Monday, May 20, 2019

Moving day

Our first motorhome (purchased at the end of 2010) was a 38' Newmar Dutch Star . It was an oldie-but-goodie RV, extremely well built. But, it only had one slide and we had two cats, who demanded litter boxes. There just wasn't enough room for all of us to be comfortable, so after a couple of years, we upgraded to a 40' Country Coach with three slides. Jim and I, as well as the cats, were happy with the extra space. Moving into our new accommodations only required transferring our goods from one RV to another.
Our first motorhome, a 38', 1998 Dutch Star.

Our second motorhome, a 40', 2005 Country Coach.

In September 2017, we decided to downsize. We realized that our RV lifestyle had changed. We no longer yearned to make extended journeys across country. Instead, we focused on shorter (but more frequent) get-aways in state parks, where we could not only tour the area but go fishing. So, we traded in that goliath of a motorhome and purchased a 27' RUV (recreational utility vehicle). We were happy.

Our third motorhome, a 27', 2017 Thor Axis 25.2

Downsizing was a challenge. We had not realized how much (needless) stuff we had been carrying around, "just in case" we needed it. (We never did need it.) 

We remained content traveling in our RUV until we realized that we did not really like its configuration. We had chosen this particular model because it had a back-slide for a queen-sized bed, rather than one that had a side slide and more room in the galley/cabin. 

We also realized that again our RV lifestyle had morphed: We truly enjoy the state parks and going fishing, especially with a boat. We decided that the best RV for us would be a retro RV--a truck camper. We were fortunate to have found a truck and truck camper for sale here in Jacksonville, for a good price. 
Our fourth (and last!) RV, a 2003 Lance truck camper, atop a 1999 Dodge Ram diesel dually.
Although in total length, the camper is only 11.5 feet, it actually offers more room in the cabin/kitchen area that Thor. So, in that regard we are very happy. The downside is that it does not have as much "basement" storage as a motorhome, nor quite as much inside storage.

Today was moving day. We brought Thor home and started transferring our goods. I had to be ruthless about what I would carry in the camper. How many blankets do we need? Right now, one lightweight blanket--I don't need to carry four. Dishes? We have mostly been using paper plates to cut down on washing dishes, so no more Corelle. Flatware? We don't really need a full set of eight dinner forks, salad forks, teaspoons, knives, and tablespoons. I evaluated every piece of cutlery and utensil: If I had not used it within the last year, it would not have a home in the camper. Same with storage containers, pots and pans, and items in the junk drawer.

Tomorrow I will finish finding homes for everything I need, and finding new homes for all the things I will not pack into the camper.

It was a long, hot, sweaty day. But Thor is empty; Camper (or is its name  Lance?) is ready to be put together for our next trip. Tomorrow as I finish putting things in their new places, Jim will install the new 24" LED TV. We will be very comfortable when we go on our next trip in two weeks.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Sunday, May 19, 2019

A new chapter in our RVing story

May 19, 2019--Last week I posted that we listed and sold our little 2004 Nissan Frontier truck in one day. (Thank you, Craigslist! Well worth the $5 posting fee.) Why did we sell the truck? We had purchased it only a few months ago to be used as a vehicle to haul our fishing equipment and to "tow" our boat to the boat launch while we were camping. Jim had replaced an oxygen sensor, the alternator, and the radiator. The truck was in great shape; it ran well. So why sell it?

We needed a bigger truck...a much bigger carry our new truck camper!
Side view of our "new" truck camper and truck.

Let me give you the back story: We have been RVers for almost nine years. Our first motorhome was a 1998 38' diesel pusher with one slide. Excellent engine, but we wanted more room. Bigger is better, no? So, after a couple of years, we traded up to 2005 40' diesel Country Coach that had three slides. Opened up, it was as big as a New York apartment. We really loved the room that motorhome provided. Jim loved to drive it. But, it was plagued with a variety of problems, and we finally decided to sell it about 18 months ago.

When we decided to sell "Junior," we realized our RVing lifestyle had changed. We were no longer interested in taking extended vacations, as we had done three times in the big coaches. So, when we sold the 40-footer, we downsized to a 27' Thor RUV--a recreational utility vehicle. The size was good; we could get into small RV sites at state parks. It didn't take us long, however, to realize that the configuration of Thor did not work well for us. Its single slide was in the back, to allow for a queen-sized bed. The cabin/kitchen area was narrow and not very comfortable for cooking or for watching TV. We regretted not purchasing an RUV with a slide in the cabin/kitchen.

Also, we became interested in boating. It is possible to tow a boat behind an RV, but you can't launch one using an RV. (At least, we weren't going to try.) Hence, we purchased the Porta-bote and the little truck. We could carry the Porta-bote on the truck, which we could tow.

Towing the truck with the Porta-bote solved the boating problem, but we were still confronted with the challenge of the configuration in Thor. We just didn't like it.

We began to think about other solutions, including a truck camper.

Truck campers are probably the granddaddies of RVs. The camper slides into the back of a big pickup truck. The camper can be left in place, or can be taken off the truck as a stand-alone camper while RVing. That allows the truck to be used for other purposes, such as site-seeing or launching a boat.

In our search, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that many truck campers have slides (to expand living area) and even dry bathrooms. (For the uninformed, a dry bathroom is one that has a separate shower. A wet bathroom, common in Class B and many truck campers, is a small bath in which the whole room converts to a shower.)
Back view or the truck camper. 

This truck camper has one slide.

New truck campers come with a healthy price tag, plus you need a big full-sized truck to carry them--another high cost. New was out of the question. We started looking (casually) at various websites for used truck campers and trucks.

As luck would have it, Jim found an ad on eBay for a truck camper as well as a truck--located in Jacksonville. Last Sunday we took a look and fell in love. We bought the package, for an excellent price. We didn't have to mortgage the house to buy them.

The owners (a rabbi and his wife) had purchased both the truck (a 1999 Ram 3500) and the camper (a 2003 Lance 1121) new. They were meticulous owners and were only selling because their health no longer allowed them to camp.

The truck is a diesel with only 90,000 miles on it. (Diesels are hardly broken in with that type of mileage.) It is a dually, which means that it has four wheels on the back. The camper is the largest that was built back in 2003. Although the camper needs some upgrading, it is well made and can be used as is.
Our "new" 1999 Dodge Ram 3500 dually. Jim can been seen installing some air bags. He will also install a backup camera on the truck as well as on the camper.

Front view of our new truck. It is big!

The interior of the camper provides a lot of living area and will be much more comfortable than Thor. No, there are no easy chairs in it, but the dinette's cushioned couches are comfortable to recline on, while watching TV. (We do have to buy a TV. The one that was in it was pre-LED.) It has quite a bit of storage (I think more than the newer truck campers), including a pull-out pantry. It has a microwave, three-burner gas stove, and a gas oven. It also has a dry bathroom, should we wish to shower "at home" instead of in the campground shower facilities. The bed, which is over the truck cab, is queen-sized.
Interior of our new camper. We will be taking up the carpeting and installing plant flooring. (There is new linoleum under the carpet.) The bed is overhead. To the right is the slide with banquette.

The kitchen has a microwave and gas oven.

The kitchen also has a lot of storage, including this pull-out can storage.

The bath is dry.

The bathroom also has a cabinet. For this size camper, it is well-sized.

In addition to providing us with a more comfortable cabin/kitchen area, the truck camper will allow us to tow a boat. Who knows? Perhaps we will get a "real" boat in the future. 

Our task this week is to sell Thor to a dealer, unless we miraculously get an offer from Craigslist or Marketplace within the next couple of days.

Our RVing journey continues, but in a direction we would not have considered when we started nine years ago.

Until next time (when I report on our first adventures in our "new" RV),

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Fishing, catching, boating...a great vacation

May 9, 2019—Sebastian Inlet is known as a fisherman’s paradise. All types of species are caught in the inlet, the Indian and Banana Rivers, and on the ocean at the jetty. All types are caught…when the fish are biting.

The desirable species were nowhere to be seen this week. Not only by us, but by anyone. Where are the fish? Yesterday, when we fished at the jetty, we saw only one person pull in an undersized snook, nothing else. We left after about two hours without even a satisfying bite. The most fun was watching a manatee in the ocean. I did not know manatees swam in the ocean, but apparently they are migratory and swim the coastal shore. This was stayed in the same general area the entire time we were at the jetty.
It is difficult to capture a picture of a manatee, because you never know when they will come up for air. This manatee (the grayish blob in the picture) stayed in the ocean around the jetty the entire time we were fishing. The photo is poor but it will serve as a memory jogger for me. I had never seen a manatee in the ocean before.

The lack of snook, reds, black drum, and trout did not take away from the fun we have had. We surf-fished (I caught an undersized pompano); we fished off the pier in the state park several times and caught catfish and lady fish (we kept the lady fish but threw the catfish back); and we fished in our boat, from which we only caught pesky catfish.

Our first boat trip was aborted, because of oil in the cylinder. The second time we launched it (later that same day) we had to cut the expedition short because of trouble with the auxiliary gas tank. After Jim realized what the problem was, he filled the gas tank in the motor itself, and this morning we took the boat out again. The boat and the motor both worked like a charm.
We saw our RV from the river! What fun we had in our Porta-bote!

Our goal in taking out the boat today was mainly for a second “shake-down cruise.” But, we did some fishing, too. Our catch? A half-dozen catfish, and a toadie (a type of puffer fish).
This is a picture of the type of puffer fish Jim caught today. Unfortunately he threw it back before I could take a photo, so I borrowed this one from the Wikipedia on the web.

All fish are edible, but some are better than others. We have cleaned and eaten salt-water catfish, but they are difficult to skin and don’t offer much meat. So, we let all of them go. The puffer fish? Well, we weren’t sure what it was, so we let it go also. Later I researched the species and discovered that although you have to be careful not to puncture the liver (the bile is toxic), the puffer fish (aka toadie) is excellent to eat, albeit that to make a meal you have to catch a lot of them. (They are very small.) Also, once they are caught, they should not be put on ice, rather in water. Ice will make the skin stick to the meat. Apparently, toadies can often be found in shallow water and/or in grasses. It is said they are easy to catch, if you find a school of them. Next time we will keep whatever we catch.

So, what did we learn about our Porta-bote?

  • It meets our needs for right now. We can’t wait to take it fishing in the marshes in Jacksonville. According to the newspaper, many “good” fish are starting to bite, because the water has warmed. We did “good” in buying this Porta-bote and the 5 hp Coleman outboard.

  • It was a lot of fun taking the boat out on the water. It provided a comfortable ride, even in choppy water.

  • We need to make a couple of modifications, such as rigging up a way to tie off the anchor, and using double pulleys to hoist the boat up to the tow-rigging Jim designed. And we have to figure out the best way to stow things on board.

  • I need to modify my stadium seat (attached to the bench seat) to provide lumbar back support, or buy a regular boat seat. Maybe Jim will want one, too.

We have packed up the boat and stowed it on top of the truck. We are both tired, and I think fished out.

Tomorrow we head home.

It was a great vacation.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Lots of smilin' (or is it smirking?)

May 7, 2019--We received a few smirks and smiles today. We didn't care; we were happy campers as we took our first boat ride in our Porta-bote.

The Porta-bote is unlike any other type of boat most people have seen. Unfolded with its seats in place and a motor on the back, in the water, it looks pretty much like a skiff or a jon boat. But when it is being hauled on its own wheels behind a truck...well, maybe those smirkers (especially those with 20-foot fishing boats) are right. Our Porta-bote is quite a sight.

To someone who tows a "real" boat, this looks rather weird. But it works!

We actually made two trips to the river. The first one, we launched the boat (no problem). Jim then tried starting the engine. It was frozen up. He couldn't pull the starter. So, we hauled the boat out of the water (again, no problem) and back to camp. Jim quickly found the source of the problem--something about oil seeping into the combustion chamber while the motor was resting on its side (per manufacturer's instructions). He drained the cylinder, dried the spark plug, and was able to start the engine. (Have I mentioned that my engineer husband is a mechanical genius?)

After lunch, we headed back down to the boat launch. This time, the launch went even more quickly, and after a couple of tugs, the engine started. We were off!

But then the engine stopped. Start, stop. Start, stop, Several times. During some of the stops, we fished. We each caught a hard-head catfish (thrown back). We headed in.

More research. What was happening? The engine itself worked flawlessly, but something was happening with fuel delivery from the auxiliary gas tank. Jim finally found the problem--a small crack in the part where gas is sucked up from the tank into the hose. We drove into Melbourne to a West Marine to see if it had the part. No such luck. We will either have to try to order the part from the manufacturer or get a new aux gas tank. That doesn't mean we can't use the boat: The engine has a built-in gas tank. The aux tank just allows farther traveling.

We went back to the fishing pier after our trip to Melbourne (about 20 miles away). The lady fish were again feeding. Jim caught one; I caught two, and another fisherman gave us one. Those lady fish are really fun to catch! Lots of fight.

Lady fish are reputed not to be the best-eating fish, mostly because of their soft texture. We researched cooking them, however, and found that this fish is widely used (especially in Asian cultures) to make fish cakes. Instead of traditionally cutting and skinning filets, you use a spoon to scrape away the mushy flesh. Combine the mush with bread crumbs and seasonings and pan fry, and you get fish burgers similar to the kind you buy at McDonalds. We have frozen our lady fish and will try out the recipe in our fully equipped kitchen when we get home.

These lady fish have big eyes and strong bodies. Here they are waiting in our bucket to be fileted.

While we were cleaning the fish, however, some fishermen who had gone "way off shore" to hunt yellow-fin tuna but only succeeded in bringing in many black-fin tuna, joined us at the cleaning table. As the guy was cleaning, he offered us a couple of big tuna steaks--probably close to two pounds! How generous! Last year fishermen in Georgia gave us a couple pounds of freshwater catfish. Those who have a great catch share.

Needless to say, we are having a great time. Bone tired and achy for overexerting, but wonderfully relaxed. And the sunset tonight was spectacular.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Not loving the love bugs

May 5, 2019—It is May. And Floridians—at least those who have lived in South Florida—know what that means: love bugs.

For those who are not familiar with love bugs, individually, they look similar to lightning bugs. The female is larger than the male. Every year in May and again in September they mate, in the air. How they manage to do this is an athletic feat.

When love bugs emerge, they emerge in large numbers. This year, they seem to be especially prolific. We met up with them just south of Daytona, as we were making our way to Sebastian Inlet State Park, just south of Melbourne, in South Florida, about three and half hours from Jacksonville. It didn’t take long for our windshield to become a graveyard for thousands (literally) of unfortunate love bugs. My photos do not do justice to the carnage.


We decided to take our new Porta-bote with us to Sebastian Inlet. To the uninitiated, a Porta-bote is a fold-up boat. Ours is 14 feet long and can carry four people and up to 850 pounds. We purchased a 5 hp outboard to propel us, and we have an electric trolling motor in addition to the big engine.

This type of boat is ideal for RVers who want to have a boat but cannot tow one. The only trick, though, is to get the boat to the water. Theoretically, you can put it together, use it, then fold it up. But when you are camping and want to fish every day, that process would be time-consuming.

The boat comes with wheels (which come off) so that you can hand-tow it to the water. Jim not only designed a rack to carry the boat on top of the truck, he also designed a way to tow it (very carefully and slowly) to the boat ramp within the campgrounds. My husband is an engineering genius.

Tomorrow we will have our maiden launch. (Well, technically, we launched it in our pond to make sure it floated, but we didn’t go out in it.) Let’s hope the fish are biting!

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Back home again...

Rob and I hit the road about 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. The movers were incredible: They had everything loaded into the huge moving tru...