Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from LivelyRV!
Holiday greetings from Ian, Avery, Tia, Don, Chloe, Misty, Ethan, & Courtney who are LivelyRV.
 We pray that you are blessed this holiday season and if you are traveling, your drive is a safe and an uneventful one.
Top: Ethan, Don, Misty, & Ian.  Bottom: Avery, Courtney, Tia, & Chloe.
We also want to thank everyone that we have met this past year traveling America and consider ourselves blessed that we crossed paths with you.  

Even though many of the places we have visited have been great, making new friends is even greater.  We hope to see you all again in the near future.

We especially want to thank Araya Rieck aka Mink who took our Christmas picture for us this year.  While eating at a local restaurant, she was our waitress and while commenting on how well behaved our kids were, one thing led to another.

During our discussion we told her about our mobile lifestyle and she volunteered to take our pictures.  She is starting to build up clientele for her photo business and so wanted to take our pictures for her portfolio.  Once she gets her web site up and running, we will be sure to post the link on our blog.

May God bless you this holiday season!

Don, Misty, and Kids...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

A few weeks ago we decided to go Geocaching for an EarthCache in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park just a few miles away from where we were camping.

Dune Not Disturb at Topsail Hill Preserve EarthCache on our Geocaching App.
The first evening we went to the park around 4 PM and the park closes at sunset, so we did not have much time.  We also discovered that just to get to the trail head we wanted, it was a good two mile walk or bike ride.

The park did provide transportation to the boardwalk via trailers pulled by a truck to one of the trails. Then, we could walk to the trail head we wanted, but it was way too late for that this day.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park trail map.
So we rode the tram down to the beach and hung out there the rest of the evening.

One neat item they had at the park was a sandcastle that was built during a Halloween event that was held at the park.  The artists used Elmer's glue in the sand so that it holds its shape and does not deteriorate from the elements.
Front view of sandcastle built this past Halloween.
Good detail on sandcastle.
I guess that the glue works pretty good since the structure was still in pretty good shape a good three weeks after it was built.
Rear view of sandcastle.
We then rode the tram down to the beach boardwalk and spent the rest of the evening there.   The beach was pretty busy for the time of year. 
Beach at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.
 While the kids played on the beach, with Misty watching them, I tried to get a picture of the Moon from overtop of a sand dune with some grass in the way.  

A good friend of mine posted on Facebook, not too long ago, that just because you own a camera, does not make you a photographer.  How true that is.
Don trying to get a picture of the Moon over the sand dune next to the boardwalk.
 Some people have the gift of a photographer's eye, but I am not one of them.  The picture below does not look anything like the scene viewed that day and using my iPhone did not make matters any better.  The Moon looked much closer with the naked eye.
Shot of the Moon through the grass.  The Moon is very small, but is really there.
The next day we loaded up all the bikes, which is an accomplishment within itself since we are talking six bikes and a Schwinn buggy, into the Yukon and headed out to the park.

Once we got there we unloaded everything, along with a backpack of water and the makings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and hit the road.  

While we were a good two miles into the trip, Ian's back tire went flat, so we ditched his bike by the side of the road and he had to squeeze into the Schwinn buggy with Avery and Chloe.
When we are faced with a difficult situation, we simply adjust and move on even though this meant that Misty was now pulling three little ones!  She is one tough cookie as she kept going until the last quarter mile and then I took over.  She said her legs had never felt so much relief when starting to peddle my bike.
Bike rack at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.
After we parked the bikes, we then had to walk the other two plus miles into Morris Lake and the trail where we had to get the information for our EarthCache.

An EarthCache does not have a treasure hidden like traditional Geocache, but instead takes you to a place where you learn something about the Earth.

For this one, we had to learn three reasons why sand dunes help us and take a picture of an example of dune erosion.  Below is a  picture of the reasons sand dunes help us.
Stay off the sand dunes so they can help us.
Another interesting fact about the lakes in the park were that there are only four locations in the world that have freshwater dune lakes like these.  I'm not sure where they are and was too lazy to research it, but may one day.  Feel free to research it for me, if you like.

There was some excitement added to our quest with the danger of alligators.  The kids were ready to turn back after seeing the warning sign, but after a little encouragement they continued on the journey.

Unfortunately or fortunately, we did not see any alligators which was a relief for Ethan, since I tasked him with the responsibility of using himself as bait so the rest of the family could escape in the event of an attack.  

His duties were clear, he was to keep its attention, using whatever methods possible, until the rest of us could get a safe distance away.  Then we would send help back for him, once we made our four plus mile trek back to the ranger station.  

No, I'm only kidding, I would have called the ranger station on my cell for them to come save him.  What do you take me for?
Alligator warning sign.
After we made it through Alligator Alley, we found our erosion subject and took a picture.  Our picture was to show the erosion around the roots of the bush behind us.
Erosion which has exposed the bush's roots.
The kids also had some fun playing in the sand while I searched for my picture spot.
Ethan's sand drawing.
Courtney carrying Chloe during our nature hike.
Tia drawing in the sand.
Tia's beautiful artwork in the sand. 
Misty enjoying herself on this fine November day.
Morris Lake made a nice backdrop for us to also take some family photos.

Ian, Courtney, Ethan, Avery, Don, Tia, and Chloe in front of Morris Lake.
Ian, Courtney, Ethan, Avery, Misty, Tia, and Chloe in front of Morris Lake.
All in all we had a very good day, even though we were tired by the time we made it back to the RV.  We had biked over four miles along with walking over four miles, so we had a pretty good workout.  All the kids said there legs felt like jello and we would have to agree!

The day was coming to an end with the Moon showing overhead.  So of course I had to take a picture.  I am a sucker for the Moon and just love to see it in the sky.
The Moon overhead.
So that was our Topsail Hill Preserve State Park trip and EarthCache.  Once again, if it was not for Geocaching, we would have probably never come to this park and enjoyed it.

Until the next blog, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  

God bless and remember Jesus is why we celebrate Christmas, not just because it is another holiday.

Don, Misty, and Kids...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Destin Army Recreational Area

This month we decided to go south and warm up a bit after being in Indiana and West Virginia the past couple months.

The first place we stayed at was the Destin Army Recreational Area which is part of the Fort Benning Family and Moral, Recreation and Welfare Directorate.  It is located on the Choctawhatchee Bay which is just a short distance from the Gulf of Mexico.

The facility was top quality offering cabins, hotel rooms, and RV lots, along with other activities such as charter fishing.  We were really impressed with its upkeep and security.  

We have been planning on using military recreation facilities a lot more in our travels since they are usually much cheaper, but offer the same quality as private, higher priced resorts.
Courtney, Avery, Ethan, Ian, & Tia posing by the pool at the Destin Army Recreational Area.
As I mentioned earlier, we were really impressed by the quality of the resort.  Just looking at the pool gives you an idea of how nice the place was.
Pool at Destin Army Recreational Area.
We would have been very happy to stay here the entire time while in Destin, Florida, but already had reservations at another resort we were meeting friends at.  

The splash park, which was just added in 2011, was top notch and very well maintained.  

On another note, when we first started to explore the resort, while walking a gentleman standing in the door opening of his room shouted down asking if all of the kids were ours.  We get that a lot.  We answered yes, and after he made over them a bit, we went on down to the pool and splash park.

Next thing you know he walks up to me with his hand cupped so that I was the only one who could see what was in it and asked me to take the kids out for ice cream for a Thanksgiving treat, on him.  When looking down at his hand, I was surprised to catch sight of a $50.00 bill.

I of course told him that was way too much, but he insisted that we take it and buy the kids a Thanksgiving treat for him.

So that evening we went to Longhorn Steakhouse, ate dinner and let the kids order whatever dessert they wanted off of the desert menu.

I thanked the gentleman when he first gave us the money, but did not have a chance to give him one of our cards so he could follow us on the blog.  The next day I did not see him around any longer and it looked like his room was vacated.  Whenever we think about that moment, we will always smile because of his kindness reflected upon our family.  

So if you are reading this and are the gentleman who gave the family of eight the $50.00 for ice cream while they were at the Destin Army Recreation Area, THANK YOU! 
The splash park at the Destin Army Recreation Area.
There was also a 300 foot fishing pier available to fish in the Choctawhatchee Bay or do some crabbing.  As you can tell by Misty's hair, there was a nice breeze coming off of the bay that evening.

Tia, Courtney, Avery, Ethan, Misty, Chloe, & Ian on the fishing pier.
 Although it was a little nippy, due to the wind, we were having a nice time walking around the resort.
Tia, Courtney, Avery, Ethan, Don, Chloe, & Ian on the fishing pier.
One of the first things the kids wanted to do was play on the beach, so the next day, we headed down to the boardwalk and let them get wet.

There were plenty of people swimming in the water, which was not too awful cold, but we decided not to let the kids this evening since neither Misty or I had on bathing suites and did not want to risk having to go in after one of them.  
Ethan, Ian, Courtney, Avery, & Tia playing on the beach.
We actually love the beach this time of the year, since it is not very crowded and the sand does not burn your feet.  The water can be a bit chilly to swim in, but it really is not that bad.

It is funny, because you can tell the northerners from the southerners very easy by the way we dress and things we do.  

I would be willing to bet money that everyone swimming or in swim suites were from a cold climate while anyone dressed up with a jacket or long sleeve shirts and pants, were from the south.

There is always the exception but for the most part, the above statement is true.
Chloe, Misty, Tia, Courtney, Ethan, Avery, & Ian having fun in the sun.
 As with all days, the sun started to set and the kids started to say they were hungry, so we called it a day and went to get something to eat.
The sun getting close to set over the Gulf of Mexico.
 There will be more on what we are doing in Destin in future blogs. Since I only update my blog every week or so, I do not have the time to tell you about everything we do.  I wish I could blog everyday on our activities, but just can not make time for that.

I try to pick something that we have done, which I think will be of the most interest to you.  It is funny as some blogs I feel should be very interesting do not get a lot of traffic, while others I may have just thrown together to get something out, have some of the highest numbers of views.  That is probably why I am not in the paper business or a journalist.

Until next time, God bless.

Don, Misty, & Kids...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Just RVing Around

As some of you may know, we were planning on heading south for the winter to Georgia  Florida and then west to Arizona hoping to be in Alaska next spring and summer, but my work has other plans.

Work wants me on-site most of January, which is located in the DC area, which makes going south a little hard.  So if that is what I need to do, then we are debating on heading north now, while the weather is good, and bed down for the winter.  We will make a decision here soon on where we go next.

We are going to have to do something for heat other than the LP furnaces in the RV since they suck the 30lb LP gas tank dry in about one week when the temperature gets cold.

I have been doing some research on electric heaters, but if anyone reading this has a suggestion, please comment or email me at with it.

Since we were out of propane we had to break camp and drive into town to get it filled up.  I also wanted to get a new inspection sticker on the RV, so we would be good for a year and it would be in sync with the GMC Yukon, that we just had inspected also.

The problem with moving the RV is that you have to put everything up, strap down the heavy stuff, and pull in the slides whether you are moving a few feet or down the road.  

Our biggest item is the 18" dishwasher that has to be securely strapped down, so that it does not slide around and hurt someone.  Yes, we really need it too.  Well not really, but it is super nice to have and also gives us a little more counter top.
Dishwasher strapped down for moving.
Then you have to get everything that is on the counters and above your head, up and out of the way where it will ride safely and not be slung all over the place.  The bunk beds make a great place to store this stuff while traveling.
Bunks used for storage while we travel.
 You have to also make sure the slide area is clear of anything that could hamper it.  Even little Matchbox cars can play havoc and mess up the slide mechanism if they get caught.
Slide area has to be clear of any obstacles.
 You might think, that is common sense to pull the high stuff down, but you would be surprised at how easy it is to forget about it until you hear a crash while driving down the road.  

That usually happens at the worst moment also, since you are probably traversing an uneven road surface or taking a turn, which caused the items to fall in the first place.  We once forgot to strap the refrigerator doors together and a couple of curves later, the doors flung open and glass jars came flying out.  Luckily, no one was hit and none of the jars broke!
All items up high must be packed away so that they do not fall while driving down the road.

This is what your overhead (temporary) storage areas need to look like before you start to drive down the road.
Now it is safe to drive with the items put away.
You also have to remember to unhook the electric, water, sewer, and anything else such as cable, to move.  So far I have not forgotten to unhook any of the above, but I have forgotten to hook them back up, after returning.  

Once I forgot to hook the electric back up and did not notice until Misty tried to start the dryer.  Our inverters and batteries powered everything for a good five hours before we, and a friend, noticed the lights flickering some and of course the dryer not working.

If we are moving a good ways, then we have to load up the GMC Yukon with all of the bikes, eight in all, and anything else that we can not get into the RV, like the baby buggy that hooks to Misty's bike.  When the Yukon is packed, only the driver's seat is left open.

You then have to make sure you have the tow bar, safety cables, power cable, air hose for the brakes, and safety disconnect cable hooked up properly.

Do not mind the dirty RV, it has been washed since this picture was taken.
10,000 lb Blue Ox tow bar in its folded position at the rear of the RV.

Another very important thing that you have to remember to do is to strap the refrigerator closed.  We have a residential or regular home refrigerator in the RV and if you do not put the strap on the door handles, it will sling open during a turn or bump and dump the contents on the tile floor.  The results would even make a nun mutter a bad word.  I know I sure have.
Strap on refrigerator door.
Once you have all the slides in, the jacks up, and everything unhooked, you need to make sure every compartment door is securely latched.  It does not matter whether or not you locked the doors, you physically have to walk around the entire RV and pull on each one.

If a door does come open while driving down the road, not only will you start pouring your stored items out onto the highway, but there is a chance you can hit the door on the guardrail or even another vehicle.  Plus other drivers do not appreciate having to dodge items being thrown at them, unexpectedly.

It is very embarrassing to have cars beeping at you because your doors are open and sticking out, not that it has happened to us, well maybe only once or twice.  At least we have not lost anything out of the compartments due to the doors being open.
Checking all the compartment doors to make sure they are securely latched.
Probably the worse thing to unhook is the sewer line.  You never leave your sewer line open while hooked up or you will get a mound of waste in your black tank, which will clog it up sooner or later.  So you wait until the tank is at least one third of the way full so there is plenty of liquid to push the waste out.

I also run a back flush when I empty the tank so there is plenty of water to help push out the waste and clean any solids that may have built up.  So far I have not had any problems with it clogging up.

One should empty the black tank first and then the grey water tank which will flush out all the waste from the black tank.  When I unhook the sewer line, I then use the outside faucet to rinse it clean, and then roll it up, draining it into the sewer system.  I then put the hose back in the compartment, trying not to touch any of the contaminated areas.

I always have a bottle of soap and hand sanitizer in the compartment, so I can wash and clean up my hands afterwards.

I recently added a water softener and filter to help keep the iron and other minerals out of the RV's water lines since many RV parks have well water and not city water.  I keep the unit in the compartment so it is not exposed to the outside elements.
Water softener and filters in the water and sewer compartment.
Even though we have a panel that shows when the jacks are up, sometimes they stick and are really not up, so you have to physically check them by looking behind all the wheels.  

The below picture is what you want to see, which is the jack in the up position.  The base plate for the jack is in the middle of the picture to the right of the long brass looking bolt.
Rear jack in the up position.  You can see the back half of the base plate in the this picture next to the brass bolt.
Once everything is down, latched, in, stored, unhooked, and up you are ready to hit the road.  In the below picture we were just going into town to fill up with propane and so did not hook up the tow vehicle or toad.
Readied RV in travel mode minus the toad.
When driving the RV you are always going to meet someone or something that gets in the way or stops you.  While running into town we met a vehicle, which was waiting on a mobile home to come down the road.  

It was actually good that we were stopped on the side road and did not meet the mobile home on the county road, or we would of had to back up, which is never fun in an RV.
Meeting a vehicle on a single lane road.
There are many adjustments we have to make to live in the RV and moving it is no different.  It is not as easy as a car to turn but it is very easy to get it into a situation where you are stuck and can not turn it around. 

So far we have been lucky and not gotten stuck where we had to unhook the toad to back up or anything like that.  I did pull into a gas station once with the toad and blocked the pumps for others to use.  Then after filling up, we barley had enough room, inches, to pull back out onto the highway.

Depending upon what type of RV you have, the steps to prepare for moving may be different and by no means is it implied that the above steps are the only way to do it.  That is just how we do it.  We also probably spend more time packing than most, since we have six little ones to pick up after!

Until next time God bless and we hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Don, Misty, & Kids......

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Home For A Visit

This week we went back to West Virginia to take care of some personal business and visit family and friends.

It was a pretty easy drive down from Indiana with Misty doing half of it.  She is getting very comfortable with driving the RV and does a fine job.  I appreciate it especially since I can then set in the passenger seat and work or play on the computer.
Misty driving the RV.
I do not know why, but days we are traveling and I'm getting actual work done, while riding down the road, gives me a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  I'm weird, I guess, or just a true geek.

One of the main reasons for coming home was to see our granddaughter Braelynn, who was born on 23 Oct 2012 to my son William and his wife Meghan.

Last night Will came over with Braelynn to visit and have dinner with us at my brother Bill's house.  Meghan could not come due to committing to a previous engagement.
Will and Braelynn at Uncle Bill's.
 As you can tell, he is a proud father and has a beautiful baby girl to be delighted over.  Braelynn also makes Misty and me grandparents too, which is OK, even though we do not feel like we are old enough to be grandparents yet.  Especially Misty since I'm fifteen years her senior!  
Braelynn sleeping in her daddy's arms.
Another important reasons to be back in town was for our five older children to receive awards for completing the first section of Basic Bible Skills (BBS).

BBS is a bible study curriculum that teaches kids the books of the bible, the divisions the books belong in, and how to find scriptures in the bible.

We were lucky enough to have the author, Mrs. Don-Ann Wheeler,  become a member of our church and get introduced to her bible study course.
Avery accepting his BBS award.
Ian accepting his BBS award.
Tia accepting her BBS award.
Courtney accepting her BBS award.
Ethan not only received a certificate for completing the Old Testament portion of BBS but also a medal for having the most points awarded for the course.  

Mrs. Don-Ann said that in her entire time of teaching the course, no one had ever attained the amount of points Ethan did which was 23,527.  Considering there were older kids in the class, Ethan really did well for himself.

Ethan accepting his award and medal for BBS.
When we hit the road last spring, we started to video conference with Mrs. Don-Ann on a weekly basis so the kids could keep up their studies with BBS and stay in contact with her too.  If for some reason we did not have the wi-fi to do a video conference, the kids would just do the review over the phone.  So far it has worked out very well.

One other item I would like to mention is that LivelyRV found their  first First to Find (FTF) Geocaching this past week, which we hope happens more often.  A FTF is what it states, first to find a new cache that had just been put out.  

It was hidden on Saturday morning around 7:15AM and we were the first to sign the log around 8:30AM.  As my brother likes to say, "Man, what a rush!"  You know I had to get something about Geocaching into the blog.

Until next time, God bless!


Don, Misty & Kids