It’s been a few weeks since my last installment, and I was figuring my next writing would be after Christmas. However, I’ve been a busy retired guy, and have accumulated lots of new stuff to share. So, I figured I’d go ahead and get out a new posting before the holidays. So, what have I been up to lately?
Maintenance & Enhancements
Many believe pulling a 16K lbs RV behind a truck would be stressful. Granted, as I’ve moved up the RV lifecycle (pop-up to travel trailer to my first 5th wheel), there was definite angst when first starting out. That quickly passes though as you gain experience and confidence. These days, I am comfortable pulling the RV along most any roads. What does make me anxious is having to get fuel while I’m towing. Not knowing how I can safely enter and exit the station, being assured there is sufficient clearance of the overhang to accommodate my robust 13′, 6″ in height, are some of the things that give me the heebie jeebies. While towing, I try to follow the 3-3-3 rule – that is stopping after 300 miles or 3pm whichever occurs first, and staying a minimum of 3 days. The 300 mile limit is right up there close to my overall range while towing with a full fuel tank. Many times I’ve had to either swallow my fear and get off the highway for some fuel, or risk it hoping I’ll make it to the campground before running out. Neither of those options were rarely acceptable solutions. So how did I solve this? I scheduled my truck to have surgery to replace the factory 35 gallon fuel tank, with an after market 65 gallon tank (pictured top left – old is to the left of the mechanic, new on his right). The new tank is the same shape as the OEM, but makes better use of the space, and is overall 3 inches deeper (but only falls 1 inch lower overall from the original), and almost doubles my capacity. As you can see from my onboard computer, a full tank provides me with 890 Miles to Empty. Granted, that distance is based on non-towing fuel efficiency. But even as my mileage drops down to the 9-10 per gallon range while towing, I now have plenty of fuel to never have to stop before reaching my intended destination. It was a pricy upgrade, but oh so worth it to me!
In addition to the fuel tank install, I also had some other planned work done on the truck (oil change, radiator flush) – which of course resulted in some not so much planned work (radiator replacement, rear brakes, new A/C compressor) – spending many $$$$ of unplanned/emergency funds. Oh well, I very much rely on this truck so I gotta keep all this stuff running well. I also had the RV detailed (washed and waxed) by a mobile crew that was working their way through the campground. Looks great now – really needed that coat of wax as that is not something it has had since I’ve owned it. I also got the Air Force flag flying on the flag pole, as well as getting the new Luv2RV logo plate put on the front of the truck. All looking really good now, and I’m feeling rather accomplished.
I’ve also been busy playing tourist. My friend Joanne and I took a trip to Columbia, SC – mainly to attend a concert at the Colonial Life Arena to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO). WOW – what a concert! Like pictures of the Grand Canyon, my concert pics really do not do justice to represent the truly spectacular show they put on. The music, lights, and story line were just the best. It was the quickest three hours I’ve experienced in a very long time. Thanks Joanne for the suggestion, and for scoring front row tickets for our section.
We also ventured into the South Carolina State Museum – which features a nice collection of exhibits that represent the essence, diversity, and history of the state. One really interesting fact that I learned was related to the number of trees it took to produce one edition of the Sunday newspaper. It would take 100 tractor trailer loads full of pine trees to produce the Sunday State Newspaper, having a circulation of 164,000 subscribers. Granted, the exhibit was mostly focused on the importance of recycling, but the sheer number of trees to produce one Sunday worth of papers was simply amazing to me.
On the way back to Myrtle Beach from Columbia, we took a slight detour to visit the Congaree National Park. This place was truly amazing! This 22,000+ acre park protects the largest contiguous tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the Unites States. The park is known for having giant hardwoods and towering pines – many among the tallest in the eastern US. What was more interesting is that during the winter/off season, much of the forest is subject to flooding from the nearby Congaree and Wateree rivers. This recurring flooding provides nutrients to the soil, and impacts an ever changing landscape within the forest. The national park features over 30 miles of trails and boardwalks, but only had 3 miles (10%) passable while we were there – everything else was flooded. Even the elevated boardwalk loop was half under water – limiting our hike to a couple miles out then back along the same path. We did find both ends of the trail as it progressed into the depths of the flooding (see pictures at left). Sadly, we were not able to see all the trees the forest has to offer, specifically the giant Cypress trees, as they were along the parts of the path that were under water. Visiting the park in the summer offers not only the hiking trails for exploration, but also a very popular canoe/kayak view along the Congaree river. Even though I can now check this park off of my National Park visit list, I think I’ll have to put a footnote there to come back during the summer so that I can see more of it. Truly a treasure among our federal lands.
Preparing For The Holidays
Everywhere you look, Christmas is all around us. I even added a bit of festive decor to my RV. I have a small (2 foot) tree with a handful of my long time favorite ornaments, a collection of S’More ornaments on a shelf, and a campfire themed nightlight. So, it’s even beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in the RV. Joanne and I met up with my brother-in-law Ricky and his wife Mary to attend the annual Murrells Inlet Holiday Parade. It was a rainy beginning to the day, but thankfully, the rain stopped just as the parade was getting started. The parade features a bunch of Holiday floats and exhibits by many of the local government and commercial organizations. As the participants walked by, they would toss candy and goodies out to the crowds. We all came home which quite a haul of sweets, beer koozies, frisbees, and the like. Notable among the floats was a Camping World exhibit with truck and travel trailer in tow, local news celebrities, and the local power company bucket truck, cruising down the road to the tune of Shannon’s “Electric Slide”. Too funny!
Heading Up To MD for Christmas
I’ll be leaving in a couple days to head up to Maryland to attend both the In-Law family Christmas, and to spend Christmas morning with Sam, Ashley, and AJ. Really looking forward to the visit and spending a bit of time with all of them. I am also once again acting as master of ceremonies to the gift swap extravaganza that I started last year.
As for my RV, I’ll be leaving it all setup here in the campground while I’m gone, and instead will be enjoying the company and accommodations with my brother and sister in-law Mike and Helen. Thanks to both for allowing me to stay with them!
That’s about all I’ve got to report. Wishing everyone a very safe and Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Till next installment, safe travels!