North Port Florida

Now in North Port, Florida

We are now in Del Rio Texas

We are now in Del Rio Texas

Our full time RV adventure is over

October 22 – December 16, 2018:  

A lot has happened since the last post.  This is the first time since leaving NJ and heading back down to Florida that I have had a chance to write.  In the past 6 weeks we sold the 5th wheel and truck and purchased a Nissan Armada and a used 32 foot travel trailer.  We are also fully moved into our North Port Florida house.  So, we have fully transitioned to part time RV use now, well sort of.  We have not yet picked up the travel trailer, next week, and used it.  To say the least, it has been sort of a whirlwind of a time for us.

To start off where the last post left off we were heading back to Florida from north New Jersey.  It was already getting cold up north so we wanted to move pretty quick back south.  And quick we did, we arrived back in Florida to store the rig just 5 days (4 nights) after leaving NJ.  We left North NJ on Monday and we were pulling into North Port Florida on the following Friday afternoon. For us that was almost a record move of 1200 miles.  

The thing was it really didn’t get warm until we actually crossed the border into Florida our last day.  Two of our night stays we didn’t have water after dark because it was too cold and just about freezing!  We have been doing this for over 6 years so we knew what to do before we even left NJ.  We partially filled our fresh water tank so we would have water for essentials if the weather got too cold.  We also made sure we have full tanks of propane for heat.  The thing is, in the north the campgrounds that are still open start to shut off their water this time of year.  We didn’t really need the propane as our electric fireplace kept us warm enough.  

Our last night to sleep in our 5th wheel was Thursday October 25th in Jacksonville Florida.  We didn’t talk about it as we didn’t know yet what was going to happen as we stopped moving the 5th wheel around.  I got up from bed on Friday morning and just said out loud “well that’s it, last time in that bed!” It’s a little sad now to reflect on it but for the past 7 weeks we have been so busy that we have not really thought about it very much.  We have been mainly just focused on making the transition as quick as possible.

Our last overnight in our RV home for the past 6+ years in Jacksonville Florida

Patty found this campground just 8 miles from our new home in North Port called the Myakka River RV Resort.  As one would figure out, it is located on the Myakka River.  Anyway they had a place for us to park the 5th wheel so we could unload it.  They also have very cheap storage rates of just $40 a month!  

Our unload and storage place just 8 miles from our house in North Port

On Friday the 26th of October we set up our 5th wheel for the last time at the Myakka River RV Park.  We will have the RV parked here for 3 nights to unload it.  It was a bit weird but it felt like we were just setting up and then off to explore the area.  Well yeah, that is what we are doing but we are also moving into a house!

I had originally thought that we could move everything out of the RV in a day and then have the next day to clean.  Well hahahahahahahahaha!  Dragging all of our stuff out of the RV through the small RV door and down the steps and then on to the truck, driving 8 miles, and then unloading was very tiring and time-consuming.  Basically, we could just do one load a day and that took us about 4 hours each time.

On Monday, the last day we were to be on the site, we arrived early at 7:30am.  We still had stuff to get out of the RV before moving it to storage.  We also needed to do some cleaning after we got all of the stuff out.  11am was the move time and we were still not done!  We realized that we could not load up the truck completely because we still needed space to hitch up the RV for the move to storage.

By 10:30am we were putting stuff on the ground as the truck was full already.  At 11am we had everything out and we started to clean up the RV.  We did the best we could but we didn’t do as good as we would have liked.  Then at noon we hitched up and moved the RV across the park to storage.  I think it is sadder now than it was then.  It was a very tight spot to get turned around in and then to back the unit into the space but we got it done!  After spotting it in its space we sprayed a lot of insect spray around all of the items that touched the ground as well as spraying the perimeter of the inside for ants.  We were finally ready to leave around 1pm.

OK, it's now stored!

Over the next week we got around 20 hits on the RV and truck for sale.  Most were people who didn’t have any money!  On the second week we had a woman and a guy on Facebook ask about them who seemed like they were for real.  Both wanted to see the RV and truck on the same day!  The woman was first at 10am and she really wanted the RV and truck so shee gave us a 10% deposit!  We called the other interested party and told him it was sold.

Interesting thing here was that the deposit was on a check and we needed to wait until she had the money in the bank before we could cash it.  The money was to be available next week.  The woman seemed credible to us so we took the deal as we still had possession of the RV and truck so we really were not out anything except that they were off the market now.

A week went by and no money, but excuses and promises.  We decided to wait until the end of the month, November, before getting too excited about the deposit. 

Then on Monday of the start of the second week the woman said she would have all of the money tomorrow, Tuesday.  We were a bit excited but also a bit apprehensive.  I had told the woman that I was getting an oil change on the truck before she got it so now I needed to get it done tomorrow. 

On Tuesday morning I had an appointment to get the oil changed at Ford at 10am.  While I was in the waiting room the full sale money was wire transferred into our checking account!  Now it was real!

After the oil change I went home and picked up Patty and we went to a local Enterprise to get a rental car.  Then we both went to the RV storage site to meet up with the new owner.  The new owner is new to 5th wheels so I agreed to move it to where she has a space for it.

We ended up moving it about 50 miles south to North Fort Myers.  I backed it into a residential front yard and that was that, I unhitched the truck and parked it just in front of the RV.  Patty leveled the RV and we were done!  Full time RVing was history for us.  Yeah - sad a bit!

Our rig and truck's new home in Fort Myers

OK, no time to be too sad about anything. We needed to get a new vehicle and a smaller travel trailer.  We had the rental car leased for a week and we really didn’t want to extend that too much.  We originally thought we would get the trailer squared away first and then get the tow vehicle.  Getting what we want in a travel trailer was much harder than we thought.  There are many RV dealers within a 50-mile radius.  We were just not finding what we wanted.  So we decided to concentrate more on the tow vehicle so we could get rid of the rental.

We wanted a large SUV with a tow range up to at least 8500 lbs.  This would allow us to tow a travel trailer in the 7500 GVWR range.  This would be a dry weight around 5500 lbs.  Originally we were looking at a Dodge Durango until we saw that it had the lowest fuel economy.  It actually had a fuel usage the same as our Ford 450!  It was not diesel but took premium gas! 

So we moved to looking for a late model Ford Expedition or maybe a new 2018 left over.  However, we just couldn’t find one with what we wanted.  Not all of the Expeditions had a tow package and we wanted one that was not black, including the interior.  After a few days looking and calling dealers we began to look at other vehicles with high tow ratings.  There are just a few in that tow range; Tahoe, Yukon, and the Armada by Nissan.  

After just a day of looking and having way too many dealers’ texting, emailing, and calling we settled on a new 2018 Nissan Armada.  Whew!

We picked up the Armada this last Monday, the 10th, and then 2 days later we traveled across the state to Titusville, 200 miles away, to look at a used travel trailer we saw online.  We didn’t like the one we went to see but purchased another one we had not even considered.  It is a 32 foot Coachman Freedom Express.  We pick it up next week on Friday just before Christmas.  We are planning to spend one or 2 nights in the trailer on the way back to our house after picking it up.  We are not familiar with travel trailers at all.  So this is a new learning curve for us.

Our new SUV and part-time rig
The hitch is much more complicated than the 5th wheel!  We are learning new things like a weight distribution hitch and anti-sway bars.  

During our first week at our new house in Florida my daughter Jennifer and her husband Christian visited for a few days.  That was really nice to have them here!  We took a couple day trips to see the area.  One day we went to see the Edison & Ford homes in Fort Myers about 50 miles south.  On another day we rented a pontoon boat on the Myakka River.  We toured the intercoastal area between Venice and Boca Grande Island.  That was a great day on the water!

Out for lunch in Punta Gorda with Jennifer and Christian

Edison's Fort Myers house

Hard to believe this is just one Banyon tree!

We rented the pontoon here in Englewood FL

Our pontoon for the day.  It was a little scary as I had not captained one of these since our days living on Lake Hopatcong NJ.  It had been about 10 years since taking a boat out on the water.  It came back pretty quick!

Patty enjoying the breeze and sun.

We stopped for lunch on an island that was only accessible by boat

Jennifer, my daughter

We spent a large amount of time getting the house the way we want it for us.  Since living in an RV for so long we didn't have any furniture or interior decor at all.  So we bought all new stuff!  This was the first time for both of us to furnish a house from scratch with stuff we wanted instead of using stuff acquired over time.  It was fun and still is!

Our house in North Port FL

Back Yard


Cool cactus garden in front

Constant parade of delivery trucks.  Once we had one waiting on another to move!

Our dining room furniture

A teak table in front of the aquarium window

This was so cool!  Patty found these stick on decals online

We added these nice ceiling fans to the lanai 

As for the future, we are taking a Caribbean cruise in a couple weeks and then heading to our RV site in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas a couple days after we get back from the cruise.  We are planning to be at our site in Texas for about 2 months.  Our plan is to sell the lot in Texas either during our time there or just after.  This will be our last time wintering in south Texas.  Yes, that is sad too!  

OK, a bit of Christmas here in North Port Florida.  

No politics, but I had to take a picture of this booth selling Trump stuff

The parade route

Unusual toilet float by a plumber

Of course there was Santa!

Tree in Punta Gorda 15 miles south of us

Our tree.  A little bigger than the 2 foot one in the RV!

Shopping center decked out in North Port

Just to reminisce a bit about where we are and where we started this chapter of our lives.  We retired in 2011 and started full time RVing in 2012.  At that time we had no idea what was ahead.  We planned to at least full time for 5 years.  That was really the only plan.  We originally thought we would winter a different place each winter.  Our first was south Florida and then we went to south Texas the following year.  

We originally planned to stay 2 winters in south Texas, one at the park where we are now and one at a nearby park.  That didn’t happen as we made friends at our current park so we eventually leased a site there with the idea that we may decide to live there in the 5th wheel if we decide to quit traveling.  

Last year we went on a very long trip from coast to coast and to Alaska.  We have now stayed in all 50 states and 5 provinces of Canada.  Patty has had a hard time medically with our constant traveling.  It’s not the travel but the non-consistent medical treatment that has been an issue.  We have also had issues with the lower level of medical care of the Rio Grande Valley.  So we decided last year around Christmas that we were going to purchase a house in Florida and move on to part-time RVing.

Anyway, this year, 2018, has been an unbelievable year for us!  We left our site in south Texas at the beginning of March and headed west to an RV rally in Nevada and then to visit friends in LA and San Diego.  From there we traveled along the southern border back to Florida in May.  We spent a month in Florida and bought a house in North Port.  We spent a week getting the house ready for us to leave it while we continue to travel.  We left the house without ever having slept in it!

We left Florida the first week of June and headed up to Indiana to visit with family for about a month.  We managed to take a short trip of about a week to an amusement park in Ohio with one of the granddaughters. 

Then in July we went to New Jersey to visit friends and more Family.  Here we took 3 weeks out of our 2 months here and moved Patty's son Chas to our house in Florida.  We left our 5th wheel parked in NJ while we did the round trip of 2400 miles to Florida.  We finally slept in the new house on the floor!

At the beginning of October we left NJ and went to a wedding in Ohio and then back to Indiana again to get work done on the RV in prep for selling.  We also took a little detour and visited with family again in Indiana.

We had a buyer showing some interest in the RV and truck in NJ so we went back there, but that fell through.  And then here we are back in Florida by the end of October!

The original premise of this BLOG was to inform about our transition to living in an RV and then living on the road in an RV.  Well, we just transitioned back to landed living in a house after a little over 6 years.  It really has been a GREAT run and a wonderful adventure!  I just don’t know if we can top this again!  

OK, as for the BLOG, I am thinking of this as the last post.  This will make the 367th BLOG post covering our 6+ years of full-time RV living. And yes that is a bit sad but our new life is going to be a bit more pedestrian in nature, not really BLOG material.  We are planning to travel more out of the country as well and a bit more in the RV, fun stuff but not the uniqueness that our life on the road was.

So, with that said, we are off on to the next chapter of our lives!  

Safe Travels to All!

Mark and Patty Hooley

Checking up on my son and Grandkids, RV Repair finally and last minute trip back to NJ!

October 08 - 21, 2018:   

We figured that we would spend some time with my son and the grandkids before heading back to Florida.  We were close enough, just 180 miles after the wedding in Cincinnati, so we traveled a little west for a last visit this year.

My son Tony was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver just a couple months ago.  We were just here in Indiana visiting with him and the kids 3 months ago so it was a shock for us when he was diagnosed.  He didn’t look or really seem sick when we there last!  So we are going for a visit to see if we can help out a little.

Tony is not working and it looks like he won’t be able to in at least the near future.  They have applied for disability but that takes time to get.  Sometimes it can take 6 months to a year to get!  His mom started a Facebook fund me page to help out some for them.  We did what we could with fixing their car and getting groceries and some with the grandkids clothing.  We felt pretty good that they would be OK for a while and could focus on health.

We were in Crawfordsville for a whole of 3 days.  We wanted to stay longer but the campground was full over the weekend due to the local Covered Bridge Festival 30 miles away.  I had not been to the festival since I was in high school so I was looking forward to going.  Oh well, not this time.

On our last day Patty decided to call our RV manufacturer, Prime Time, in Wakarusa Indiana for help with the shower pan.  Wow, they came through for us!  When Patty gave her name they right away had our information as well as the VIN number of our RV.  They told us that they had a pan available and that we should give John’s RV Repair a call to put it in.  Patty called John at John’s and he said he would get the pan and install it the next day!

There is the big ugly crack on the right.  It is covered by some of the flex seal stuff as seen on TV right now.  I have been temporarily fixing this since we were in Las Vegas last summer.

First, we can’t say enough about how well we have been treated over the years by Prime Time.  All through the 2 year warranty we had a personal representative who bent over backwards to help us.  And now, 4 years past warranty and they not only still keep information on us but go all out to help us again!

And then there is John of John’s RV Repair in Elkhart Indiana who was also great.  John opened up his shop to do the shower pan replacement on Saturday with just a days’ notice!  We arrived there at 7:30am and then we went for breakfast.  By 11:30am he was done!  What a difference from the way we were treated by RV Specialties last week!

Not much to look at these RV repair facilities in Elkhart.

Our shower pan before it was installed.

After installation, no more crack.  Normally the manufacturer puts a 3/4 in of styrofoam under the pan for padding.  After a couple years of full time living the styrofoam takes a set and then the pan starts to crack.  This time John added a thin 1/8th plywood on top of the styrofoam to help spread the load out.  I would have preferred a high durometer closed cell foam but this should work for a long time.

RV friends of ours from Canada, Steve and Dianne Colibaba were also in Elkhart for work on their 5th wheel.  So then on Sunday after our RV work was done we met up with them for a long lunch and a couple drinks.  We met them at a very cool restaurant bar called the Evil Czech Brewery in Mishawaka Indiana.

The Evil Czech has a unique Sunday brunch happy hour.  You pay a set price for a food buffet but the buffet is quite different.  The food is all small amounts that are plated.  The idea is to walk around the food and just pick up the plates you want and eat at your table.  Food was very good above average stuff.  We would go again if we are back in that area.

After a couple hours of swapping road stories we headed our separate ways.  Steve and Dianne will be here for a week or two and we are heading out tomorrow for New Jersey.

We knew Steve and Dianna were there.
Their big rig was parked at the bank next door.

The back of the Evil Czech

Cool catering van

Safe travels Steve and Dianne!

While we were in Elkhart we got a message from a couple in New Jersey who were interested in purchasing our truck and RV.  Actually they had contacted us a couple weeks ago and made an offer that we believed to be too low for us.  Since we wanted more for our rig they wanted to see them.  

We agreed to head back to NJ near them in north Jersey.  We were already just off of I80 in north Indiana so all we had to do was travel the 700 miles across Ohio and Pennsylvania to a campground just inside NJ.  It was a little out of our way but not a lot.  From Indiana we still needed to head east about 150 miles anyway so what are another 550 miles and an extra 3 days to maybe sell the rig!

Just never know what you may see traveling around the country.  Looks like a homemade truck camper.

We took our time making the trip from Indiana to New Jersey.  We traveled our usual ~230 miles and stayed 2 nights.  Traveling this way it would take us 5 days with 2 stops, one in Ohio and one in PA.  The only thing was that the temperature has now dropped a lot!  We had temps in the 80s while in Indiana and as we left the temps had dropped into the 40s for highs.  Our nights in PA were near freezing so they turned off the water overnight.  They did come around and warn us about turning off the water first. It was okay as we had water in our tanks for the night.  We are way too far north for us this time of year!

Our first overnight in Ohio we had an electrical issue!  We got all set up and Patty said that the microwave was not powered.  After a little investigation we found that the refrigerator and the electric fireplace were not powered either.  CRAP!  We need that fireplace for heating at night.  I checked the obvious stuff like the circuit breakers and I tried another outside receptacle with no change.  So then for the first night we didn’t use the microwave and the fridge just continued to run on propane.  I plugged the fireplace into another outlet with an extension cord.  So we were good for the night.

Our site at the Cleveland Fairgrounds.  We stayed here about a month ago on our way to Indiana the first time for repair.  We also stayed here a few years ago.  It's a nice place to stay and see the area from.  $35 full hook up 50A site.

The next day I got busy troubleshooting the electrical issue.  At first I thought it may have something to do with the slide that was common for the fridge and the microwave.  However, the fireplace was in a different slide.  Also, the display on our power management system showed that there was power on both legs of the 50 amp line coming into the RV.  

The first thing I did was to take a look under the 2 slides and see if there was any issue there.  I had had an issue in the past with an electrical cable bundle coming in contact with the tire during travel.  I found this cable bundle with a large wear area a couple years ago and repaired it.  This cable had again dropped down and there was wear on the cable insulation.  After an hour of cutting wire ties and taking off cable hangers I was able to inspect the wear area closer.  Yes the cables needed to be rearranged to hang higher and the cables needed to be repaired.  But, this was not the answer to the problem.

Now I needed a new direction to look for the problem.  I decided to check the wiring in the breaker panel in the RV next.  A few years ago I had a problem with loose AC wires in the panel.  After removing the breaker panel cover and inspecting the wiring it all seemed good.  OK, now time for my volt meter!   I found that there was no power on one leg of the 2 legs coming into the panel.  The power management display showed that there was power at least coming to it in the RV.  So the problem must be between the power management system and the panel. 

No power on one leg of the 2 50A legs coming into the RV

Ok, now this is going to be a pain in the ass as this area is in the basement and it is loaded with stuff!  There are 2 things in between the outside of the RV and the circuit breaker panel, the power management system itself and the changeover switch for the generator.  Right here I could have saved myself a lot of time.  I should have fired up the generator to see if the problem was still there.  If it was then the problem would most likely be at the changeover switch.  If it went away then it would be either the switch or at the power management system.  Of course I didn’t run the generator because I like to be tortured! I went for the power management system first.  It was the easiest place to go first. 

I had to remove our basement stuff from just one side to start with to get at the power management system

The power management system is the black box near the center of the picture. 

To get to the management system I had to take all of our stuff out of a small part of the basement so I could take off a small wall to the cables.  Then I had to twist myself into this small hole I made to get the 6 small screws out of the management cover.  Guess what, after an hour of this torture I found nothing wrong here!  Now is when I thought about running the generator.  With the generator running the problem was still there.  This means that neither the generator nor the outside power was getting to the circuit breaker panel.  And since the wiring was perfect at the breaker panel the problem must be in the changeover switch.

OK, so now I am getting closer to finding the problem.  I now need to get closer to the changeover switch which is on the other side of the basement behind the larger wall. 

To get at the changeover switch I needed to take most everything out of the basement and then remove the large wall.

Now I have some access to the entire guts of the RV

The changeover switch is the black box with the 3 wires going into it near the center of the picture.

Inside the changeover switch.  The wire that pulled out is the center black wire on the left side.  That is the cable coming from the power management box.

Now I have the basement mostly empty and the wall removed.  The switch is next to the furnace with 6 flex heating ducts running directly on and over the cover to the switch.  Luckily there are only 2 screws to remove to get inside the switch.  After getting the cover off I can see the problem right away.  One of the output wires had come out of the switch connection.  It appeared that the 3 output wires were cut with one shorter than the other, the short one is the one coming out of the switch connection.  

In order to get this wire back into the switch I had to remove the other 2 wires and cut them shorter to all be equal in length so I could push them into place and secure them.  This was a pain to do as the wire is a large diameter and lightly stranded making it very stiff and hard to move.  Couple this with the 6 flex heating ducts over the top, it was a real pain to do this but I got it done.

Now, after about 4 hours I have the electrical fixed but I have to put everything back together.  I also need to fix the under slide cable that was coming in contact with the tire.  Just another 2 hours and I was finally done and just in time as it was nearing dark!  Just another day on the road with an RV!

After 5 days and 4 nights we finally arrived in NJ at the Triple Brook Campground near Blairstown on Friday the 19th of October.  We are here for the next 3 nights, the last night, Sunday, the place is closed.  They close for the season on the 21st but they agreed to let us stay the night.  They gave us a nice space in the front in the back row.  It is perfect to show the RV on Sunday.

Our stopover for 2 nights in PA.

It got down to 30F overnight so we had frost on the picnic table and ground this morning.

Sign for the Triple Brook Campground in NJ

We are only here in NJ to show the RV to a prospective buyer on Sunday.  They made an initial offer to which we countered.  They made an offer on the entire rig which included the truck.  With our counter offer they wanted to see the truck and the RV so we set up this appointment for them to see it.   Patty was pretty sure they would buy but me being the pessimistic one wasn’t so sure about that.  We shall see on Sunday!

Saturday we spent the day getting the RV ready to show.  It is a little hard to show an RV that you currently live in, basically because it is packed full of your stuff!  We also had the stuff we had stored at my brother’s house in Indiana that we were taking to our new house in Florida.  That was an extra 6 large bins that we had to put somewhere.  We had already steam cleaned the carpet at our last stop in PA a couple days ago. We also wanted to lessen the clutter in the basement and the closets.

We utilized the under bed storage for most of our closet stuff.  That way the walk-in closet was really a walk-in and you could actually see the second dresser in the back.  This made the under bed storage completely full but it was better to have the closet uncluttered we felt.  As for the extra 6 bins and basement stuff, they went under the RV mostly in the back.  So that took care of the clutter issue.

I washed the windows of the RV as well as the front and rear caps.  These are the things that show the most dirt and we get the most bang for our cleaning effort.  After that I took the truck to a car wash and washed and waxed it.  Now we are ready!

That night on Saturday we got together with my daughter Jennifer and Son-in-Law Christian for dinner.  They live not too far from where we are in Blairstown.  We had a nice dinner at the Walpack Inn after waiting for over 2 hours on a table.  Seems everyone had the same idea to come out on a nice Saturday fall evening for dinner.   The Walpack is only open Friday through Sundays and are closed in the winter.  The restaurant is very secluded in the northwestern section of very rural New Jersey.

We have never seen this place so full!

From l-r is son-in-law Christian, Daughter Jennifer, and Patty
all at the bar waiting for a table.

Our prospective buyers showed up on time at 2 pm on Sunday afternoon.  They first looked at the inside and then we headed outside to check the RV exterior.  On the exterior walk around it became apparent to me that they were not ready to buy yet.  They are also looking at an older 2009 Montana but with a much newer 2013 F350 truck.  Ours is a 2013 Sanibel which is pulled by a 2008 F450.  The Montana and the Sanibel are basically the same size units.  They were still thinking about which they wanted, a newer truck or a newer 5th wheel.  They just were not ready to make the leap at either one at this time.  It sucks for us but it is what it is.

Now we will need to take the rig to Florida and store the Sanibel if we don’t get it sold before we get to Florida over the next week.  Our plan is to leave on Monday and arrive back in Florida over the next weekend depending on how fast we decide to travel.  We are a little over 1200 miles away from our house in Florida here in NJ.

Stay Tuned!