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Grilled Bruschetta Pizza; A Joy of Summer — July 27, 2020

Grilled Bruschetta Pizza; A Joy of Summer

“It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine, it’s Summertime! Sweet Summertime!”  –Kenny Chesney

There are so many joys of summer: swimming in the pool,  digging your toes in the sand at the beach, swinging on a rope and dropping into a clear, cool lake, heading into the woods with your family in your RV, or family fun at an amusement park— there is so much to enjoy about summer!

One of my favorite joys of summer are the vegetables that are at their best in the warm summer months like summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn on the cob, and fresh herbs of all kinds. I love a good farmer’s market or the blessings of a neighbor’s good will and overly abundant garden for fresh vegetables.  In a pinch, even the grocery store gets better produce options in the summer!  I love to cook and the fresh summer ingredients certainly help me to make yummy, healthy summer eats. 

One of our favorite summer meals is Grilled Bruschetta Pizza.  This summer, we grew our own Cherry Tomato and basil plants specifically to make this recipe.  Thankfully, our plants did not disappoint!  We’ve also been blessed by our neighbor’s garden with an abundance of sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes of yellow, orange and red.  I’ve made a lot of Bruschetta and we are making the best pizza this girl and her guy can ask for. 

The colors of summer! Bruschetta ready to top the pizza crust.

If you like a flavorful, light summer dinner, Grilled Bruschetta Pizza is a great recipe to try.  It’s easy to make at home or take with you on an RV trip. 

The Star: What Tomatoes Work Best

While this summer, we have enjoyed the sweet Cherry tomatoes that we’ve grown, Roma tomatoes are a good option as well.  Use your favorite tomato but a sweet, fresh tomato variety makes this recipe a delight.  Tomatoes have a lot of liquid inside them when you cut them so I always squeeze the liquid and the seeds out and then chop them into small bites. 

The Co-star: Roasted Garlic

Depending on how you feel about garlic, you should know that when you roast it, it gets sweet and mild and it really shines in this recipe.  To start, I roast the garlic earlier in the day to allow it time to cook and cool so it’s ready when I’m ready to put the Bruschetta together.  To roast the garlic, peel away any loose layers of the garlic head skin.  Cut the top of the garlic bulb off to expose some of the cloves.  On a sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle the cut garlic with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Lightly fold the foil around the garlic and place it into a 400 degree toaster oven or conventional oven for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the garlic bulb.  I always check it when I start to smell the garlic cooking, testing it with a fork.  The garlic should be fork tender.  Allow the garlic to cool completely and then pop the garlic out of the head and chop.  YUM!

Mixing up the types of tomatoes!

I recommend roasting two heads of garlic.  I find that, for us, one head is not enough for this recipe and while two heads might be too much, the remainder of the roasted garlic can be used in other recipes that you might use garlic in and it can be saved in your refrigerator for a few days for later use.   

The Supporting Cast: Pizza Crust

You should know that I struggle with yeast and dough.  As a result, I avoid any recipe with yeast.  If you are a Yeast Guru, then make your own crust!  (Lucky Duck!)  The cool thing is that you can make this part how you wish and the pizza crust options are up to you and the preferences of those you’re feeding!  We have used Naan, fresh pizza dough (from the pop-can in the biscuit section of the grocery store, cooked on the grill), and pre-made crusts of all kinds.  We like the crust to be thin and crispy so the Bruschetta becomes the star of the show. 

Bruschetta Pizza on the grill

Grilled Bruschetta Pizza

Ingredients

Sweet, fresh tomatoes like Roma or cherry tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/2 Red Onion or Sweet Onion, finely diced

1-2 Roasted heads of garlic, chopped

1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh basil, julienned

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Mozzarella, shredded or in chunks (whatever your preference).  Mozzarella is a mild but gooey melted cheese and doesn’t mask the other flavors.  It plays well within this recipe.

Pizza Crust of choice

How to make it

  1. Roast the garlic in advance so it is cooked and cooled when you are ready to assemble the Bruschetta-see tips above.
  2. Prep your ingredients.  Chop the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and julienne the basil and place in a bowl. 
  3. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle lightly with sale and pepper.
  5. Combine gently all ingredients with a spoon. 
  6. Shred or cube the cheese in tiny cubes. 
  7. Spoon the Bruschetta over the pizza crust and top with cheese.
  8. Carefully place pizza on a pre-heated grill on medium heat.  If you are working on a grill, cover.  Grill for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. 

Slice and enjoy!

My personal heaven with Angels singing!

This might be a great summer recipe but let me assure you that when we are deep in January with temperatures outside dipping below freezing and we are missing summer most, this is still a recipe I go to when I really miss the warmth of summer.  In the winter, the pizza can be placed on a cookie sheet and popped into the oven at 400 degrees until the cheese is melted and the pizza is hot.  It’s a great hint of summer just when you need one. 

I hope you enjoy this simple taste of summer, anytime of the year!

8 Tips For Buying Your Dream RV — July 20, 2020

8 Tips For Buying Your Dream RV

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.” –Lewis Carroll

I had the TV on the other day, just for noise. I wasn’t really watching but a commercial caught my attention when I heard the voice over announce that “2020 is The Year of the RV vacation.”  For us, that has been very true and we have plans to take our new RV out through October.  My guess is that we are not alone and we know that a lot of you are out there shopping!  Good for you! 

As we reflect on our purchase, we want to share some advice that I hope you find helpful as you look for your new home on wheels. 

  1. Do Your Research

When shopping for an RV, the options can seem endless and I can’t recommend enough that you research, research, research!  We shopped RV shows, watched YouTube videos on the models we were interested in (EVERYTHING is on YouTube), and read reviews & blogs on RV manufacturers and their products.  We are pretty certain that by the time we made our purchase, we likely knew as much or possibly more about the RV we bought than the salesman who sold it to us and by the time we were actually standing in our RV with that salesman, we had no questions whatsoever.

Understand that our purchase was not a sudden one.  In fact, we researched and shopped for two years.  That might seem extreme but we felt that this was a major purchase of a piece of equipment we wanted to be sure we understood how to operate safely.  We also wanted to be sure our new RV would be well made and had all the features we were looking for.  Having camped as kids, we remember the fun and adventure of it all  but as kids, we didn’t understand all the ins and outs of owning and maintaining an RV and there is a lot to learn!

2. Rent an RV before you buy

We rented an RV early in our marriage and went from Miami to Key West and had a great time!  In the fall of 2019, as we were working on our decision to buy our own RV, we rented again in the Amish Country of Pennsylvania to make sure we still enjoyed RVing.    

Renting gets you into an RV at a reasonable price without making a commitment you might find out is not a good one for you or your family.  Renting helps to get a feel of the space and a chance to try out basic equipment.  It’s a great litmus test before jumping into a major purchase. 

We enjoyed our two rentals with Cruise America, www.cruiseamerica.com.

Trying out a rental in Pennsylvania

3. Know your budget

How much do you want to spend?  When you start looking, it’s easy to fall in love with the RV you don’t want to afford!

4. What kind of camping do you want to do?

As you consider what kind of RV you want, the right choice means considering your needs and abilities and knowing your boundaries. 

Are you a weekend warrior or full timer?  Will you camp in a RV park with full hookups or will you consider boondocking?  How many do you need to sleep?  Do you have “toys” you want to haul?  Are you an empty nesters and want to be nimble and small or big and luxurious?  WHERE will you camp and can those places accommodate the size of your rig?

Consider the size of your rig.  Along with how many your RV needs to sleep, how large are the holding tanks? If you want to go to the National Parks, could you fit your 40+ foot Toy Hauler in a campsite?  We asked ourselves, how small where we willing to go?  There was an answer!  One of the biggest issues for us was bed position.  We didn’t want to have to crawl over each other to get in or out of the bed.  We are tall so a corner bed felt coffin-like and was a firm no!

We are all different in our opinions of how we enjoy the camping experience and no one way is right or wrong.  However, considering what type of camping you are open to is a good place to start.

5. Know your resources

Do you have RV dealers in your area that are reputable and have good reviews?  Do they sell the type of rig you’re interested in?  For us, we are not fans of what we refer to as a “slick salesman.”  We prefer someone that is informative, helpful, knows the product, and is not going to give an intense sales push.  We will run from a dealership or a salesman that seems desperate to have us sign on the dotted line.  We also recommend that you consider the level of customer service your dealer will offer.  Are they open to helping you with questions?  When you reach out to them, do they respond quickly?  If you aren’t comfortable with how you’re treated, find someone else!  If you have family or friends that bought an RV, ask them where they made their purchase and if they were happy with the experience.

6. Go to an RV show

I lost count of how many shows we went to!  However, I can identify the biggest ones: the Hershey RV Show in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 2017 and the Florida RV Supershow in Tampa, Florida in 2020.  We also hit every local and regional show we could in between. 

Looking over the ocean of new RVs at the 2017 Hershey RV show. Ready to shop!

RV shows are a great place to see a wide variety of RVs with very little sales pressure while still giving you the opportunity to kick the tires, sit in the space, and take a look up close.  Keep an open mind.  This was great advice we got in Tampa. Believe it or not, while we had an idea of what we wanted, we had still not made a decision when we arrived in Tampa. 

Look at everything!  Can you see yourself in the space?  Check out the storage spaces, bathroom, and the bed.  Do you think you can handle the size of the RV you’re considering?  Will you pull and if so, do you have a vehicle that can tow the weight of your dream RV?  Every tow vehicle is rated differently so do your research.  Check the owners manual for your specific vehicle (most can be found on line).  Don’t take any salesman at his word when he tells you, “Sure!  Your truck can pull this!”

BA & Blanche make a great pair!

7. Consider all the options and narrow down your choice

By the time we went to Tampa for the RV Supershow, we were getting close to a decision.  On the first day at the show, our focus was on trailers and Class Cs.  We had been going back and forth with the pros and cons of both options for months and hoped that a big RV show might help us decide. When we stopped for lunch, I felt it was time to check our progress so I asked my husband, “Trailer or Class C?”  Our responses were trailer for me and Class C for him.  After all the research and shopping we had been doing since 2017, I must admit that I was a little frustrated that we were still undecided, believing that this was the show where we could make our decision at last.  We were struggling.  So after we finished lunch, we kept going.  By the end of the day, we had found what we thought was the perfect fit for us and we decided to sleep on it and come back the next day to talk with the representatives of the RV again and possibly make a deposit.  The next day, we decided to take one last look at Grand Designs before making a final decision.  I had fallen in love with Grand Designs at our first ever RV show in 2017, we examined them again at the 2017 Hershey show, and their RVs got my vote from the very beginning.  My Husband liked them too and going back that last time, helped us to make a decision.    We did not buy at the show but we left feeling that it was time well spent because we finally knew what we wanted, without a doubt. 

We bought a 2020 Grand Design Imagine XLS, 22RBE.  While we eventually came back to nearly the first RV we ever considered (and fell in love with, by the way), we made sure to consider all the options and we are confident knowing that we chose the right rig for us, for now…  We named her Blanche.  We paired her with our RAM 1500 Bighorn! We call her Bad Ass, or BA for short. 

Our new Grand Design Imagine XLS 22RBE

8. YouTube & Thinking Outside the Box

If you aren’t wild about buying a new RV, consider the other alternatives, which can be just as diverse as buying new.   As part of our RV purchase, we have watched hours and hours of RV YouTubers, listening to their advice and enjoying where they take us on their travel.   

There are YouTubers out there that live in vans, buses, and used RVs of every shape and model.  These are people that are handy and creative and see potential in building out their tiny homes on wheels to fit what they want their adventures to be.  We’ve watched in awe as they’ve taken an empty van or dilapidated RV that no one would give the time of day and turn them into the coziest homesteads on wheels.  This is always an option for the brave, creative souls that want to live simply.  

Whatever option you choose, I would always recommend doing so with research and consideration, knowing that, it’s okay if it ends up not being perfect.  We learned so much through our process and now that we own an RV, the learning is still happening!  I think even the most seasoned full timer would agree that every day brings something new to learn.  The RV community has great advice in on line groups as well. Just check Facebook and Instagram to start following a group or an individual that inspires you or you feel a kindred spirit with. Please feel free to reach out if you would like some suggestions.  

Best wishes to you as you look for your home on wheels and safe travels!

Sweethaven Lavender Farm, Williamsburg, Virginia; Where the Earth laughs in flowers — June 19, 2020

Sweethaven Lavender Farm, Williamsburg, Virginia; Where the Earth laughs in flowers

“The Earth laughs in flowers.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tucked deeply in Williamsburg, Virginia’s farm land lies a place where the Earth is laughing; Sweethaven Lavender Farm. 

Amid Virginia’s phased re-opening from the 2020 Pandemic, my Husband and I ventured to Williamsburg during a camping trip for supplies, lunch, and to enjoy all things colonial that Williamsburg has to offer–even if it was within social distancing terms.  From friends, I knew that Sweethaven was in Williamsburg so on this day, we set the GPS to work and followed it into the country to see if we could get a glimpse.   I was delighted by the farm’s charm, the scent of the lavender wafting through the humid June breeze, and the delightful sounds of the industrious Bumble bees as they went about their work. 

The centerpiece of Sweethaven Lavender Farm

The prominent public building on the property is the Mercantile, a white barnlike structure that conjures visions of an Amish barn.  Inside, are lavender products of every sort and experts to answer questions.  Outside though, as is the case with nearly every farm, is where the magic was happening.

Just outside the Mercantile there is a gated garden with flower boxes filled to bursting with flower lover delights.  Two of my favorite flowers giggled there, tickled by the passing breeze!  A rainbow of button Zinnia where just starting to burst open, tempting Bumble Bees with their showy colors followed close behind by my zoom lens.  Swaying in the breeze at the far end of the garden were several beds of sunflowers with their bright faces searching for the sun, ready for their closeups.

“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden” –Elizabeth Lawrence

As we stepped out of the gated garden area and into the fields of lavender there was a faint fog of deep purple at knee level stretching along the ground in neat rows.   The luxurious purple lavender was in full bloom all around us.  Other visitors to the farm were bent in half angling for an up close sniff, snapping photos, and collecting bouquets of lavender to take home.  Children giggled in the distance, playing together while the grown ups enjoyed a picnic lunch.  And, the resident bumble bees were busiest here, totally ignorant of our intruding cameras.  They were focused on their task for the day, leaping from one bloom to another, humming and buzzing to each other as they worked.  At one point, I put my camera into the fray and captured their song, delighted that they nearly mistook me as a flower as they bustled by.

The lovely purple rows of lavender

Enjoy all that the farm has to offer

Only 130 acres and opened to the public in June 2019, Sweethaven is a beautiful, amethyst gem tucked deeply into the emerald Williamsburg farmland.  It is a treat for the senses.  The farm offers all things lavender including a chance to pick your own bouquet as the lavender blooms in May and June, their own line of organic skincare, and culinary products including pre-made picnic lunches by reservation. 

Sweethaven Lavender Festival Days

The Festival Days are how I first learned about Sweethaven initially, seeing ads and knowing several friends that visited the event.  The event includes live music, food, local artisans, and the opportunity to learn about the farm and it’s lavender. The event grows from year to year so be sure to watch their website, www.sweethavenlavender.com, for dates, tickets, and other details on their event for 2021.    

Ready for their closeup!

How to find and visit Sweethaven

I can’t wait for our next visit to the farm!  If you’d like to see more, be sure to visit Sweethaven’s website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. If you are in Williamsburg in your travels, Sweethaven is certainly a great place to visit that is outside of the big tourist sites of Colonial Williamsburg and truly a unique experience.  

Find them at: Sweethaven Lavender Farm, 2301 Jolly Pond Road, Williamsburg, Virginia 23188; www.sweethavenlavender.com

We would love to have you visit Virginia and I know you won’t want to miss a visit to Sweethaven! (I can’t help but call is Sweet-Heaven)

 

Campfire cooking; The Travel Addicts make Nachos — June 11, 2020

Campfire cooking; The Travel Addicts make Nachos

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”  –Julia Child

We love to cook and eat outside when we travel with our RV.  For us, it’s a requirement when we’re camping. 

This is especially so in the warm summer months since cooking in our RV makes the rig a bit warm, just like cooking in my home kitchen heats up the house.  For us, cooking outside is part of the fun.  As someone that likes to cook and eat good food, it’s a “challenge accepted” as we started to plan for our most recent adventure into the woods. 

One of the most simple recipes that we love and I think is tons of fun over the fire is Nachos.  They are easy to make and customize to your taste.  Below, I’ve used ground beef for my protein but you can use chicken too if so desired. 

Cooking our Nachos over the campfire

My Nacho recipe

One pound lean ground beef; browned until no longer pink and drained

Any Shredded Cheese you wish.  We used a sharp white cheddar.  TIP: grate your own cheese.  Pre-grated cheese has an ingredient called cellulose–or WOOD PULP–to prevent clumping. EWWW!  Having a sensitive tummy, I choose to skip that unwanted ingredient and grate all of my own cheese.  (No judgement here if you don’t have time to grate your own.) 

Toppings of any kind: onions, black beans, green onions (scallions), jalapenos, sour cream, avocado, salsa, etc…

Seasonings

I haven’t purchased the store packets of taco seasonings for years.  To take control of the salt and nix all the preservatives, making my own feels like a tiny bit more of the healthy way to go for tacos, nachos, or anything else I’d like to give a spicy kick to.  It only takes a little time and when I make a batch, I double or triple the measurements below and store it in an airtight container so I have some ready to go for next time. 

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon of each; garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon of paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (to your taste)

1 teaspoon of black pepper

I mix mine directly in the container I will store my seasoning in.  With all the ingredients in and top on, just give it a shake to combine. 

My home made Taco Seasoning

To the ground beef that you’ve browned and drained and depending on how spicy you want your meat to be, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the seasoning mix to the beef (I usually stick to 2 tablespoons so I don’t set our mouths on fire).  Also add 1/2 to 3/4 cups of water and a 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (again, if you choose a spicy salsa, stick to the two tablespoons of seasonings–or not!). Simmer the meat until nearly all of the liquid is cooked off.  At this point, you can make tacos with your meat but this time, we used it for nachos!

Assembling the Nachos

We cooked our meat over the fire in a cast iron skillet.  When the meat was ready, we scooped it out into a bowl, wiped the pan clean, and started to assemble our nachos.  I’ve seen other recipes that are assembled in disposable aluminum casserole containers, which could work as well. 

We started with a single layer of chips, covering the bottom of the skillet.  We added an even layer of our meat and other ingredients we like in our nachos. This is the creative part so add any ingredients that you love. Since it’s just the two of us, we stopped here.  This was a hearty meal for the two of us since my cast iron skillet is BIG!  However, for heartier appetites or big families, you can continue to add layers of chips, meat, and toppings to the top of your skillet or if using one, your disposable aluminum pan. Be sure that cheese is your last, or top layer.

Layering the ingredients and ending with cheese

Once assembled, cover with aluminum foil and head back to your fire.  We used a bit of a direct/indirect heat just to warm the chips and melt the cheese.  TIP: as you assemble, try to leave a little room between your last layer of cheese and your aluminum cover so the cheese doesn’t stick to the aluminum. 

We topped ours with sour cream but you can use tomatoes, salsa, avocado or guacamole, lettuce, etc… Think of it as a deconstructed taco and go wild! 

Ready to eat! YUM!

YUM!  A dash of fresh air just makes it all taste even more wonderful.

I’d love to hear what variations you might use for our next trip into the woods!

Buen Provecho!

Travel Addicts in Training; Practicing to be Perfect in our RV — May 18, 2020

Travel Addicts in Training; Practicing to be Perfect in our RV

We are finally preparing to head out in our RV at last!  Our State parks are about to open for camping and they have started taking reservations again so we snapped up some spots for June and July.   

In anticipation, we decided to go ahead and hook up and head out this weekend!  Where to?  Promise you won’t laugh!?  We took our new RV out to do some practice driving.  There.  It’s out there!  Commence the giggling!

While we are admitted Travel Addicts, we are also RV Newbies and with this new moniker comes some anxiety.  Our  trepidation is primarily around the chore of backing up our rig.  Having camped as kids we aren’t total newbies to the actual camping and as part of our pre-purchase research, we rented an RV to make sure that this was something we wanted to do. However, as kids, we didn’t drive the RV and our rentals were Class C’s which is a very different driving experience. 

Trying to back up in a straight line

We bought our new Grand Design Imagine XLS in March, just prior to being quarantined, so we only had time to squeeze in our first ever camping adventure before travel was put on pause across our State and Nationwide.  Right away, we discovered that backing into our driveway was going to be our biggest challenge.  Our driveway is a dog leg shape and not ideal for Newbies trying to back in our 26 feet plus the truck (we are not huge and happy about that).  When we brought our RV home for the first time to load up, we managed to get it backed in on the first try despite the awkward bend in the driveway and a few obstacles to be mindful of.  We know now, that this was just Newbie luck for sure.  Semi-confident in our new abilities, when we came home, we thought it wouldn’t be a problem.  This time, we got it in on what had to have been the 50th try!  This left us frustrated and with our newfound confidence totally diminished.  Not to mention, we found ourselves trying to figure out how to manage our future camping trips by NOT bringing our rig home from storage at all!

Since we didn’t feel assured in our skills as a team to back up, we went back to our favorite source of anything we want to know, YouTube. After watching “Keep Your Daydream‘s” episode on Sunday, May 10, we thought it was a great idea to take advantage of a bright, sunny day to find a large, unoccupied, unobstructed space in which to practice.  Appropriately, we used a high school parking lot in which to learn.  While our YouTube pros make it look relatively simple, we know that isn’t our reality behind the wheel right now.  So, armed with advice from the more experienced, off we went.

Now for those of you who might be RV veterans, I know you’re probably having a bit of a chuckle and thinking to yourself, “These two!”  However, I’m betting that in some point in your RV career, you might’ve scraped tree branches or come within inches of running over your spotter when going backwards.  Right?  I’m hoping those are the least of your mishaps! As newbies, we are very aware that even in our cars, going backwards is the most dangerous time and with an extra 26 feet to maneuver, we are taking some sage advice and making time to learn how our RV responds when we make the slightest of adjustments at the wheel.  Safety first.  And, with both of us having been musicians early in our lives, we know that “Practice makes perfect!” 

When we were done with our practice session, my Husband asked, “What did we learn?”  I suspect that he might’ve asked because he knows that our hijinks are fair game for my blogs these days but it was also a good question and a time for us to review together what we had learned.   So, what lessons DID we learn?

Getting it between the lines

Backing up is hard.  Even away from our awkward driveway, what would seem to be an elementary task of keeping the truck and trailer in a simple straight line takes practice.  While we really prefer pull through campsites, that is not always going to be an option.  Not to mention, backing into our driveway or our storage space is a necessity.  Going backwards is probably our hardest challenge and we know it will take patience and practice.

The steering wheel.  When backing up, it’s best to hold the 6 o’clock station of your steering wheel to turn.  If you want the back end of your RV to go left, point the 6 o’clock position to the driver’s side.  To go right,  point the 6 o’clock position to the passenger side.  I bet it sounds easy and pretty basic. I thought so too but it takes some practice to train your brain to remember this simple maneuver. 

Go slow and make small adjustments.  This is our new mantra.  First, this is not a race.  While we might hold up traffic and annoy our fellow campers, and for this we are eternally apologetic, there is no time limit in getting backed in.  Taking our time will prevent mistakes or an accident.  Small adjustments are key.  Whirling the steering wheel too far in one direction or another totally changes the trajectory of the back end of our trailer.  So, small adjustments are the way to go.

Perspective, team work, and trust.  This was our biggest lesson of the day.  First, I actually drove the truck with the RV in tow for the first time.  Honestly, it’s not as hard as I was anticipating.  Although, I am trying to remind myself that my first attempt to drive was in the empty parking lot of our local high school with no traffic.  In real life, I drive a zippy high performance machine and I have never pulled anything so my goal was to get a feel of the extra weight behind us and to understand where my new back end was and where I needed it to be.  Our truck may be a high performance machine in her own right but she is not zippy with that RV attached and rightly so! My lead foot will need to take a break!  While my plan is to let my husband do most of the driving, in my mind, it’s always a good idea for me to know how to manage our rig by myself in the unlikely event that I have to.  We also plan for me to be the backup driver when he needs a break so, at the minimum, I need to be comfortable in pointing the rig straight and keeping it all safely between the lines.   

As part of the whole lesson, I also practiced backing up.  THIS was where we both started to learn.  With my husband out of the truck and acting as my spotter for his first time, we learned how to speak the language of “backing up the RV.”  We learned that what the driver can see and what the spotter can see are two very different perspectives and for us, that included different focuses.  The driver and spotter need to be able to clearly communicate when in reverse and apparently, I was not giving the best of direction.  I was focused on where the trailer was and where it needed to be while Roger was focused on the truck.  We agreed that this approach would not work. 

When I was behind the wheel, he could see what I had been seeing and why I gave the directions that I did.  He now also understood how the truck needs to be maneuvered to get the trailer to be where we want it to be.  Now, as husband and wife, we also started to understand that there have got to be spouses or travel buddies out there who have had a few shouting matches over this particular part of their RV experience.  While we did not have said shouting match, we can totally see how that could happen.  The key for us was not to get frustrated with each other, listen, and talk to each other.  This meant learning to speak trailer.  A new language for us, for sure!  Now that both of us understand how to communicate left and right to each other, we have probably, saved our marriage and will likely enjoy our camping adventures for years to come!  Saying, “go left” or “go right,” for us, is no longer providing accurate direction.  Instead, we use, “driver’s side,” or “passenger side.”

After learning this, when we were done for the day, I was able to almost expertly get our rig backed into it’s storage space with the superb direction of my spotter. This last and final lesson of the day left us feeling like our time of practice was time well spent.  I know to trust Roger’s direction and carefully listening, along with going slow and making small adjustments got the job done. 

I can’t believe that I did it! (With my expert spotter)

“G.O.A.L.” and the multiple point turn.  From our YouTube friends we learned “G.O.A.L.; Get Out And Look.”  When we get to a campground this will be our go to maneuver before we ever put the rig in reverse and anytime we feel we need to assess the situation during the positioning process.  This practice starts as soon as you get to your campsite.  Every campsite is different so it’s wise advice for the driver and the spotter to get out and look together at the layout of the site before pulling in.  The purpose here is to scope out the campsite so you know where the hook ups are, where you might want to have your RV positioned to accommodate slides or for the optimal enjoyment, and to be on the lookout for obstacles like tree branches, picnic tables, or uneven ground.  G.O.A.L is also a highly recommended pause at any point in the back up process if the driver needs a first hand look at where he/she might be.  I think Roger would agree that he understands the premise even better after getting out of the truck while I drove.    

The first try might not be perfect.  I mentioned before that as the spotter, I was focused on the rear end of the trailer in hopes of getting it to where “X marks the spot.”  However, Roger needs the truck to be straight and lined up with the trailer to easily unhitch.  To achieve this, we learned that backing up our RV will not be perfect on the first try.  In fact, this means that pulling forward and backing up several times will eventually get us where we want to be, along with the small adjustments noted above.  We had to make peace with this new understanding.  Our favorite YouTubers even mentioned this in their recommendations as well so we feel like we came to understand that lesson clearly during out training session. 

We think we learn something new every time we hook up.   We try to move slowly, methodically, and check behind each other so we are sure that we don’t forget any piece of hooking up before moving our rig.  We are confident that we will get better with more practice.  Practice does indeed make perfect. 

We are counting down the days to be on the road again!  We wish you safety and pleasant travels.

**Note: For those of you who are avid fans of all things RV, these are some of our favorite families on YouTube that we follow and watch religiously.  We look to them for tips, tricks, ideas for places to add to the bucket list, and the reality of RV’ing: Keep Your Daydream, Less Junk More Journey, Finding Our Someday, Eat See RV, Embracing Detours, The Chick’s Life, Traveling Robert, and RV Lifestyle with Mike and Jenn.  There are a lot of others as well so check out YouTube for some great resources. 

We bought an RV! — April 9, 2020

We bought an RV!

“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” -Winston Churchill

“BA” and “Blanche” together at last!

Do you have a something in life that you keep going back to over and over until you decide to take action?  Maybe you are thinking about something now?  Is it a dream vacation, starting a family, buying a house, moving to another state, getting a new job, a pool in the back yard, or maybe a fixer upper cottage on the beach or lake?  We all have something, no matter what it is, right?

We have had lots of dreams that we’ve worked to make reality and we are truly blessed! Our most recent dream? Buying an RV.  

After two years of shopping, researching, dreaming, planning, and watching our favorite You Tube RV families, we finally purchased our Grand Design RV at the beginning of March.

Blanche in her first campsite at Chippokes Plantation State Park

After two years of in depth study, we found what we wanted.  We knew where to get it, how much it would be, what we needed to get started, the whole thing.   We had even driven out to the dealership and lurked around when they were closed.  AND, to be sure we were going to like it, we rented an RV last fall and took a long weekend to make sure that we would like the camping thing. (We aren’t really new to the idea. We both camped with our families as kids so don’t worry about us too much!) You’d think we would’ve been ready, right?  HA!

When we finally made an appointment to talk to a salesman, before we left the house, the conversation was; “We’re not buying anything today.”  We agreed. 

I know what you’re thinking but bear with me!  Of course, when we got there, we had no questions.  We had seen our exact RV at the 2020 Florida RV Supershow in Tampa just a month before.  We knew everything there was to know.  We had no questions.  So, what was left?  That’s right.  I already spoiled the surprise in the title!  We bought an RV!

Okay.  Now.  Our someday finally came and three weeks after kicking things off, we picked up our new hobby and headed off on our first camping weekend.  It was scary, fun, terrifying, and we had a ball!  We are going to love it!  Wouldn’t you agree that some of the best things in life scare you death?

BA’s first pull. She finally knows her purpose!

Then a Pandemic outbreak brought the world to a screeching halt.  With our beloved Virginia State Parks closed, we have had two planned trips for April and May canceled.  So, back to dreaming we go!  It’s hard to make plans but we persevere.  At least this time, we are hopeful that we don’t have to wait another two years!  That is our short term.      

For us, the long term plan is getting out there to see the U.S. in our RV.  We have a bucket list of spots we want to go and now we have the gear that can get us up close and personal if we plan it right.   

Our thinking in all of this is that we want to be sure that we don’t wait for some day, until we have the money, or worse, until we retire and have the time.  The fact of life is, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.  We work hard, we save our money, we plan a trip and we go!  We go when and where we can.  We are blessed, that is for sure!  And while retirement might be the optimal time to travel, and we plan to keep going if we can, that season of our life is still a long way off! In the meantime, we will go when it’s safe to do so. #stayhome

So, for those that think we’ve lost our minds, I say, what is your dream and what are you doing about it?  Make sure you aren’t dreaming your life away.