Thursday, September 20, 2012

Still settling in . . . and preparing for life on the road!



I can’t believe it’ll be 2 weeks tomorrow since we pulled in here at Haas Lake Park.  We’ve been getting used to our new life in the RV . . . finding places to put everything, staking out everybody’s “space” for work/school, and trying to get things set up to make our lives easier.

Right now, we’re still in some dis-array, but we’re working on it.  We ordered our WIFI Ranger, which arrived at my SIL’s house on Monday, and our aircard from Millenicom, which should arrive by next Monday, so once we have both of those we can get our network set up and put the printers up in the cabinet.  That’ll help quite a bit, because right now the one printer is sitting on the only counter space I have, so that it’s accessible to plug into each of the laptops . . . and it’s a pain in the neck to move around all the time.  Only a few more days, though . . .

Work space has been another challenge, with both boys doing schoolwork, and me working . . . right now, Nicolas and I both use the kitchen table, and Bryce uses my coffee table that lifts up to desk height.  I found a desk for Nick at Ikea that we’re going to install in his room, but Tom is nervous about putting screws in the walls, so he may wait until we’re in Nappanee next month, and have Carlyle install it for us.  We’re also going to have Carlyle build a corner shelf under Nicolas’ TV for the Xbox, so we can get that off the floor.  The other destination next month will be Lambright’s in Shipshewana to pick up a recliner for me.  Tom is still leaning towards a Poang chair from Ikea for himself, but I want a recliner-rocker.  The Poang chairs are comfortable, but I like to sit more upright, especially if I’m reading or sewing.

Food storage space seems to be working out.  I’m using up most of what I had in the old walk-in pantry in the house, and only buying what I’m going to use right away . . . menu planning in definitely helpful!  Joyce and I were talking the other day, and she was saying that was one of the harder habits to break – stocking up on whatever is on sale!  The refrigerator was one of our big worries originally.  When we were shopping for an RV, we really struggled with finding one with a bigger frig.  Ours is 10 cu. ft., which isn’t very big (especially with 2 teenage boys!), but with the extra 4 cu. ft. frig in the garage for pop, water and beer, it’s working out OK.  I can fit about a week’s worth of fresh veggies, fruit, meat, lunchmeat . . . and 2 gallons of milk . . . along with all the staples (ketchup, mustard, pancake syrup, creamer, BBQ sauce, and 4 salad dressings! . . . yes, we each like a different salad dressing!).

Even without the convection microwave (another October fix!), we’ve managed to cook everyday.  We grill a lot, and I’ve got the stove, and I’ve used the crockpot a couple of times, too.  I even found out that leftover pizza reheats very nicely on the grill, when wrapped in foil – better than the microwave anyday!

This month has also been good for taking care of the little (and not-so-little) details . . . we changed our addresses on all our licenses, took all my old VHS and Hi-8 home movies to a guy who’s transferring them to DVD, I got my hair done today, and we meet with our financial planner next week.  We’ve also been ironing out our situation at work . . . Tom is still working out what he’s going to do, but I will definitely continue to work while on the road.  That takes a big unknown out of the picture . . . no need to find medical and dental insurance, and now we know that we don’t need to use any of the proceeds from the house to finance our travels. 

Speaking of travels, we’ll probably head toward Texas this winter, and then make a loop through the western and northern states next spring and summer, before ending up back in MI around Labor Day.  We’ve still got lots of research to do, but that’s our general thoughts for the next year.

Fall Baseball_week2-073

But our stay here hasn’t all been work . . . Bryce has baseball every Saturday and although his team has been struggling some, the weather has been great for baseball!  There’s lots of area here for walking and bike-riding, playing cornhole, and just enjoying watching all the swans and other birds on the lakes.  I thought it would be more empty around here, but the “seasonal” campers have their sites until September 30th, so there are quite a few of them still around.  This weekend is their “Halloween Weekend”, so it’ll be busy, but we’ll miss most of the festivities because of baseball.

So, that’s the extent of our life on the road so far . . . not too exciting yet, but getting closer!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Campground Review–Hidden Ridge RV Resort

Our site:  #28

Site 28

Location:  Hopkins, MI

The RV Park is located off US-131, about halfway between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, exit #59.  We left from our former home at about 4pm on a Friday, taking I-94 west to US-131 North, and arrived at the park by 6pm.  The park is very convenient to the freeway, but we didn’t notice any freeway noise at all.

The RV hung over the back of the cement pad somewhat, and we were a little bit crowded with both the car & truck, but we fit, and there was plenty of open grassy space behind us.

There are a lot of seasonal campers, but the sites are all kept basically the same, and it’s kindof hard to tell the seasonals from the “weekenders”.

Towards our campsite

If you look straight through the opening in the fence, all the way over to the woods, you can see our RV on site #28.

Many of the sites overlook the various ponds located throughout the campground.

Towards the Entrance

When we stayed here:  Friday, August 31, 2012 – Friday, September 7,2012.  We paid the weekly rate of $302, which was equivalent to just about 1 day free (normal daily rate:  $49). 

We had a full hookup site, which also included cable TV and wifi.  The free wifi was OK, but kindof slow, especially on the holiday weekend.  It was slightly better during the week.  We managed without paying the extra $15/week for faster internet . . . not sure how much faster it would have been.  Verizon signal was pretty good.

Amenities:  This was a very nice RV Park, with a great pool,


and a pavilion by the pool where they had various activities.  We were there for Labor Day Weekend, and there was bingo on Friday, games and refreshments by the pool on Saturday and Sunday, and a DJ/dance party on Sunday night.  There was also a special treat for the holiday weekend, which everybody seemed to enjoy, including us!

Elephant Ear Cart

The campground also offered a playground, basketball court and tennis courts, all near the pool.




There were also a volley ball court and horseshoe courts, but I didn’t get pictures of them.  Lastly, there was a clubhouse, which offered a library, a media room, a game room, and a fitness room.  All of this was located on the lower levels of what looked like a large home . . . and it was, in fact, the home of the onsite managers.

The Clubhouse

The boys enjoyed the game room, and Tom made himself right at home on the couch!!

The bath house and laundry were located near the pool, and were very clean . . . especially considering it was a holiday weekend, and they were packed!  Showers were individual and, although spacious and clean, they could have used some ventilation . . . and the water was extremely HOT!

Bath House and Laundry

The laundry had three Maytag Neptune front-loading washers, and six dryers.  Washers cost $1.75/load and dryers were $1.00/load.

Nearby:  We went to Weick’s Grocery Store in nearby Shelbyville (about 5 miles away).  They had reasonable prices, with a deli and bakery . . . and a very nice meat department!  There were several catholic churches nearby, but only 1 with a 9:30am mass . . . SS Ceril & Methodius, in Wayland.  Wayland also had several gas stations (including a Speedway) and various fast food restaurants.  We ordered pizza one night from Guisseppe’s in Wayland . . . and they delivered to the campground.  slightly farther away, in Otsego, there was a Walmart and Meijer’s.

Overall Impression:  This RV Park was very well maintained and offered lots of amenities and activities.  The Managers and other staff were highly visible and very friendly.  Rules were enforced, but in a friendly way.  We really enjoyed our stay here, and would definitely consider a return visit!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Labor Day at the Beach


While everybody else in the campground was packing up and heading home for work and school, we decided to take a little drive over to Lake Michigan for the day. 

After a quick stop at KFC in Wayland for a bucket of chicken, we wound our way west on various back roads until we reached Saugatuck Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan.


This is a day use park (no camping) with a nice shady picnic area and a beautiful beach.  We found an empty picnic table and enjoyed our lunch before starting out on the 1-mile trail through the woods,


up and over the dunes, finally arriving at our final descent to the beach.


The state park covers several miles of shoreline,


and we found a nice spot to set up our beach blanket and umbrella and enjoy the day.


(Yes, we have a quilt that we take to the beach with us!!)  The day was beautiful – hot and sunny – and the water was great!  Every beach we’ve been to on Lake Michigan this year has been so clean, with crystal clear water!  We had a great time playing in the cool, clean water!



It was a great way to end the holiday weekend . . . but it wasn’t the end of our vacation, and just the beginning of our new lifestyle!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Settling Into Our New Home

Our Campsite

The move out of the house was pretty quick, and we basically ended up just putting everything we thought we might need into the RV, at least temporarily, in a location where it wouldn’t move while we towed.

Of course, we probably brought too much, and we’ll continue to purge as we go along – LOL!  The big challenge for us – with 4 people in the RV – is staying organized and not letting it get too cluttered.  We have to remember to put things away when we’re done with them!

The main kitchen/living area is still pretty cluttered and disorganized (and we don’t even have recliners yet!!), but the master bedroom looks like home,

Master Bedroom

and Nicolas’ “Man Cave” is looking pretty good, too!

Man Cave

Tom and I are on vacation this week, so we’re not in a regular routine yet, but we have been trying to get some loose ends tied up from the move out of the house to the RV. 

On the Computer

Tom has been calling around for insurance – talking to our current provider, as well as GMAC, an agent that works out of General RV (a big RV dealer in MI), and Miller Insurance, who lots of RV-Dreamers use.  We’ve been learning a lot about insurance, total replacement cost, how much contents coverage we need, etc . . . more than we ever wanted to know!! 

I spent yesterday morning changing our address with various accounts, while the boys got started in school.  Their english classes started last week, we added math & history this week, and next week we’ll go to a full load.  We’re still working on establishing everybody’s “work space” in the RV – right now Nick is using the kitchen table, and Bryce is using my little coffee table that raises up to desk height.  It works pretty good, but I think I’m going to pick up a desk for Nick to use in the back.  I saw one in the Ikea catalog that will attach to the wall and folds down when not in use.  Of course, I’ll have to offset the added weight by taking something out!

It hasn’t all been work, though, and we enjoyed many of the Labor Day festivities here at the campground.  The sites are pretty roomy here,

Site 28

and we have nothing behind us, so the boys have plenty of room for cornhole and other games.


The weather has been great, so we’ve spent quite a bit of time at the pool! 

At the Pool

It was really crowded on the weekend,

Busy Pool

but after most people went home on Monday, we have it pretty much all to ourselves now!

Empty Pool

Even Casey is enjoying herself – getting lots of attention!!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Our last week as homeowners

After arriving home from our trip to Cedar Point, we had just one week to finish our move into the RV!  We left it parked outside and plugged into the barn, and moved in everything we wanted to take with us, starting with our mattress.


By Sunday night, we were officially living in the RV in the driveway, and continued to sell, donate or throw away what was left in the house.  Thankfully, the weather had gotten a little milder, especially at night, and we were comfortable without the A/C, since we were running off a 20 amp plug in the barn!

Gradually, the rooms in the house were being emptied,



leaving only the items being left behind for the new owner.  The kitchen had the only remaining seats, and was used as our “office central”.


Bryce was in charge of burning old documents and records that we no longer needed.


It was a busy and chaotic week, with people coming over to buy the last of our bigger items, and arranging for utilities to be taken out of our names, and filling garbage bags with stuff that’s been stored for the last 15 years . . . and making sure that everything was in place for the closing on Thursday!

We were originally supposed to close on Friday, but the realtors wanted to have an extra business day of cushion, in case there was a glitch in the paperwork, so we agreed to a late Thursday closing, with us maintaining occupancy until Friday at noon.

The closing was amazingly quick and smooth – I guess that’s what you get when there’s no bank involved! – and before we knew it, we were no longer homeowners!!

We went back to “that house we’ve called home for 15 years”, and did some more moving and cleaning, and then met our realtors at Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner.  It was quite the celebration, and Patrick & Scott presented us with “closing gifts” of gas cards for Tom & I, and a really nice pair of Nikon Binoculars for the boys . . . they are such great guys, and we really loved working with them and getting to be friends!

Just 10 minutes before the noon deadline on Friday, we removed the last of our stuff from the house, and walked over to say good-bye to the neighbors.  We had visited with just 2 of the 5 neighbors by 1pm when we saw the new homeowner drive up, so we walked back to talk with her for a bit.  She and her kids are really nice, and I think they are going to love living in their new home!

By 3pm, we had eaten lunch and finished putting things away in the RV (at least in temporary locations), and were hitched up, ready to drive out.  We finished our good-byes with the other 3 neighbors, with hugs and promises to keep in touch, and then it was time to take our last trip down the driveway!


It was a little difficult to leave our first real house, and the only home the boys have ever known, but we’re looking forward to the adventures that lie in front of us!!  ROAMIMG FREE!!!