The RV Road Trip Fulltimer's Blog for February 2012

A few days ago we made a video of Scooter. You see, Scooter is embarrassed when he passes gas. He will spin around and check his rear end to make sure it was him, then he will run into his cage to hide in shame. It is hilarious to watch, so we made a video of him doing this. We made the fart noises but he still thinks he did it. Enjoy, LOL.

We went shoe shopping the other day since Jerry was in dire need of a new pair. We looked at several places and ended up finding some he liked at Payless. While there, I decided to try on a pair of shoes, what do you think? :) Below are pictures of the shoes Jerry bought and the ones I tried on (I did not buy them).

Jerry's new shoes. Image

Cynthia tries on a pair of high heels. Image

Today is the 22nd anniversary of the day I was shot and suffered my spinal cord injury. I was just 26 years old in 1990 when a 17 year old kid decided to rob the place I worked at.. and he shot at me 3 times during the robbery, 2 of the bullets striking me in the chest. One of those bullets crushed my spinal cord.

We ordered an Accel brand performance tune-up kit for the Jeep and it came in yesterday. It contained 6 new Autolite spark plugs, a set of new 8mm spark plug wires, a new distributor cap and a new rotor. We don't need a new air filter right now, so that wasn't part of the kit. It took us about 30 minutes to install these new parts and that was the final step needed to complete the tune up. The Jeep has 147,500 miles on it and it runs like the day it left the assembly line.

Around the first of every month, we exercise the generator and start the motorhome engine. Onan recommends running the generator for 2 full hours each month if the generator is not used frequently. This keeps things lubed up and removes any moisture. We run the motorhome engine for about 20-30 minutes and also run the transmission through all the gears for about 2 minutes per gear. This allows the engine to charge the starting battery and to circulate oil through the engine. Running the transmission through the gears makes sure fluid is pumped throughout the unit keeping everything lubricated. Remember, maintenance is always cheaper than a repair!

We installed a cutoff switch for the coach batteries yesterday. There is a row of 12v breakers in the battery compartment but we have no idea what they go to or how they are hooked up, so we added our own that completely isolates the batteries from the coach. The reason we did this is because we have the solar setup, and it has an equalize function. Equalizing is an overcharge performed on flooded lead acid batteries after they have been fully charged. It reverses the buildup of negative chemical effects like stratification, a condition where acid concentration is greater at the bottom of the battery than at the top. Equalizing also helps to remove sulfate crystals that might have built up on the plates. If left unchecked, this condition, called sulfation, will reduce the overall capacity of the battery. This overcharge is not good for the electronics in the RV, so the disconnect allows us to shield them during the equalization process.
The Spring showers have arrived in the Rio Grande Valley. Temps dropped to the mid 50s and the rain came in. It seems weird to hear rain drops hitting the roof of the RV... it's been so long. We like the rain and enjoy listening to it, but it is a mess to have to go anywhere in it. Cynthia normally rides her bicycle to work but not when it rains! The trees have all started budding and some of them actually have new leaves on them already. Ahh, we love Spring time!

One thing worth mentioning when it rains, that is a great time to look for leaks. Check around all of your windows, especially under them. It is normal to see some moisture in the inside grooves and as long as your drain slits are clean, you will not have any problems. Check all around your roof edges, the slide out seals, inside your cabinets, along the floor, etc. If you think you see moisture, check with your finger to make sure it isn't just silicone or glue reflecting your lighting. If you find a leak, write down where it was and after it stops raining, find the source and fix it!

CJ is doing good at his new home. They have started calling him "Buddy" which he already answers to. He gets super excited when he sees us or Scooter, but he also loves the folks who have him now. He has done wonders for the attitude and health of the man (and his wife) that we gave him to... and that was our goal. We miss ol' CJ but we are glad he has such a loving home where he is as much benefit to them as they are to him.
Well, it looks like the heater core is still leaking in our Jeep Cherokee Sport XJ. Bummer. A heater core is a small radiator that sits inside the Jeep behind the dash on the passenger side. The antifreeze that keeps the engine from overheating is cycled through it. When you set your controls to heat, air is blown over the heater core and out into the cabin. Of course, the air is heated as it blows over the heater core and the result is a warm vehicle interior. When a heater core leaks, you smell the antifreeze, it often drips on your floorboard and your windshield tends to fog up all the time.

When a vehicle is built, I think they set the heater core in place then build the rest of the vehicle around it. This makes it very hard to get to when you have a problem. It is located behind the dashboard, mounted to the firewall. It takes specialized tools to remove it because you have to evacuate the A/C system. You guessed it, I don't have those tools.

It is a good 3 hour job to remove the entire dashboard just to get to the heater core. After all that, you can then remove the unit that holds the heater core and A/C evaporator so you can replace whatever is bad. Then it is another 3 to 4 hours to put it all back! Because of all the hassle this job entails, we decided to just have the work done at a local shop. It is MUCH cheaper down here in the RGV than anywhere else. Hourly shop rates back home run $100 or more per hour. Down here, rates are $50 per hour. Plus we'll have a warranty on the work in case there is a problem. Here is a shot of someone else's Jeep Cherokee with the dash removed. The green plug you see is where the heater core and A/C evaporator are located (inside that plastic box). That still has to be unbolted so you can get to them.

Jeep Cherokee XJ Dash Removed

Our A/C works fine but they have to evacuate the system anyway to do the job. While they have the dash torn down to get to the heater core, we're going to have them drop in a brand new A/C evaporator as well. We'd hate to have to have this job done again to replace a 13+ year old A/C evaporator. So we will take the Jeep in Monday to get a new heater core and A/C evaporator put in. This will run about $700 for parts and labor. Ouch!

Cynthia has gone to Mexico today to see a dentist. She is getting her teeth cleaned and having some x-rays taken. The cost is $35. Here in the US, it would be well over $100 for the same service. That's one good thing about being close to Mexico, you can get dental work and medicines dirt cheap.
We took the Jeep to the auto shop this morning so they could put in the new heater and evaporator cores. They said they would have it done by this afternoon. We sure hate to spend the money on that but we have to tell you, it is rough without heat when it is cold! Oh well, the Lord has blessed us and we are able to afford to have it fixed, so we are.

Cynthia made it safely to Mexico and back. The medicine she got costs over $100 per month here in the US, she got it in Mexico for $16 for a month's supply. Same medicine, same packaging, just less money. You know good and well they could sell it for that here in the USA, but with so many middle men and so much greed along the way, it just ain't gonna happen. She's going to make another trip before we leave the RGV and pick up a bunch more.
Happy Valentine's Day
Oh my my... I (Jerry) got my pneumonia shot yesterday and dang that thing was rough on me. My arm got so sore that I barely slept last night, so today I am so tired that I don't feel like doing a thing. I'm probably even a little incoherent, more so than normal, LOL. I tried to take a little nap but that didn't work out so well. My head hurts and my arm hurts so I am doing a whole lot of nothing today. Thankfully, this was my 2nd and final pneumonia shot. I got the first one 5 years ago at the Birmingham VA Hospital and the one yesterday was at the McAllen, Texas VA Outpatient Clinic. The nurse tried to talk me into getting a flu shot and a tetanus shot, but I was having no part of that.

I was planning on washing and waxing the rear panel on the motorhome today to test out the bottle of Protect-All Oxidation Remover I bought. That'll have to wait until later as rain is forecast for next 3 days. I think I am going to get back in my chair and rest my eyes. Maybe I'll fall asleep.
We've seen lots of Aloe plants in our lifetime, but we don't recall ever seeing one bloom. There are aloe plants growing in numerous places around the park and some of them have gotten quite large, and several of them near our site have started blooming. Below is a picture of one of the blooms. Pretty cool!

The trees are really started to put on leaves so Spring is already here in the RGV. The picture below is of the tree that is on our site, but other trees in the park already have many more leaves than this one. We love Spring time!

Aloe bloom. Picture.

New leaves on the tree. Picture.

Lots of pictures to share today! We don't always post every picture we take to the blog as it would make the pages exceedingly long, so be sure to check out the RV Picture Gallery to see them all. Most of the recent ones will be in the Mission Bell RV Resort folder. Anyway, on to the pictures.

We had a workamper get-together this past weekend and everyone was to bring a Mexican dish. We snapped a few pics of some of the food so you could see how we get to eat down here. Can you identify these dishes? You should at least be able to guess the last one. :)

Mexican food. Picture.

Mexican food. Picture.

Mexican food. Picture.

Mexican food. Picture.

The bad weather we were supposed to get last week turned out to be not so bad after all. We got a light steady rain but no storms and just the usual wind for the RGV. We took no chances and had rolled the awning in and put everything away that was light enough to blow away. They forecast 35 MPH wind with 50 MPH gusts and severe thunderstorms. We are glad that didn't materialize.

Spring is in full swing down here. The orange trees are blooming and the bees are busy pollinating them. We just wanted a close-up picture of one of the blooms but a bee decided he wanted to be in the picture, so he landed on the one we aimed at.

Orange blossom with a bee. Picture.

When we take Scooter outside, he sticks his nose into everything. And of course, everything gets stuck in his beard. It is a never ending job pulling miscellaneous debris from his beard. Here is a shot of him after 2 minutes (maybe less) outside.

Miniature Schnauzer Scooter. Picture.

Controlling our expenses while traveling is always a concern, but it is manageable. Our monthly income is $1472 but we like to put a minimum of $200 into savings, so that leaves an operating budget of $1272 per month. The $2400 we put into savings annually goes towards tags, insurance, Good Sam and Passport America memberships and vehicle repairs and maintenance. The BIG 3 expenses we have are campground fees, fuel and food. We'll go over what we do to keep these costs in check. As of this post, gasoline is $3.49 per gallon on average.

We try to keep campground fees under $350 per month, but can go as high as $400. We much prefer campgrounds over RV Parks and we don't mind boondocking, or camping in the woods without hookups. Boondocking is not sitting in a Walmart parking lot, that is dry camping. Boondocking is dry camping in the boondocks. Because of Jerry's disability, we get 50% off the rates at Federal and National campgrounds, so we tend to seek those out. They average $8-10 per night for us and usually have full hook ups but often have a 14 day stay limit. If we want to stay a month in one spot, many public RV parks will have a monthly rate that falls within our budget. And of course, workamping can cut our campground fees to zero.

Fuel costs are reduced by simply driving less. This means staying in one spot longer. We like to stay at least a week before moving again and if the area is really nice we will stay 2 weeks. We use the Jeep for sightseeing but when it costs $60 to fill up the Jeep, we plan our routes accordingly. Before the start of the summer travel season, we estimate the miles we will travel. For 2012, we are estimating that we will put 7,000 miles on the RV. At 9 MPG and $4 per gallon, that would be roughly $3,112 in fuel costs ($2,723 at $3.50 per gallon). Break that down over the expected 7 months we will be on the road and we are at $444 per month just for the RV. We average 2 tanks of fuel per month in the Jeep, so add $120 to that for a monthly fuel cost of $564. As you can see, that is too much, so we will either cut back on the mileage or cut back in another area so we can spend that money on fuel.

We can eat quite well on $250 per month since we do not eat out very much. During this past winter, we kinda went overboard on the eating out but that is not our norm. You can see our RV meal plans for an idea of how we like to eat. We are from Alabama, ya know? Mmmm, good country cookin'.

We plan to travel for 7 months (April through October) with $1272 available to spend per month, for a total of $8904 over that 7 month period. We do not mind taking some from savings if we want to since we know it can easily be put back over the winter when we sit still for 4 or more months. We intentionally save in the winter so we can travel in the summer. We will not say how much we have in savings but to some it is a lot and to others it is a pittance.

7 Month Total Per Month
Income $8,904 $1,272
Taken from Savings $1,148 $164
Campground Fees $2,800 $400
Fuel $3,948 $564
Food $1,750 $250
Everything Else $1,554 $222
Totals $10,052 $1,436

As you can see from the table above, we will have $1,272 from regular monthly income plus we will take $164 per month from savings for a total of $1,436 per month over 7 months... or $10,052. We will very likely not spend that much because we have not factored in any boondocking or other cost saving measures. This will offset other ordinary expenses such as the cell phone, haircuts, propane and laundry... but if not, we can take a little more from savings if need be.

This ought to give you an idea of how much we will need to have an absolutely amazing summer adventure traveling the US in our RV. So look out Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Crater Lake and the World's Largest Drug Store... here we come!

The best part of the entire trip will be the sheer number of people we will come in contact with and have the opportunity to be a Christian witness to. Whether it is just chatting in a campground or speaking before the congregation of a local church, it is always a great day to serve the Lord!
We took the Jeep into the local Goodyear Service Center to get a front end alignment. The tires were showing a little uneven wear and it had a slight pull to the right. When they got the Jeep on the lift, they put a pry bar under each wheel to check the ball joints. Well, the driver's side lower ball joint was bad. They showed it to us and sure enough, it was obviously bad. We asked them to work a price to replace all 4 (upper and lower on both sides) since it wouldn't make sense to replace just one, especially since they all have 148,000 miles on them. They came back with $697.00... and we balked. I told him that was an excessive price for the job and he said he could do better. He came back at $550.00 but we told him that we'd like to check with Expert on 4x4, the local shop who did our transfer case and u-joint work. Expert on 4x4 quoted us $476 out the door, so we went back to Goodyear and he said he could do the job for $500 out the door. We agreed and they started the work. We had them put in Moog brand greaseable units since that is a well known, quality brand for ball joints. So that $69 front end alignment turned into a $500 bill but we got 4 new ball joints and an alignment. We're glad to have had this done here rather than trying to find some place on the road to get it done. If it ain't one thing... LOL.
Today was the day we checked out the new tow bar and lights. We cleaned up the RV and put everything where it belonged, pulled in the slide and then went to crank up the coach... and it wouldn't crank. Argh! We put a meter on the battery and it had a whopping 9 volts. That sucker was dead, dead and dead. We always crank the RV at the beginning of every month and let it run so we wouldn't have troubles like this. We flipped the emergency start switch and cranked it using the house batteries. We'll worry about the battery tomorrow.

We pulled the RV out into the road and lined the Jeep up behind it. The Ready Brute Elite tow bar hooked up very easily. Since this was the first time hooking it up, we had to adjust the Ready Brake cable to the right length. Once that was done, we plugged in the 4 wire connector that runs the LED tow lights and checked everything out. Dang, the right side LED didn't work. Weird, since we had tested that light once before and it was fine. Oh well, we'll troubleshoot that another day. We put the Jeep transfer case in neutral and Cynthia pulled forward a little in the RV to lock the tow bars into position. Piece of cake.

Cynthia drove a lap through the park while I stood on the rear bumper so I could watch the tow bar in action, making sure everything works as it is supposed to. Thankfully, all went well. We did notice that on right turns we cannot turn too sharply or the Jeep bumper could hit the RV spare tire that is mounted on the RV bumper. We don't think that will ever be an issue for us. I got in the driver's seat of the RV and we went out for a drive around town. The Ready Brake indicator would light up simultaneously with the Jeep tail lights which is exactly how it should be. We drove about 2 miles then headed back to the park.

We unhooked the Jeep and parked the motorhome back in our spot. We shut it off then hooked up all the utilities again then checked to see if it would crank. It did but it was sluggish. A quick check with the meter showed the battery took a charge but it looks like it may no longer hold one. We have the battery on a regular charger now so we can test this for sure. There is no date code on the battery but the brand is MotorCraft, so this battery was very likely made in 2004 and the original battery, so it long past its useful life. We sure hope all we have to do is buy a new battery and the issue is over.

We also had the RV washed this morning. It was covered in Texas dust and dirt and really needed a good cleaning. Now that it has been washed, we will scrub all the fiberglass with Maguire's One Step Compound. This is a product designed to remove heavy oxidation and restore the original shine. We had tried some Protect-All oxidation remover but it was pretty much useless. The Protect-All label did say it was for minor oxidation so I can't really talk bad about their product. The Maguire's specifically says is will remove heavy oxidation and produce an amazing shine and luster. Let's hope so.

So all in all, the day went well with the exception of the battery issue.
It's leap day. You don't get this day but once every 4 years so take advantage of it. If you were born on this day you only get a birthday every 4 years so when the people born the day before you are 80, you'll be 20! The down side is you will look terrible for a 20 year old - LOL.

Yesterday, we were in Walmart picking up some things we needed and Cynthia stopped to look at something but I didn't realize she stopped. When I turned around, I saw her coming towards me from one of the aisles. I asked her what she was looking at and she started laughing. Of course, I asked what was so funny. She pointed to a man walking nearby and said that she started following him because she thought it was me based on the color of his shirt. When she almost caught up to him she realized it wasn't me. What's really funny is I was wearing a dark gray shirt and this guy had on an ugly bright blue shirt. I think she was trying to ditch me in Walmart but had second thoughts. :) In her defense, I do own an ugly bright blue shirt.

Last Friday we had new ball joints put on the Jeep at the local Goodyear Service Center (aka Superior Oil Express). Well, today I noticed a leak under the Jeep and upon closer inspection, I found that it was gear oil from the front axle. The only way it could leak out by the wheels is if the inner axle seals were damaged when they reinserted the front axle shafts. I drove back to Goodyear and pointed this out... to my surprise, they apologized and said they'd take care of it. It took them several hours but I got new axle seals, fresh axle fluid and a new differential seal for free. Kudos to the folks at Superior Oil Express at the corner of Shary Road and Business 83 in Mission, Texas.

Well, the verdict is in on the coach battery going dead. We ended up getting a new battery at the local Ford dealership since they had the best warranty, 3 years free replacement with an additional 2 years prorated. We put the new battery in the coach and it was at 12.82v on the meter. The next morning it was still 12.82v so that indicates nothing drained the old battery, it just died of old age. At least it was a simple fix even though it was a $114 fix.


RV Blog Archives

2017   JAN, FEB, MAR         Please visit
2014   We did our massive 22 state and 15 national park road trip.
2013   We dealt with Jerry's wreck and thyroid cancer treatment.
2012   JAN, FEB, MAR, APR         We stopped full-timing in April 2012.
2008   The Beginning

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