This past week was our 33rd wedding anniversary. We decided to spend it at an RV resort. I chose Durango RV Resort in Red Bluff, California for no other reason that it looked nice on Google Earth. Google Earth did not lie, this was a great little RV resort! I booked three nights there, Thursday through Sunday.
We drove up on Thursday and had no issues. It was about a 3 and a half hour drive. The hardest part was getting past Sacramento. Before and after that was smooth sailing. We pulled into the resort about 20 minutes before their official check-in time of 2pm and they were fine with that. They checked me in quickly and within 5 minutes of arriving I was being guided to my site. It wasn’t the site that I reserved but that’s okay. It wasn’t a bad site. In fact, in the end it tuned out slightly better than the site I booked because it was quieter.
After setting up, as on all travel days, the first order of business was a nap. We spent the rest of the day reading and catching up on political intrigue as this is an election year here in America. It was warm and very windy so we decided not to take a walk around the park until after sunset.
The next day was our actual anniversary. We drove down to Nancy’s Cafe at the Willow’s Airport for breakfast. I was a little disappointed. Even though they are still open during the present COVID-19 crisis, the food being served has suffered greatly due to supply issues. I’ll have to take Cristy back when things return to normal. After that we drove up to Redding for a surprise massage I had booked for her. She REALLY enjoyed that.
To round out the day we did some grocery shopping and then cooked dinner. Then it was time for my anniversary present, spending some time in the resort’s hot tub! It felt so good on my muscles.
On Saturday we just decided to hang around the park. We spend the day reading, watching movies, and taking walks around the park. Just doing nothing!
We drove into Red Bluff to buy some ice cream for dessert and took a quick drive through the downtown district.
I spent more time in the hot tub that evening, we took another night time walk, and then called it a day.
Sunday morning we ate breakfast, dumped the tanks, and then hit the road home. All in all a very restful and enjoyable weekend.
This past weekend we got away to the heart of the California Gold Country in Angels Camp. We booked Thursday night through Sunday morning and were really looking forward to this getaway. In some ways it did not disappoint but in other ways it did.
We made the hour and fifteen minute drive from our house to the RV park with no issues. The front office staff was very friendly and we were guided to our site. Always a nice touch rather than just giving you a map and wishing you luck. The pilot vehicle driver helped guide me into my back-in spot and we settled in and set up camp. We rounded out the day by napping. Always fun!
The next day we took a longish drive to Grass Valley. It was a fun tour of Highway 49 and the gold country. We didn’t take any pictures because we were in a hurry but still enjoyed the scenery. Cristy had a massage appointment and we didn’t want to be late. As we were pulling in to Grass Valley at the far end of our two and one half hour drive, Cristy got a text from her masseuse saying she had to cancel! Great. We made lemonade out of lemons by having coffee and then lunch in town. Cristy got a rose petal cardamom latte (yes it had rose petals) and I got a goat caramel latte (caramel made from goat’s milk). Both were delicious. If you’re ever in Grass Valley, CA stop in at Fable Coffee. Then we walked over to Sourdough and Co for lunch. Also very good and dine-in was available! Afterwards we made the 2.5 hour drive back to the RV park and… took a nap.
Hot off the disappointment of the massage being canceled we hit the second big disappointment of the trip. We could see that at the end of our row of RVs that a big party was being set up. It was Flavio’s 50th birthday party (whoever Flavio was). The noise for the rest of the day up until 11pm was unbelievable. We called the after hours number but the woman who answered was dismissive of our complaint. I told her we were trying to get away for some peace and quiet and she said “Well, it just depends on what part of the park you stay in.” Seriously, could you know have told me about the party when we were checking in? Maybe give us the option to stay in a different part of the park. At any rate the talking went on until 4am. We got NO sleep that night.
We were grumpy gusses the next day.
We decided to stick close by and headed to Columbia State Park. We shopped half-heartedly before leaving because most shops were closed. We headed into Sonora and hit a local candy store to buy some chocolate because… why not?
We took our chocolate and headed back to the campground to find the party mostly wound down. It was around 2pm when we got back and the campground was almost completely silent. Why couldn’t it be this way at night? Around 5pm the revellers all got back from the lake or wherever they went during the day and the party continued until 11pm! But.. hallelujah then it went dead silent. I guess two days of partying was enough for this crowd and they finally all passed out. It was the best night sleep we got all weekend.
This same day we were treated to the most beautiful sunset we had seen in years. Even so, I’d like to say we’ll be back, but we probably won’t.
Well as I reported in my blog entry about our trip to Morgan Hill RV Resort, we developed a leak in the hot water valve fitting on our outdoor shower. I ordered some tools to remove and replace the valve but I, being who I am, could not wait for the tools to arrive so I improvised.
I used a cutoff wheel in my Dremmel grinder to remove the existing stainless steel crimp ring that secures the tubing to the plastic elbow.
I had to be pretty careful so as not to nick or melt the tubing so it was pretty slow going but I finally got the crimp ring off and got the fitting out.
I stopped off at Lowe’s RV supply department (that’s a joke y’all) and picked up some PEX tubing in case I really blew this and the next closest fitting I could find which was made of brass.
Since I didn’t have the ring crimping tool or any replacement crimp rings I made do with a hose clamp from my airplane supply box. I put it all back together and no leaks! I’ll keep my eye on it though. The tool and crimp rings did finally show up so I can always do the repair properly in the future if I elect to.
I could have just taken it back to the dealer to have it repaired but it would have taken weeks to get it back. Since we’re not under warranty any longer I can imagine the bill would be a couple hundred bucks. This way I saved money and didn’t have to be without our trailer. You can save a lot of money on your RV if you learn to be handy with some tools and use what you have on hand. It’s the difference between an adventure and a cancelled trip.
This past weekend we loaded up the “Little House on the Highway” aka our Lance 1995 travel trailer and got out of town. I had made another reservation at a Thousand Trails resort trying to get some mileage out of the one year membership I had purchased. I decided on Morgan Hill RV Resort. We wanted to stay close by as Cristy’s mother is aging and we need to be able to get home in a hurry. It’s a short drive over the Diablo Range to get there. About a two hour trip with a trailer in tow. Traffic cooperated and we had no freeway adventures getting there.
We arrived around noon and checked in. It was made easy by the new online check in they are doing now. You show up, give them your name and off you go to begin the great site hunt. THIS is one of my big problems with Thousand Trails (TT). They do not let you reserve specific camp sites. You drive around, find one that’s available and park. We hate the uncertainty of not knowing where we are going within the park. Not knowing which sites are cramped or spacious. We like knowing exactly where we are going. However, the flip side of the coin is you can pick your neighbors.
We drove past a fairly cramped portion of the park and when I would ask Cristy, “What about this spot?” She would noncommittally indicate that maybe we should keep going. Glad I listed because we finally came across a site that was perfect. It was huge width-wise and deep enough that I could leave the truck hitched if I wanted to. Plus we already had neighbors and they seemed pretty quiet. We had already passed up a few areas where there were about 10 people sitting out front of their RV, 5 cars crammed into the site, listening to loud ranchero music. Really? Who comes out to nature and then blares their radio? Seriously, you’re music is not that awesome.
Happily we couldn’t hear their music down where we were. We heard only birds and the occasional ground squirrel chattering angrily. As we were setting up though we had our one and only downside of the vacation. It ended up being very minor but we weren’t sure at first. After I had hooked up our water hose I stepped inside to find Cristy looking under the bathroom sink. She said that’s not something she normally does but for some reason this time she did and how lucky we were that she did! There was a light stream of water squirting from one of the plumbing fittings under the sink!
Oy. I already had a headache from the drive. Now this. I turned off the water and thought maybe the water connection was just loose. As I first loosened it and then was tightening it again I noticed that adjacent to this fitting there was a shutoff valve for JUST this fitting. I closed the valve and turned the water back on to the trailer. SUCCESS! The leak had stopped. This was fitting that plumbed hot water to the outdoor shower. A feature on the trailer we have never used. With no more leaks our camp out was saved. I finally sat down and ate the sandwich Cristy had made me while I was investigating the leak. Then, FINALLY, we were able to truly relax and enjoy our camp site.
The weather was perfect, daytime highs of 82F (28C) and nighttime lows of 52F (11C). We spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging outside and then napping in the trailer. We also took a short walk around the park just to see what was there. There was a nice little creek near by called Uvas Creek. Uvas is grapes in Spanish and it was aptly named as there are a lot of wineries in the area.
The next day we drove into downtown Gilroy and looked around. There wasn’t much to see as most of the business are closed due to the Covid.
We decided to head over to Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. Cristy got an order of cioppino and two oysters, I got a salmon sandwich and a cup of clam chowder. After getting our food we dove to down the street to Moss Landing State Beach. I flipped down the tailgate of my truck and we sat down and ate. Cristy discovered that they had forgotten her oysters and my clam chowder. We finished lunch and then walked back down the beach to Phil’s and they corrected the mistake quickly and without question. We walked back to the truck and decided to save these items for later. We headed back to the campground and read and relaxed for the rest of the day.
Saturday was our last full day camping and we decided to spend it in the campground with no day trips. This was like heaven to me. We took a couple walks around the park and read and watched movies we had downloaded. I also broke out my Blackstone Griddle and cooked BBQ’d chicken and onions for dinner. It turned out pretty good!
That was pretty much our camping trip for this month. We packed up the next morning, dumped our wastewater tanks, and then drove home. This was probably the closest we have come to a perfect camp out and we can’t wait to go camping again!
This will most likely be our last Thousand Trails visit. Given the caliber of people we have run into at these parks, the lax enforcement of park rules, and the hit and miss friendliness of staff at these parks, we have elected to let our yearly pass lapse and just stay in regular paid RV resorts. The customers are generally more likely to follow rules. The resorts are also generally kept up better. Thousand Trails bills themselves as “nature preserves”. And so pass off a lot of the lack of maintenance as “rustic”. Now, they are trying to update their facilities but at this point in time the parks in California are pretty run down. That all being said, for now, we are done with TT.
In case you don’t know there are two ways to power devices in your recreational vehicle. There are batteries for running battery powered devices such as your lights, water pump, awning, and 12 volt TV if you have one of those. Then there is the AC power cord that plugs into the electrical service at the RV park. This runs basically two devices in my trailer: the microwave and the air conditioner. Since we do most of our camping primarily in the western US, we need an air conditioner! This limits us to camping where electricity is readily available.
But there’s another option, a generator! You can plug your trailer’s AC connection into a generator and run your air conditioner that way. There’s just one problem. You have to make sure that the generator has enough power to start the air conditioner, once the air conditioner is started, it uses far less power. It’s just that initial start. This is where the soft start module comes up. You see inside the air conditioner is an electrical motor that basically runs the pump that pumps all the freon around your air conditioner. When motors start, they generally use a ton of electrical current to get them going, and then once started, they use much less current. That initial kick of electrical current is called inrush current and will bog a generator down as the generator struggles to supple enough electrical current to meet the demand. Many smaller generators will just blow their breakers or shut themselves down.
But what if you could limit that inrush current to a manageable level that the smaller generator could keep up with? Then you wouldn’t have to buy that bigger more expensive generator. This is what the SoftStart module does.
Imagine electrical current as water. When you flip a switch to turn on your AC, it’s like turning your water faucet on full blast. When you flip the switch off, it’s like turning the faucet completely off. But what if you could just turn that faucet on slowly until it reaches full blast? This is what the Soft Start does. When you turn your air conditioner on, the fan comes on, and then a few seconds later the compressor comes on with a loud “thunk”. This is the motor responding to a full blast of electrical current, like the water faucet being turned on full blast, and the motor is trying to respond to that full blast of current. It’s hard on the motor and uses a lot of electrical current to FORCE that motor to start running at full speed almost instantly!
So the Soft Start ramps up the electrical current slowly so that the compressor’s motor comes on more slowly, thus using less electrical current and also being gentler on the motor and associated components. THIS means you can use a smaller generator than you normally would because it doesn’t have to supply as much current to start your air conditioner.
(For my sister, you can tell our brother than this device OBVIOUSLY uses TRIACS to limit the inrush current)
Installation was pretty easy. They have detailed instructions for every model of RV air conditioner out there complete with pictures. It’s a matter of mounting your Soft Start module inside the AC unit, finding the electrical box, and start wiring it in. All the wires are color coded and there are only 4 of them to connect so it’s hard to go wrong.
I used strong, double-sided tape to mount it out of the air flow in my AC unit. I then routed the grey cable containing all the wiring over to the electrical box. I forgot to take pictures of my wiring but I’ll include a sample from the instruction manual.
This was all the wiring that was necessary. Connect a white wire where the other white wires are connected, connect an orange wire where all the red wires are connected. Connect the brown wire to the white wire going back to the compressor, then cut the blue wire (not the red wire, never the red wire) and splice the black wire into the middle. Tuck all the wiring away nicely. Remember you’re afraid of heights. Don’t fall off the trailer.
After it’s all connected up it’s time to “teach” the Soft Start device about your air conditioner. You do this by turning the AC on, wait until the compressor comes on, let it run for 30 seconds, then adjust the temp so that the compressor turns back off, adjust the temp again to make it come back on (it will make you wait 3 minutes before it turns back on but be patient, it will turn back on.) And then repeat this 2 more times. That’s it. The Soft Start module has now learned your AC’s inrush current particulars. You will notice that the compressor no longer “klunks” on. You just hear a gentle humming begin. Very nice.
Then it was just a matter of closing the AC back up and taking a nap! Now to shop for a generator.
Snowflower RV Resort is part of the Thousand Trails network of RV parks. We’ve only stayed in one other and it was not the greatest experience. However, we decided to give them another try. Snowflower is located right of Interstate 80 just west of Truckee, CA. It was about a 3 hour drive from our home. We had no problem finding the place but the fun began once we started looking for a camping spot.
Like most campground maps it’s only a rough approximation of the actual streets so we got turned around a couple of times and drove up a road we probably shouldn’t have with only two wheel drive. However, we got back down to where we should have been and started hunting again. Then we got caught in a traffic jam of people looking to park their huge rigs in Snowflower’s modest sized RV spots. It had been going on for 45 minutes at this point and the folks were pretty apologetic but it was apparent they were not going to fit so they finally drove on. A very nice gentleman on a bike told us there was a great spot next to him and that we could fit into it. It was only just up the road and we fit perfectly.
That was really my only complaint with this park is the free for all in trying to find spots. It’s not just this park either. Most Thousand Trails parks are this way. Other than that the park was beautiful and we had a beautiful lake view. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the views and napping. What a way to spend my birthday!
Later just before dinner we decided to talk a walk down by the lake. It was really serene and peaceful. This was probably one of the most beautiful places we have camped so far.
The next morning we decided to drive around the park and try to orient ourselves. We really liked the park so we wanted to take a look at some of the other camping spots and figure out how to find them! We ended up driving up to the “overlook”. It is the topmost part of the park and is just a great spot to hike up to and have a lunch or drive up and spend a few minutes admiring the view as we did.
After admiring the view we took a drive up to Nevada City. We walked around downtown for a short time but they are still opening up after the pandemic so not much to see. We did find a bistro that was open so we stopped in to have lunch. I had a burger and Cristy had a burger salad.
After lunch we decided to head back to the resort to take a nap and unwind. On the way back we pulled off the highway to check out a meadow I had seen on the way up. I’d love to have a house here… if it wasn’t so cold and snowy in the winter.
After taking in the meadow views we headed back to the trailer for a nap. After our nap and dinner the weather started to get a little exciting. It started to thunder and drop first sleet, and then small hail. It was enough to make things exciting but not enough to damage the trailer. The largest hail was only pea-sized.
The storm ended after a couple of hours and we enjoyed a beautiful night sleep. I have to admit that we really enjoyed our short stay at Snowflower RV Resort and will definitely be back. Maybe for a longer stay next time. I really loved waking up to this view…
I just completed another mod on my Lance 1995 travel trailer. I installed a Victron BMV-702 battery monitor. It’s a simple device that displays the charge state of your battery. Rather than measure the voltage level it measure the amount of current that flows into and out of your battery. It learns over time and will give you an accurate reading of how much battery power you have left.
It was a simple install but getting at all the locations I needed to get to was somewhat of a challenge for my bad back. The first decision was where to put the shunt. A shunt is used by an ammeter (a device that measures electrical current). Normally they are built into the instrument but with the current levels involved with two car batteries it’s just not practical. You install the shunt between the negative terminal on the battery and the trailer’s ground. A wire then goes from the shunt to the instrument head to provide power and current measurements.
Luckily for me there is a convenient access panel next to the bed where the negative terminals of the batteries connect to ground.
The black wire with the blue tape goes to ground. The other black wire goes to the 2nd battery. The black wire with the blue tape goes on one side of the shunt, and then a cable I made up goes from the other side of the shunt to the terminal with the unmarked black cable on it. This places the shunt between the batteries and ground.
First I had to mount the shunt. I screwed it to the side of the access compartment. The wood screws protrude into the wood block that the back of the nightstand drawers secure to. This made for a very sturdy mount for the 1 pound shunt. I also had to find a way to get the cable that connects the shunt to the instrument head down to the baggage compartment where I was going to mount the instrument. I did this by drilling a hole in the bottom of the access compartment down to the baggage compartment directly below.
Here is a photo of the connected instrument cable. The red wire goes to the positive side of the battery to provide power to the instrument. The only photo I forgot to take was of the battery grounds connected up.
The next challenge was mounting the instrument in the baggage compartment. I decided to put it next to the battery disconnect switch. It’s the first switch you turn on when taking the trailer out of storage so it made sense to put the battery monitor there. Why not mount it inside next to the other instruments? I didn’t want to run that wire all that way and if I messed up the install, I’d rather it be out of site in the baggage compartment!
I had to use a 2 inch hole saw to cut the hole. I then used a Dremmel tool to cut a small mouse hole at the top to run the cable through. I’ll use some clear RTV to secure the cable to the side of the baggage compartment. It took a little patience and some extra work with the Dremmel to get the main hole just right but in the end it all worked out. There is a bluetooth add on that I’m going to get so I can check the voltage from my phone inside the trailer. I’ll add that later. For now I’m just glad I can get a better idea of how the batteries are actually performing and when I need to charge them.
I’m an avid follower of RV Life blogs, and vlogs on YouTube. I’m dreaming of the day I can travel full time. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic though, I’m seeing a lot of RV’ers getting stranded with no place to go. They are understandably upset about campgrounds being shut down, public lands being closed to camping, etc. Mostly back in the eastern USA at this point. They are now scrambling for places to stay. I saw one RV’er complaining about people who have homes taking RV trips. “Uh, you could always buy a home and have a place to go back to”, I reminded him. He gave me a flip answer about why should he own two homes. Well that’s all fine and good but don’t complain. People with homes have every right to be out there as much as he does.
But why do I write all this? Because so many people enter into the RV lifestyle with no backup plans, no safety nets. Always have an out. Always have a plan B. Sure it cuts into the “freedom” of the RV lifestyle. There are people out there that earn just enough on the road to pay their bills. They don’t earn enough to save for a rainy day. They don’t save for medical emergencies, maintenance emergencies, or living emergencies like we’re experiencing now. The fact is, private RV parks are open and have MANY open spaces. But this doesn’t fit into the “cheap RV living” narrative all these YouTubers are selling.
Please, Please, PLEASE! If you’re going to live full-time on the road, make sure you are completely ready. Make sure you have a slush fund to deal with emergencies. The best and most realistic discussion I have seen on this comes from a YouTube channel called Chickery’s Travels. They posted a video recently with a very honest and frank discussion about RV contingency planning. I leave you with that. Travel safe!
About a month and a half ago, I was thinking of booking us at another Thousand Trails campground. I was looking at the one in Paicines, CA but after reading the reviews I decided to look elsewhere. Doesn’t seem the TT’s in California get very high reviews. I wasn’t very impressed with the first and only one we’ve stayed at so far. After reading the reviews I started looking for campgrounds near Paicines. The thought was that we would take a day trip to Monterey, CA. Yeah, that was a month and a half ago, before the COVID 19 outbreak.
It was a two and a half hour drive from our home to Yank’s but thanks to the pandemic, traffic was very light. We arrived around 1pm and check in was super easy. They had our paperwork waiting for us at the front desk. We were only one of two checking in that day. They were really hoping the second party showed up. They were grateful we showed up. They guided us to our back-in site, one of only about 8 in the whole park, all others were pull-through. The back-in sites had more room so I requested one. They backed us in and camp was set up in less than 20 minutes.
We fixed lunch and took a nap. (Naps are mandatory when we’re RV’ing) 🙂 The weather was beautiful when we arrived. We took a walk around the park to orient ourselves and stretch our legs.
The park is fantastically clean, I’m just talking about the grounds. Our site was bordered with rosemary hedges which smelled wonderful. They have a pool, workout room, horseshoe pits, and a dog park with obstacles for the dogs (concrete pipes). They had a nice little convenience store with all the basic “I forgot” items; frozen dinners, candy bars, sewer connections, power cords, RV decorations, etc. After our walk we went back to the trailer and started on dinner and then watched a movie on the outstanding cable they had at the park.
The next day after sleeping in we decided our mission was to try to find some Kleenex since all the stores in our hometown had been cleaned out of ALL paper products. We drove down to the Safeway in King City and found two four-packs of Kleenex left on the shelf. Being responsible citizens we only put one in the cart, and a roll of paper towels to be on the safe side. We bought a few extra snacks as well and then went in search of gas. Which we located after a brief search; right across the freeway. As we drove through King City you’d never know that the governor of the State of California had put in a mandatory stay-at-home order. Folks were in the restaurants, out on the streets, business as normal. Kind of felt nice to see.
We drove back to the trailer with a full tank of gas and a full grocery bag. We watched more TV as there was not a lot else to do. It had rained all night and most of the day. Just before sunset the rain had stopped and we went out for a walk to breath the clean air. We also took this opportunity to check out the little store in the resort office. I hadn’t really looked at it when we checked in. We chatted with the woman at the front desk who was bored out of her mind. She told us that Yank’s RV Resort was built in anticipation of Yank’s Air Museum which was being built next door, along with some shops and restaurants. Good to know. I bought a magnet to commemorate our visit and then we headed back to the trailer.
More movies that night and then an early bed time. Love the RV life!
We tried to sleep in on Sunday morning but a local crop duster had different ideas. At 7am sharp he made his first turn over our RV park and spent the next several hours dusting the field around the RV resort. Ah well…. We got up and set up the iPad so we could watch church online. After church it was time to clean up. We would just be ready to go right at the 11am checkout time.
Cristy started cleaning up the trailer, putting things away, etc. I went out and started dumping the tanks. If I do it right it usually takes me about 30 minutes with prep time and proper clean up. I don’t normally put the hose out until I’m ready to dump so this counts as part of the prep time. I got that dirty deed done and then pack up all the hoses, cable TV connection and stabilizer pads. We hitched up and then headed home.
It wasn’t a big awesome adventure or anything but it really helped to clear our heads. Especially with everything going on in the world. There is just something about RV’ing that slows us down and let’s us breathe and think. I love it every time I go out. Time to start planning the next boring adventure. 🙂
I whiled away the minutes this morning by cleaning various parts of my garage. It was a very random selection process.
What’s in this box?
Whatever caught my fancy this morning is what I decided to clean up, throw out, or organize. This all in preparation for full-time RV living. I have a little over six years to go so there is no rush. I just do little bits at a time when I have time. Today’s mission was books. We have tons of books left over from homeschooling our children. We picked a few favorite books and set them aside. I think this process is harder for the parents than for the children. There were a few books that our daughter wanted to keep for the sake of that nebulous concept of “her children.”
The kids have long since stopped reading the books and playing with the toys, so why is it so hard to throw that stuff out? It’s hard to let go of what has taken up most of your life. It’s hard to let got of the memory of who your children were when they were young and looked up to you for everything. But they grow up and you have to let them. Which means you stop holding onto those things which still makes them small children in your eyes. You have to let them become adults. This is the goal anyway…