $400.00 per month. Apparently the $300.00 monthly rate applies to back-in sites with an electric meter...you pay for your electric usage separately. Back-in sites without a meter are a flat $400.00. I think I'll continue to move west when my week's stay is over as I'm not crazy about the two remaining sites. Let's hope I can fit all of my adventures in! Visit Rose Valley
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Links to New Mexico pics (hit your back button to return to this page):


My front yard in New Mexico


Desert blooms

New Mexico Visitor Center

New Mexico Visitor Center 2

The road to Silver City

New Mexico Mountains

In my next blog...City of Rocks, Gila Cliff Dwellings, The Catwalk and more!

Until next time!

~Barb :-)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Heading to Calli!

Good news! I've made a plan!

I'm leaving San Antonio for Del Rio the last week of March. A very dear friend of mine relocated to Del Rio to work at Laughlin AFB and through email, we reconnected. I'll explore Del Rio for a few days, maybe head down to Mexico and then push on to Silver City, NM. I hear that part of NM is amazing on motorcycle so I'll spend about a week, maybe more there. Then I'm headed to Tucson to bike and explore that area. I'll probably stick around there for a week and then blast off for CA. I have a friend in Los Angeles who just had a baby and she's invited me to visit. We'll see. I leave my life loose and enjoy being spontaneous. My summer gig is waiting in Northern CA, so I should really try to be up there by the end of April so I can get settled in.

I've been planning my trip from Arizona to NorCal and it looks like it'll be a challenge. Hopefully, with enough forethought it won't be quite as challenging as my trip to Texas.

One can only hope...and pray!

Until next time!
~Barb

Tow your car & motorcycle together + tow ratings!

I've done the research and I'm happy to share it! I currently tow a 2006 Hyundai Tiburon and a Yamaha FZ-6 on a tow dolly behind my gas propelled 1999 Winnebago Adventurer.

I have two mantras for you:

1. Do your homework, do your homework, do your homework!

2. Don't guess, don't guess, don't guess!

Here's what you need to know:


1. Do your math. Figure out what your rig is rated to travel fully loaded (GCWR) and how much it's rated to tow. You do this by looking at your weight ratings usually posted inside a cabinet door. My rig can tow up to 5,000 lbs and it says so on the sticker on the tow bar. Never tow more than the bar is rated for. If you do and you have an accident, guess what..(?)..your insurance will most likely not pay the losses!

You add the total weight of everything together! For instance, on my rig my GCWR is 21,000 lbs. When I'm towing my dolly, bike and car I cannot exceed 21,000 lbs total. My bike is 450 lbs, my car is 3,700 lbs, my dolly is 600 lbs, for a total of 4,700 lbs which is within the hitch rating. My coach can only weigh 16,300 lbs loaded with clothing, food, fuel, stuff in under storage, etc. (16,300 + 4700 = 21,000 total GCWR.)

To find out how much your rig weighs, take it to a certified scale at a truck stop and weigh it when it's full and then remove items you can do without so you can safely tow your dolly, bike and car within the tow rating.

Tow hitch ratings:

Class 1 style hitches have a 2000 lbs. gross towing weight and 200 lbs. tongue weight unless noted otherwise.

Class 2 style hitches have a 3500 lbs. gross towing weight and 350 lbs. tongue weight unless noted otherwise.

Class 3 style hitches have a 5000 lbs. gross towing weight and 500 lbs. tongue weight unless noted otherwise.

Class 4 style hitches have a 7500 lbs. gross towing weight and 1000 lbs. tongue weight unless noted otherwise.

Class 5 style hitches have a 10000 lbs. gross towing weight and 1200 lbs. tongue weight unless noted otherwise.

Info source: Hitches Online

2. Motorcycle lifts: Before installing a motorcycle lift to the chassis of your coach or trailer, call the manufacturer. Many will not honor the chassis warranty if you go welding a lift to it! Winnebago will not honor a chassis warranty on any chassis that has been "modified". Do your homework on this...call the manufacturer and ask! While you have them on the phone, ask them what they recommend when towing with their product.

3. Tow dollies: Why buy a tow dolly? Yes, they are a hassle. However, this is the best way to go if you want to take your bike and car with you when you travel.

All tow dollies are not created equal! There are many brands out there from which to choose, but not all are made sturdy enough to tow a car and a bike. Definitely shop around and compare quality, price, warranty and features.

I don't recommend a bolted together tow dolly for this particular application...too many screws to vibrate apart! Buy something that is welded together and built like a tank. You'll be towing two vehicles. Don't take any chances! I bought and recommend the Landgrebe TD 40 101 with Extended Tongue and Motorcycle Carrier (click the underlined text for link), hand made craftsmanship...expensive, but IMHO the best money can buy for the sake of quality and piece of mind.

4. Electric brakes or surge (hydraulic) brakes? I recommend electric brakes with an in cab brake controller. Surge brakes are illegal in some states. Also, when coming down a steep incline, you can heat up surge brakes to the point where they will literally melt. Electric brakes offer electronic and manual control. Do not use electric brakes on boat trailers for obvious reasons (h2o and electricity don't mix).

5. Do you need a license tag (hard plate) for your dolly? In some states you do and in some you don't. I'm a FL resident. FL does not require you to tag your dolly. Contact your state DMV to find out for sure.

6. Insurance: I recommend you call your insurance carrier to check on coverage for your dolly. ALWAYS lock your dolly when not in use and store it in a safe place. Dollies can be easily stolen!

PICS:

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Have fun with your toys and keep the rubber side down!

~Barb

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Work Camping: making money & getting started!

During my travels, I've run into many folks who are interested in giving RV life a whirl. This blog entry is devoted to answering several questions about getting started and making money while you live on the road.

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If you're thinking about embarking on the adventure of RV life or if you're ready to take the plunge, here are a few suggestions and tips that should help you as you begin your journey into the great unknown:

A big question in the mind of many is, "How do I make $ while living on the road?"

Job suggestions:

1. If you have a skill, work as self employed.
Examples: freelance graphic design, web design, any internet based service or business, consulting, government contracting, (licensed) therapeutic massage, professional travel nurse, mobile deejay, artist, vendor at a flea market, work at carnivals or fairs, work for concessionaires at national parks, bartender, waitress, security, part time seasonal park ranger, river/outdoor guide, instruction such as fishing, hunting, dance, painting...there are many skills that can be used to make $$ and live the full or part time RV life. It's never too late to learn a new skill!

2. Work a part time job at WalMart, Home Depot, Lowes, KMart, etc. At the very least you'll make $7 - $10 an hour at 25 - 40 hours per week. That's enough money to either pay bills and expenses or save for a "treat". Some people work camp and also work part time. Others work 25 - 30 hours per week at a paying job and pay for their site outright. It's up to you.

3. Find a job in a location where you'd like to be, take the job and go there with your rig. Live in an RV resort or campground and enjoy a simple and fun way of living!

As for what it takes to get going and to live on the road:
You don't need a ton of money. I see good quality used trailers out there starting at $3,000.00 - $5,000.00 and then prices go up depending on what you want. There are always great deals on RVs to be found on Craigslist.org. That's where I found my pick up truck when I had a trailer and my motor coach when I decided to drive my home!

If you decide to buy a travel trailer and a tow vehicle:
Be sure to speak with the service dept. NOT the sales dept. before making a purchase. You need to have enough power in the engine to comfortably tow a trailer. Plus, you MUST have the correct gear ratio in the differential. For instance, with the 2007 Ford F150 "there should be a big * beside that 10.5K tow rating. An '07 F-150 brochure, states that figure is only available on the 4x2 regular cab with the HD payload rating. That vehicle has an 8100 GVW, which really makes it a 3/4-ton truck. All other '07 F-150s, including others with the HD payload option, are rated to tow 9500 pounds or less, depending on configuration."

Configuration meaning: size of engine and rear differential ratio combined to perform at max towing capability.

Don't listen to your salesman...talk to the service department FIRST to find out exactly what you'll need to get the job done or you'll find your tow vehicle struggling up inclines straining to pull your trailer. You can severely damage your tow vehicle this way!

If you decide to buy a motor home:
Talk to both diesel and gas owners. Both types of vehicles have advantages and disadvantages. There are many topics here in this forum discussing the pros and cons of both.

Bottom line...be sure you get a rig which suits your purpose. If you tow, you'll need an engine powerful enough to get you up inclines without straining and killing your motorized home on wheels.

Questions to consider:
Will you be towing?
What will you tow...a car, a boat, a motorcycle, a car and a motorcycle?
Will you flat tow or dolly tow?

Again, you'll find many topics and threads on several forums addressing these issues.

Forums:
Forums are an incredible resource! You'll find a wide variety of topics on everything you've ever wanted to know and haven't thought of when it comes to the RV lifestyle. Check out Workamper.com Trailerlife.com, RVAmerica.com, Good Sam Club, Escapees (SKP), and FMCA to gain valuable info and knowledge.

Camping:
Buy a tent and go camping at state, county and regional parks and while there, just walk up to folks with travel trailers, 5th wheels, and motor homes...ask them questions. You'll be surprised at how friendly we are and we're ALWAYS willing to share info. We LOVE recruiting folks into the RV life! It's wonderful!

Other great ways to find info:
Go to RV rallies and shows, google any RV topic for info. Subscribe to Workamper News Magazine for articles and information. Workamper News has a really great online bookstore!

Suggested reads:
The Complete Idiot's Guide to RVing
Complete Guide to Fulltiming
The RV Handbook

Join Groups:
Good Sams Club (IMHO they are the best!)
Escapees
RVing Women
Family Motor Coach Association

Places to visit on the web (See the links posted to your right on this blog page):
* Workcamper News :: RV Jobs and Camping Jobs (Obviously you found this one!)
* Campgrounds and camping reservations :: Reserve America
* Camping World :: RV parts, accessories, & other items
* FMCA :: The club for motorhome enthusiasts
* Fun Roads :: RV parts, accessories, travel ideas
* Good Sam Club :: RV Owners Organization
* KOA :: Kampgrounds of America
* RV Links :: RV links and info
* RV Resources.com :: Dealers, rentals, insurance & more
* RV.com :: Product reviews, events, resources, recipes
* Trailer Life :: America's #1 RV Magazine

Good luck to you as you head for the open road!

Happy trails!
~Barb

Sunday, March 2, 2008

San Antonio: From the eye of an accidental tourist.

Did you know that San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas and the 8th largest city in the U.S.? I didn't! I had no idea! Over 2 million people live in the greater San Antonio metropolitan area, smaller than Houston and larger than Dallas/Ft. Worth. This "little" mission town is experiencing labor pains as it grows into a huge city by leaps and bounds...and it shows.

Development and construction is rampant. It seems every available scrap of land is being built upon. Roads are under construction, traffic can be a horrible nightmare, especially traveling between San Antonio and Austin which can take 5 - 6 hours on a bad day. People tend to drive like little old ladies going very slowly in the fast lane...or they drive like "screaming banshees from hell" switching lanes as if they were in the Indy 500. Seriously bad accidents on the Interstates are common here. You can throw your GPS out of the window as exits are closed, there are frequent street closures because of special events, and streets become one-way seemingly over night making navigation systems useless here.

I would also like to note it seems suburban areas are not as "clean" or well maintained as the older city center of San Antonio and close-in neighborhoods. People roll up on the side of the road and dump their trash, furniture or whatever they consider to be garbage right there in plain sight. No one seems to care! I've driven down Hwy 151 near the 410 Loop and seen piles of crap just dumped on the shoulder of the road. It's disheartening and disgusting.

Now that you're aware of the bad and ugly...I'll tell you about the good and beautiful! Let's start out in the country and work our way back to San Antonio.

Even though the outskirts of town can be a bit dingy, I have found the inspiring beauty of the Texas hill country. The folks in the hill country keep the litter picked up and they keep the countryside looking quite pretty. I've been to Medina Lake, Canyon Lake and Guadalupe River State Park. Loved all three! Both lakes are man-made and well stocked with fish. Sailing, power boating, canoeing and kayaking are all favorites out on the lakes. If you fancy fly fishing, the Guadalupe River is the place to visit. Local outdoor shops can recommend good guides for fishing, hunting and just about anything outdoors. There are several caverns, state parks and wilderness recreation areas just waiting to be explored!

There are also many enchanting vistas to be found as you drive along the winding wilderness roads to the west of the I-35 San Antonio to Austin corridor. One of my most favorite scenic drives (so far) is down the twisting and narrow River Road which lazily follows and criss-crosses the Guadalupe River between Comfort and New Braunfels. This area is known as "tubing heaven", the place where all the locals go with big truck tire tubes in hand used to float down the river on hot summer days.

If you're into motorcycles, you'll want to check out "The Three Sisters". Here's an excerpt from the Hill Country Cruising Website:

"The Three Sisters" or " The Hundred Mile Loop" (RR335, RR336, & RR337) are without a doubt the best motorcycle roads to be found in the Hill Country of Texas. These are the roads everyone wants to ride when they visit the Texas Hill Country. Again I caution, if you are a new rider or are a cautious type, then you DO NOT belong on these three roads. They follow canyons and climb over jagged, steep and crumbling hills. They have many tight twisty curves with shear drop offs and not much in the way of guard rails. In one section about 15 miles long, there are around 65 curves. If you are an experienced rider, then this is the ride for you. If you like scenic panoramic views, bring your camera and take this ride!"

Out in the Hill country you'll find quaint little "western towns" where cowboys in big buckled jeans, dusty boots, cowboy hats and
"grande" pick up trucks are the norm. Be sure to visit Bandera which is a blast from the past! It's like stepping into a town from the days of Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid. Be sure to visit the "Cowboy Store" where you'll find all the fixins to make yourself "a little more country". Other towns of note: Comfort, Kerrville, Gruene (pronounced Green), Boerne, and Brackettville...where the movie THE ALAMO, was filmed in 1959 starring John Wayne. The Alamo Village movie location remains today as a tourist destination.

Now on to San Antonio!

San Antonio came into existence as the result of Spanish colonization and was named for the Italian Saint Anthony of Padua, whose feast day was on June 13 when a Spanish expedition stopped in the area in 1691. The city of San Antonio grew up around a military presidio, a Spanish villa and the Mission San Antonio de Padua today known as "The Alamo". Originally there were six missions, only five remain today.

Four missions are part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. I started my "self" guided tour at Espada in the south and worked my way north up to Mission Concepción in the city of San Antonio. The Alamo is the first and original Spanish mission in S.A. and I saved it for last as it really isn't as exciting or vibrant as the others. I also visited Espada Dam and Espada Aqueduct which is authentic medieval and fashioned exactly as a Roman Aqueduct. Fascinating to say the least! The missions do offer tours guided by park rangers throughout the day. Each mission has it's own distinct style and architecture. All are magnificent remnants of a historical past which shaped the destiny of Texas.

One of the most impressive places I've visited is the San Antonio
River Walk (also known as Paseo del Río) which is a network of pedestrian walkways around the San Antonio River. Built one story beneath the busy streets of downtown San Antonio, River Walk is a tourist destination which winds and loops under bridges lined with rather pricey bars, shops and restaurants. I suggest you take the guided water boat tour to see and hear the history of River Walk, Alamo Plaza, River Center, the Arneson River Theatre, and the Tower Life Building. During the annual springtime Fiesta San Antonio, the River Parade features flowery floats that literally float!

Downtown is home to many districts including the Alamo District, Alamodome District, Central Business District, Convention Center District, Historic Civic District, Houston Street District, King William Historic District, La Villita District, Market Square District, North Downtown, North River District, River Bend District, SoSo (South of Southtown), Southtown, and the University District. All have quaint shops, bistros, clubs, bars and their own individuality. They are all worthy of visiting if you have time.

Other notable places to visit:

~San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest active cathedral in the United States.
~The Aztec Theater built in 1926, is the only surviving exotic-themed movie palace in Texas, and is one of the most impressive such buildings in the U.S.
~ The Tower of the Americas, the theme structure for HemisFair '68.
~ The San Antonio Japanese Tea Gardens (also known as the Sunken Gardens) is a registered Texas historical landmark located in an abandoned limestone rock quarry.
~La Villita, a thriving artists' colony dating back to the 18th century.

I've managed to find places which have taken my breath away and inspired me. They are here...!

Follow these links to see a few of my S.A. pics (be sure to hit the back button after viewing each picture):

Espada Aqueduct

Mission San Jose
Espada Dam Crossing
Mission Concepcion
Cross at Mission Espada

Until next time!
Barb