Chilly and Wet

This week I am boondocking on my sister’s farm near Kimball, MN (about 80 miles west of the Twin Cities).  I am quite happy to be out of the Twin Cities – I forgot what a rat race those people live!  It is a beautiful place and most of the people are very friendly but it is simply too much rush-rush-rush…

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM boondocking RV motorhome Minnesota

We had a big thunderstorm and tornado warning this past Saturday night but I slept like a baby knowing I had 33,000 lbs holding me to the ground!

Hours and hours of rain this week revealed a tiny leak in one of my roof vents. I think I may have seen more rain this week than over the last two years in the desert southwest! This was the vent from which I cleaned off a bunch of old lap sealant when installing the vent cover.  I thought I had it sealed back up but perhaps not.  So, another trip up top with the sealant was required.  No rain since the repair so I’m not sure I fixed it yet.

It has been rather chilly this week – a low of 31 degrees one night!  That’s too close to winter! :-)   The furnace has been doing a fine job keeping me warm.

I’ll be here at my sisters for about a week and then starting the journey to Rapid City, SD next Saturday.

Missouri to Minneapolis

I’m not doing very well with frequent updates!  Sorry…

After departing Saint Clair, Missouri, I traveled to Minneapolis. Specifically, Eagan Minnesota.  The company for which I work is based here and l planned to spend a few weeks with the troops.

Early morning northbound driving on I-35.

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM early morning shadow

Crossing into Minnesota.

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM Crossing into Minnesota

The only option that I could find for RV camping near Eagan was the Lebanon Hills park campground. However; it didn’t open until the week after my arrival.  So, I opted for boondocking the company parking lot!  The office is in an office park so I attempted to be discreet to avoid attracting attention.  It worked as I was undisturbed for an entire week.

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM Boondocking parking lot

When I lived in Minneapolis (a decade ago), I completely failed to see what a fantastic cycling area it is (at least the Eagan, Apple Valley, St. Paul area).  I met up with a friend and rode from Eagan all the way to downtown St. Paul on paved trails and never once had to battle with automotive traffic.

I then moved Lebanon Hills for a two week stay. The Lebanon Hills park area is very nice. I believe it has been developed and cared for by Dakota county so I’ll give them credit. Fabulous job!!

The walking/hiking/x-country ski trails were great!  They are buried in very nice forest/tree’d area with some nice ups and downs.  I put in lots of miles walking them.  There is a dedicated mountain bike section as well!  What an awesome setup!  The MTB trails are dynamite, of course, but they also have a building with changing rooms, water, air pump, picnic tables, and so forth – very, very well done.  Sadly, due to lots of rain, I was unable to spend as much time on these MTB trails as I would have liked – maybe next time!  Of course, there are several small lakes – it is Minnesota – but I never found time to take the yacht off the Jeep and give them a try.  Again, maybe next time…

I am definitely not a fan of large cities (people, traffic, rush-rush-rush, etc…) but it seems that I may also not be a fan of campgrounds.  The campgrounds I have used in New Mexico are pretty spread out – Lebanon Hills campsites are much closer together.  This was ok until the weekends.  I’m not sure what draws some of these folks out but apparently it is a place and time to behave poorly (and allow your kids to do the same).  Loud outdoor televisions, screaming kids, and drinking adults making as much noise as possible is apparently the way some folks “get away from it all.”  Lebanon Hills wasn’t “terrible” by any stretch but, as always, it only takes one bad apple – too bad it was there both of the weekends that I was there.

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM Lebanon Hills Dakota County Camground

Finally, it was time to get out of the big city.  Saturday morning (yesterday, June 16) I took one last long walk on the Lebanon Hills trails and packed up the rig.  A short two hour drive west had me at Kimball, MN where my sister and her family lives (on a farm outside of town).  I pulled onto their 120 acres, lowered the jacks, and setup camp and then IT STORMED!!  There were all sorts of tornado alarms going and the clouds rolling thru were very mean looking.  Thankfully, it was just wind and rain – both of which JBAM weathered just fine.

While in Kimball I filled up my propane tank.  The gauge on the tank reported that 1/4 of the 38 gallon capacity remained which, according to my match, is about ten gallons.  However; we were able to put in only 20 gallons so my gauge may be a bit pessimistic.  In any case, I was happy to get my first propane use numbers of approximately ten gallons per month (very roughly; $40/month or $10/week).

Driving Bliss!

I moved this past weekend from the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area north of Amarillo, Texas to Saint Clair, Missouri where I have family.

Driving my Dutch Star is so enjoyable!  I almost can’t believe it.  It is a huge rig but it is so quiet, so stable, and so smooth that it is nearly no work.  Of course, the engine is nearly forty feet away so there just isn’t any engine noise.  There is a bit of road noise and wind noise but it is a very low level.  The other really neat thing is on rolling terrain, the big diesel just chugs right up hills without making any additional noise or change in speed (using the cruise control).

Now, I do understand that my previous gas motorhome was twenty years old and much has changed since then but the difference between driving that rig and the Dutch Star is VERY pronounced. I had read many comments about the advantages of diesel pushers and I have to agree with this one – it is very comfortable and more relaxing than I had guessed it could be.

This weekend’s drive was approximately 650 miles. I departed about noon on Saturday and arrived at my destination at noon on Sunday.  I took two sleep breaks – one in a truck stop and one at a rest area. Additionally I stopped once for fuel and once because I could not pass a Godfather’s Pizza!

Newmar Dutch Star Diesel Pusher Missouri

The only exciting event was nearly being hit by a tractor-trailer in a truck stop parking lot.  It was three in the morning and I was slowly driving straight down a “lane” when all of the sudden the semi appeared on my left and was rolling around the corner.  We must have spotted each other at about the same time as we both swerved and mashed on the brakes.  He would have T-boned me right at the front wheel so I suspect the damage would have been significant.  Thankfully, disaster was averted and I bet we will both be much more cautious driving thru dark parking lots in the future!  On a positive note, this truck stop was a fairly quiet place at 3:00 am with many open fueling lanes so a quick in and out is possible.

I am now setup in the parking lot of the Saint Clair Christian Church and am enjoying a beautiful spring time in Missouri with my family!

RV Windshield Sun Shade

Last week in north Texas was HOT!  Several days were near ninety degrees and the inside of the motorhome was warmer than that – this boy ain’t used to that kinda heat!  It was obvious to me that I need a windshield sun shade – more than just the curtains on the inside.

So, I started my research.  I found a couple of good options.  The Magneshade brand seems to have an excellent reputation on the RV forum that I frequent but the price is wee bit on the high side for me.  Something around $600 – just for the windshield.  The mirrors and side windows would add about $300 to that. I have no doubt that the product is worth that but I hate giving my money to others.

What to do??

Yup, I ordered a bunch of material and am going to make my own.  I kept my sewing machine and have plenty of time for projects these days so will kill some time and save some money.  Well…. maybe – we’ll see if I succeed or not.

I’ve had good success ordering from Seattle Fabrics so I gave them another shot.  I ordered 7 yards of their black Phifertex Plus material, V69 polyester thread, and some webbing (for the edges). PhiferTex is marketed as having a 95% shade factor and is woven from PVC-coated polyester – highly durable, mildew resistant, stain resistant, fade resistant and easy to clean.  Time will tell! :-)

An interesting tidbit turned up during my research.  Several tests have shown that RV interior temps are reduced when a black fabric is used versus white.  There are some competing theories to explain this but I want cool so black is what I ordered.

My Dutch Star has the turnlock fasteners already installed on the exterior but I really like the Magneshade method of using magnets to hold the shade in place.  The eliminates having to get a ladder out to install and remove the shade each time.  That is appealing!  So, I ordered a couple dozen of the super strong 3/4″ x 1/8″ Neodymium Disc magnets from Amazon.

One of the challenges of the full timing lifestyle is having things delivered.  I opted to have the above items delivered to one of the places that I know I will visit in the coming few weeks so they should be there waiting when I arrive.

Will $165 worth of material yield a windshield cover, side window covers, and rear view mirror covers of which I am not ashamed?  And save me about $700??  Stay tuned and we’ll know in a few weeks.

Lake Meredith Recreation Area

The Lake Meredith National Recreation Area is about 30 miles north of Amarillo, Texas.  It is still a bit early to head north (still too cold at night for me) so I decided to try this spot.

The lake is very low but that is true for nearly all lakes in the southwest so that is not a surprise.  The area is relatively pretty (it is north Texas, sorry Texas….).  The lake sits down in a little canyon that was cut by the Canadian River so the surrounding ridge line is pretty with lots of red soil and rocks.  I am here early in the spring so the trees and shrubs are not active yet.

Lake Meredith Texas Newmar Dutch Star fulltime RV boondocking solar

I have setup in the Harbor Bay area.  In this area, there aren’t any “RV spots” but there are acres of soil on which to park.  Be careful with the little side roads as some of them have significant drops (significant in terms of a large motorhome).  I explored a couple of the other areas. The Fitch Fortress area has a dump station but very few spots that appeared to be ok for an RV (mostly tent, in my opinion).  The Sanford-Yake area is very large and has many great spots for RV’s as well as a dump station.  Both of these two areas sit above the lake and have really great views.  However; they both leave you exposed to the wind.

Verizon cell signal is pretty weak – at least where I am at in Harbor Bay near the boat ramp.  With my Wilson Sleek amplifier, I was able to get a workable signal that fluctuated between 3G (mostly)/4G and about 2 bars.  While walking around, I have noticed spots with much better 4G signal strength. It appears to be a matter of finding a spot with better line of sight to the cell tower.

Lake Meredith Texas Newmar Dutch Star fulltime RV boondocking solar

There are several toilets and many trash bins.  I have not tried the toilets but they look clean from the outside.

Sitting down inside the canyon means that the solar panels don’t get much sun until about 8:30 am (this time of year – late March/early April).  However; once they do, they were really cookin!  By 8:30 am the 650 watts of panels are making about 200 watts which is about 15.5 amps. By 9:00 am, they are making about 450 watts.

Another benefit to being in a low spot is some protection from the wind.  From my very limited experience, the wind seems to nearly always blow in this part of the country.  I am somewhat protected from it where I am sitting so it is quite comfortable though one does feel some portion of the wind.  Having said that; the wind was really howling one night – I thought I might get blown over.

Another thing that was really nice, over the course of an entire week I experienced only one case of “poor behavior”.  In my definition this includes; cars driving around with music blaring, people drinking and make a ton of noise, four wheelers racing around out of control, dogs barking, etc…  This one event wasn’t even too bad, just a guy with a dirt bike whipping around making noise for fifteen minutes or so.  He didn’t come near and wasn’t obnoxious so it barely fits into my definition.

The Harbor Bay area offers a single mountain bike trail (that I could find).  It is a very nice single-track that snakes along what used to be the shoreline.  It is hard packed red soil and is about a 3 mile round trip.  Not the greatest but for someone coming off a broken arm – it was nice to be back in the saddle and on an actual trail!

I would certainly recommend this area to others.