There’s a Storm Coming…

How many of you have changed your plans recently? I know I have. I blogged last month that I would be adding about 20 to 25 new RV campground reviews starting this spring through summer. Well, that’s all changed. I had a plan to drive from southeast Texas to Northern California end of March (ten new stops) and then an additional twelve new stops starting in June through September.

Spring Cancelled Plans

In the last three days, I have been making calls and emailing to cancel all of it — that’s a lot of calls! If you are a full timer rv-er, you know that we are definitely in strange times. Many folks ended up displaced as state campgrounds and facilities starting evicting and closing. I had one sleepless night of panic waiting for the office to open where I am currently. I had been scheduled to leave on March 22 and now everything was up in the air. When I called at 8:30 in the morning the next day, I actually got their very last month-long site in the whole park of over 100 sites. Whew!

Summer Cancelled Plans

So as it stands now, I will be staying put until probably the end of May. After that, I am not sure exactly what I’ll be doing. I had planned to spend the summer in cooler weather at high elevations, including a month-long stay booked in Colorado at 7,300 feet. However, now I’m thinking it might be smarter to stay in warmer climates. Many of the snowbirds will have migrated back to their northern abodes by then although I’m guessing that more will stay than usual this year.

Instead of heading west and north in 2020, I may be headed toward Florida. There won’t be any new RV Reviews until at least June 2020 as I probably won’t want to travel during Memorial weekend. Who knows what the future brings? This is the second summer I’ve had to cancel trip plans due to unforeseen circumstances (last year it was a long-term illness). Who knew a pandemic virus would disrupt our plans?

Take care all you RVers and stay safe as we see what the future holds for us.

Kitty doesn’t mind when we self-quarantine.

Oh Bother!

Requisite chores when you’re full-time

“Oh, bother!” as Pooh would say. People excitedly comment on the amount of freedom I have living full time in a motorhome and traveling but it’s not all a life of leisure. I find there are still a few items of responsibility I must endure and have recently met the challenge. 

One of those items is annual maintenance. What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, annual maintenance when you live full time in your motorhome, have pets, and have no house to go to or friend to stay with can be a little bit of a burden. The other “chore” I recently accomplished after two years of procrastinating is changing my state domicile.

A Class C motorhome requires two types of maintenance and it can be difficult finding just the right shop to do the work for you. A lot of Class A motorhome companies do repairs on their own models and allow customers to stay in their rigs in the parking lot at night. However, for small Class C motorhomes, these places don’t really exist. Some well-meaning folks during phone inquiries recommended a Ford fleet dealer for maintenance on my chassis, which is a Ford E-450. However, most don’t take motorhomes and even if they do, they only service the engine, tires, and brakes, nothing else. So you are left with finding service for the appliances such as fridge and hot water heater, the AC, and anything else that is motorhome related but not truck related. 

My first two years with the motorhome, I still had a house so I would drive to the closest Camping World, sign up for their maintenance package and leave the motorhome. I’m sure they did an adequate job but I never gave them a list of things to check and I should have. The third year, I was on the road so after lots of internet searching, I found a Camping World in Bakersfield that didn’t have horrible reviews and had an Enterprise-rent-a-car nearby and a Motel 6 not too far away. Staying at the Motel 6 in Bakersfield was a little unnerving and I was really relieved to get my rig back.

I had recently decided to spend more time in Texas and particularly the Escapees RV Park in Livingston. While there, I kept hearing great things about West RV and Automotive so I called them about my annual maintenance for 2020. They asked me for a list so I did some research on what was recommended and showed up with the list to make an appointment. The staff there were great from the very beginning. They found some things I wasn’t aware of (very minor repairs) and even relied on my extended warranty for two large repair items, not expecting me to pay first and then get reimbursed. I have already decided to come back here next year this time and have already made reservations at the RV Park.

Now that I had made the decision to stay in Texas at least half the year at various places that I love visiting, like Galveston and Livingston, I thought it’s about time I quit paying California registration. Why do so many people come to Livingston to change over to Texas domicile? First of all, you can’t beat the Escapee mail service. You get a real residence address but they will hold your mail indefinitely.  They will also forward your mail or email you scanned copies of letters so you can keep up while on the road. Secondly, this is the county seat and the Tax assessor’s office, state inspection stations, and the Department of Public Safety (driver’s licenses) are all within a few miles of each other. Thirdly, Texas doesn’t have state taxes so your retirement check isn’t going to be taxed. The three most popular states for full-timers to change domicile are South Dakota, Florida, and Texas.

This is the order to change over your domicile in Texas. If you don’t do it in this order, they’re just going to send you away so why wait in long lines more times than you have to?

1) Get an Escapee’s mailing address and start using it

2) Call your vehicle insurance and change the address to the new Texas address

3) Go to a state inspection station for all your vehicles. Takes about 5 minutes and can cost anywhere from $5 to $7. These are good for one year so you don’t have to try to do it all in one day.

4) Register to vote in Polk County (if you are in Livingston) or register wherever your mailing address is and save the proof of voter registration with your address on it

5) Dig out your birth certificate (must be original) or your unexpired passport. You can no longer get a driver’s license without either of these (even renewing a driver’s license).

6)  Print out your insurance cards

7) Find the titles (pink slips) for all your vehicles. If you are still making payments, I don’t know the procedure for that.

8) Print out the application from the tax assessor’s office and complete for each vehicle before going to the office.

9) Print out the application for a new driver’s license and complete before going in (saves a lot of time and your number will get called faster if you don’t have an appointment)

10) Go to the Tax Assessor’s office to get your vehicle registrations. You have to do this before going for the driver’s license. Get your new plates and tags. Note: they will keep your pink slips but they assured me that new ones will be mailed to me and they will be blue.

11) Go to the Department of Public Safety to get your driver’s license. The one in Livingston only allows ten people in the lobby at a time so if you think it might be busy, make an appointment online. I went on a rainy Wednesday in January at 9:00 a.m. and had to wait about thirty minutes. They will keep your old license (from the other state) and give you a piece of paper to keep in your wallet.

My total fees for motorhome, car, and driver’s license came to about $450.

Once again, I relied on Escapee referrals and found a very easy state inspection place nearby for both the car and the motorhome. I took each vehicle separately on Tuesday. I drove over to the tax assessors that same day and started the paperwork but I had printed out the wrong insurance card so I went home and took care of that. I returned on Wednesday morning about 8:20 a.m.  I was completely done and on my way home with new tags and plates and paper driver’s license by 9:45.

It seemed like a lot of work, partly because I wasn’t sure if I could find my original social security card. I did end up finding it, thank goodness, because I would have to drive to Lufkin (52 miles away) to get a duplicate. For some reason, I was having issues requesting a duplicate online. Then, there’s the whole issue of unhooking the motorhome and driving it somewhere and back. If I don’t force myself to do these things, they would never get done. I don’t like upsetting the status quo if I don’t have to.

Anyway, all is well now until next December when I return to Livingston and schedule my annual maintenance and catch up with all the wonderful friends I’ve made here. Life goes on.

Dellanera RV Park, Galveston Island, TX

Dellanera is a beach front RV Park just west of the busy part of Galveston where the piers and attractions are and is run by the City. I think if I had originally had a site on the west end of the park rather than the east end, I would have been happier and stayed the two months that I booked. As it was, I didn’t love my spot, and they didn’t have anything else, so I cancelled my second month. My initial spot was one over from the public beach parking and right by the main entrance with some condos nearby. I was able to switch my last two weeks to a spot near the center of the park right by the beach boardwalk. I liked this spot so much, I booked the same spot for next November.

Beach front spots are very nice. You can back in right at the top of the dunes and have a great view if you have a back window. The lagoon side is nice too although your back window would be looking out over the lagoon and then the highway (Seawall Blvd). There are also a handful of pull-thru sites in the middle. The park itself seems to be clean and well-maintained and the on-side manager’s trailer is near the front entrance. The pavilion building in the middle of the park has an office, gift shop, and laundry and shower facilities. The laundry is only $1.00 per load for washing and $1.00 for drying. All the machines worked well while I was there and my clothes and towels were always dry after one cycle.

My favorite thing was taking the dogs down to the beach every day. It’s very convenient and relatively people-free this time of year. There aren’t any signs about keeping your dogs on a leash but always use good judgement if you decide to let them run off leash. There are plenty of sunny days in November with periodic rain. And please take bags with you. Nothing worse than finding dog poo while walking on the beach.

Just down the street is a little strip mall with a nice cafe and a nails and massage salon. I scheduled a pedicure and a leg massage while here. Farther into town, you will find a Krogers, a Walmart, many places to eat, and souvenir shops, including the famous Murdochs gift shop which has been there since 1911. It’s fairly easy to leave the RV park, turn on Seawall Blvd and stay on this road for most of your shopping needs. If you turn and head up 61st street from Seawall, you will find a PetSmart and a Target as well.

In town near the cruise ships, there is a self-serve dog wash called Salty Dog Wash. The proprietor was very congenial and even gave me a break on the price. I told her that my big dog takes a long time to dry and she said just stay as long as I need. Farther up Ferry Road is the only off leash dog park in Galveston. It’s really quite nice with four large parks separated by chain link so you never have to worry about being around other dogs that might be aggressive.

I only did four attractions while here but there is a lot more to be had. I drove up to Houston to take a tour of the space center (45 minute drive), I toured the Moody Gardens Rainforest, I took the dogs for a nature walk at the state park, and I took a Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council bird tour. There are also historical houses and museums downtown and a railroad museum. During the summer, there is an amusement pier but I imagine that can get pretty crowded.

You can also camp at the beach at the state park but it won’t re-open following renovations until 2022 and there is a two week limit.

Boardwalk to the beach in the middle of the RV Park
West end of the park with office and laundry on the right.
East end of RV Park
View from my site.
Playing on the beach
My new spot on the right. I was here for 2 weeks and re-booked this spot for next November.
White Ibis sunning on someone’s roof, west end of the island.

Fall/Winter 2019 Update

Dear Followers of Animals Aboard:

You are probably wondering why you haven’t seen any updates. I have been going back to parks to stay that I’ve already reviewed so haven’t been adding to the resources. I will actually have some sightseeing updates in the next 3 weeks and also one new RV Park update. Then, I will not be staying at any new parks until next spring.

Good news — I looked at my tentative plans for 2020 and counted and there are approximately twenty (20!) new RV Parks planned, including five or more new states. So there may not be too many posts until almost April but then I’ll be on the road again.

Hope your holidays and New Year are spectacular. Until we meet again,

Tina, Poppy, Dover, and Oslo

For Sightseeing Posts, check these blogs out (new updates being added frequently)

Big Dogs in Tiny Places — An Essay

I’ve written in the past about my life spent moving a lot and also about gravitating toward tinier places to live, such as shared housing or renting small abodes. Today, as I once again stumbled over my dog as I was trying to make breakfast, I thought, “I’ll bet there are other people who live in tiny houses but have big dogs.”

I’ve mostly had cats throughout my life and, apologies to the feline, but cats are easier and smaller than most dogs. Although we had German Shepherds when I was a youngster and we had one Golden during my marriage who went with the ex, I didn’t get my own big dog until I was 49 years old.  She was born on a friend’s farm where I also happened to be renting a small apartment on that farm.

In 2011, my big dog, a little dog I had rescued that year, and two cats moved into our own house and expand to a whopping 972 square feet with a large backyard. This was huge for me. I was happy to spread the wealth and thought I would start fostering even more animals. Turns out I’m a failure as a foster mom as I ended up keeping two more cats and another little dog. I engineered a doggie door off the dining room and into the garage where the dogs and cats could go in and out to the fenced-in backyard. It never seemed crowded at all to me even though it was a tiny house.

In 2016, after we had been camping with first a large tent and then a camper shell on the back of the truck for many years, I bought a 24′ motorhome. It didn’t seem small to me after what we’d had in the past. Just taking 2 to 6 day camping trips for two years in the motorhome meant that  we only needed to take the stuff we needed for that trip, not everything I owned and the cats stayed home. That all changed in the middle of 2018 when I retired and decided to sell my house. Now that 24′ motorhome was our only place and everything I wanted to keep had to be in it too.

I wasn’t worried about the dogs losing their freedom and their big back yard because the two that were still around were both getting older and I do take a lot of walks and small hikes often. I was a little concerned about the cat (down to one by this time) because he spent his days in the backyard among the gardens and didn’t use an inside litter box very often. But he adjusted beautifully and I think he actually enjoys the coziness in the motorhome with the dogs. But the one thing that did change from using the motorhome for trips versus actually living in this small space was the big dog.

Poppy is now 12 years old and she does spend a good portion of her time sleeping but there just doesn’t seem to be a place for her in the motorhome. I bought one of the smallest models they make, no slides and only 24′ long on the outside. I wanted something that would fit in the driveway and it really did seem like enough room at the time. Let’s just say Poppy has gotten really good at responding to the command “move” and she has learned to walk backwards.

I do think she’s happy being part of our pack but I wonder if she’s comfortable. There is literally no floor space because there was not much to begin with but then I added a large dog ramp so they could get up on the platform bed easily without my assistance. This dog ramp leaves about 10″ of hallway space to the side. Not a lot of room for a 55 pound dog to maneuver.

And she doesn’t really have her own place either. She likes to sleep under the dining room table but whenever I’m using the dining room, she takes exception to my feet touching her, she’ll huff and puff and get up and move somewhere else. I often find her on the dog bed I placed between the driver and passenger seats in the cab although I wonder how she fits exactly. It’s cozy.

Her absolute favorite place though is the bathroom floor. The only problem with that scenario is that I can’t use the toilet or the sink when she’s laying in there. So every time I go to use the bathroom or wash my hands, she has to get up from a sound sleep. A few times I’ve tried to use the bathroom without disturbing her but I feel like I’m an acrobat on a tightrope wire trying to balance around her and not fall over and it doesn’t really work.

There will be more room in the motorhome when she passes but my heart will have a huge empty place. Big dogs can fit in tiny houses.

12 1/2 and going strong
“I’m trying not to be in the way”
“Look! We all fit.”
“Please don’t step on me”
“We’re safe here”
“If I fits, I sits”

Rusk KOA Holiday, Rusk, Texas

This is a KOA Holiday in a really nice area with all pull-thru sites with full hook ups. It was quite chilly while I was here with temperatures dipping down into the low 30s but I can imagine this is a popular spot during the summer. It’s quite expensive at about $49 a night. I did want to spend a couple days away from town though and they are charging “holiday” prices here. There are full size pine trees throughout and some pleasant walking areas.

The K9 Kamp dog park is in a completely shaded area which I’m sure is appreciated during the summer. There are also at least three walking trails on the perimeter of the campground and through the woods. I enjoyed walking through a wooded area behind the store and laundry building that has cabins, tent sites, and even a teepee. The paths were covered with pine needles and it was quite pleasant.

As I drove through the town of Rusk I did see a number of fast food restaurants. The Texas State Railroad Depot is in Rusk and takes you on a historic journey to Palestine, Texas. There were no departures during the week I was here but it looks like a fun attraction. Rusk is in a part of Texas known as the Piney Woods area.

I was in the sun which I appreciated because there was a lot of condensation
Office on right, laundry/shower building in the middles, and pet walk on the left
One teepee among the cabins
Kamp K9
Swimming pool on right, office in middle, playground on left

Texarkana KOA, Texarkana, Texas

I wasn’t quite sure when I checked in that I would like it because my site was right by the front entrance alongside a highway frontage road. Plus, when I checked in, I was the only RV for 3 rows until you get to the longer term people. But it turned out ok and I was here for 2 days. The 3 rows in the front actually did get travelers at night who left in the morning so I was only by myself during part of the day. This KOA is right in the city so be prepared for lots of traffic. I took my little tow car out twice and was a little nervous driving around and missed my turns a few times.

This KOA consists of pull-thru rows in the front for short term stays and then back-ins, patio sites, and mobile homes farther back. However, unlike some RV parks that have permanent residents, this KOA is clean and quiet but be prepared for traffic noise as it sits right by the highway. The permanent sites in the back are quite large and the whole property has many full grown trees, giving it a forest-like setting. I paid $41 per day with my discount.

There is a laundry room and showers building next to a small swimming pool. And the little dog park is behind that. There were plenty of walking opportunities within this property but I did take the dogs out once to a dog park just across the highway. The most interesting thing about this KOA was the art gallery in the office. While the supplies selection is very limited, most of the building consists of an art gallery of cards and lithographs of vintage travel trailers. I enjoyed browsing and bought some holiday cards.

Someone I met at the dog park told me that if you follow the road called Stateline, which is next to the campground, it takes you to the post office and federal building which actually straddles two states. TripAdvisor states that this is the second most photographed post office in the United States. But other than the dog park, I didn’t do any sightseeing while here.

First row alongside the highway

Office and art gallery
Swimming pool and laundry building, with dog park behind the pool

Hot Springs National Park KOA, Hot Springs, Arkansas

I booked 4 days at this KOA so that we could spend some time exploring the national park and sightseeing. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t really cooperative for hiking in the woods and it was too foggy to get good photos from the mountain top but it was still an interesting place. I paid for a pull-thru full hookups and it was $44 for 3 nights and $42 for one night. This KOA has a lot of choices on types of sites with patio sites, very long pull-thrus, shorter pull-thrus, back-ins, cabins, and a tent area. I was really surprised to see the tent area full on Sunday morning as the weather was a little dismal.

I was a hesitant about the narrow windy roads in the campground but they escort you to your site and help you with backing in and parking. All the sites are terraced and this is a multi-level KOA. There were lots of walking opportunities, both around the paved roads and they also have a number of mini-hiking trails with cute names like Dusty’s Shortcut. The park features a duck pond, a 24-hour laundry, a store, a weekend breakfast cafe, a playground, and a Kamp K9 dog park. It seems to be well-run with numerous employees on site at all times. Staff were friendly and accommodating.

This is a very busy KOA and there were people coming in and leaving throughout my stay. By 10:00 p.m., though, it’s very quiet. Be prepared for lots of sounds of RVers leaving early in the morning though. It is near Highway 70 but wasn’t too noisy. I like staying in the woods and this KOA has large trees everywhere. The dogs enjoyed our walks while we stayed here and that’s what counts most for me.

The Hot Springs KOA is 3.3 miles from the free parking garage in Bathhouse Row. This is where you will want to park while you sightsee. The town can get very crowded, even in winter weather. The 3-story Fordyce Visitor’s Center is free to tour and was a bathhouse in the early 1900s. Bath Row Emporium is also a National Park store just down the street and while there, you can sample a free cup of spring water. Most of the establishments along Bathhouse Row are private business and not National Park affiliated.

There are several mountain drives and hiking trails not too far away and you can pick up trail maps at the visitor’s center. There are also several places in town where you can fill up your jugs with either hot or cold spring water, depending on which spring you park at. Maps for these also available at the visitor’s center.

I would not recommend taking an RV into town as the roads are all very windy and narrow. Also, it seems to be busy most of the time and parking would be hard to find. Better to leave your RV at the campground and drive a smaller vehicle into town for sightseeing.

For more details on sightseeing in Hot Springs, click here.

Windy roads.
A tight squeeze getting out with a tow car.
I was in D9
Some back-in sites
Dog park on the left; store on the right
One of numerous mini trails
Duck pond
Terraced pull-thrus.
Free parking garage in town
Town view from West Mountain Drive
Bathhouse Row.

Clinton RV Park, Clinton, Arkansas

Clinton RV Park

This is not a traveler’s RV park but pleasant for two days as I passed through. It’s on Highway 65 south between Branson, Missouri and Little Rock, Arkansas. When I checked in, the lady at the counter was very personable and chatty. However, she didn’t give me a map or say where the dumpster was and it was all very loosey goosey. I asked about check out and she said not to worry about it, leave when I’m ready. I had to go back into the office two more times before I got parked because the layout is a little non-standard and I couldn’t quite figure out where I was supposed to be.

The sites are quite large and although there are no picnic tables, each site has plenty of space for a large rig and a vehicle. The first time was because I thought she said for me to go to site #20 but there was someone there already. I went back and she said just take any of the pull-thru sites. But then I drove around and couldn’t see any pull-thru sites so back to the office. It turns out the pull-thru sites actually have two site numbers on them and hookups on both sides. I think what really happened is that they used to be back to back back-in sites and because the park isn’t full, they are calling them “pull-thru” sites. I finally got settled in. Full hookups for these longer sites are $32 a day and back-in sites are $25, with discounts for weekly rates and monthly rates. Amenities include cable hookup and a small laundry room.

The park is about 2/3 full and many appear to be long-term residents although the park is extremely clean and quiet. There is not a lot of grassy area to walk the dogs but it was ok for 2 days. I don’t think they would be happy for longer though. The dumpster appears to be at another place of business but is just along a short dirt driveway to the right of the RV Park. The laundry only had 2 washers and 1 dryer but it appeared clean and in working order. The website describes a “wooded” area but it is all behind the back-in sites and you would be walking on someone’s site if you took your dogs there. The sites are all concrete pads, all fairly level, but the roads are gravel.

I took my dogs about 2 1/2 miles up the road to a nice little city park that had a paved trail along the creek and under the highway called Archey Fork Park. In addition to the walking trail, there is a small fishing pond, disc golf, an outdoor classroom with butterfly garden, playground, and skate park. There are also numerous fast food places along Highway 65 and a Walmart just up the street. The highway noise was not bad where I was parked at the end of the RV Park but might be noisier if you are closer.

Extra long spaces have hookups on both sides.
Dumpster is behind the white trailer at the far left of picture.
Back in sites in foreground, pull thru behind.
Trail at Archey Ford Park

Rustic Meadows RV Park, Strafford, MO — I do not recommend

Are you treated differently when the management knows that you write reviews? You betcha. I booked this campground for 3 days in between stops and was so disappointed, I called the office the morning of the second day and asked for a refund for the third day, giving them more than 24 hours notice. They refused and before I hung up I mentioned that I write reviews. Not 30 seconds later, I got a call back and they wanted to “make it right” for me. Well, I’d already decided to move and made other arrangements but I did tell them what was bothering me. I mentioned that it was funny they could stick to their 72 hour notice for cancellations but not for other violations I saw and if they needed the $39 more than me, they could keep it. She did agree to refund my last day and listened to what I had to say. They’ve only been open for 3 months but this place just gives off a low-class vibe.

Rustic Meadows is a gravel parking lot next to a full time RV Park called Rustic Woods. It’s a few miles from Springfield and just off Highway 44, close enough that you can hear the traffic but it isn’t terribly annoying. They are pretty full but it seems to be a lot of long term people, some with small kids running around, even though it’s a short term park. The sites are very close together, so much so that when I was parking, I was afraid I was going to run over the next door neighbor’s tow trailer dolly, which was parked sideways. What bothered me the most, and what I spoke to the manager about, were two things — my site had little bits of trash, plastic, burnt wood, food wrappers, etc. all over it and some neighbors had their dogs penned outside, they weren’t home, and the dogs barked nonstop in the afternoon I arrived and then started again at 6:00 a.m. the next morning for about 45 minutes. I am so surprised that no one had said anything. I told the manager that I thought they didn’t allow unsupervised dogs penned outside and she sounded very shocked at what I told her but I’m sure people have been putting up with this for awhile as the ones with the dogs look like long-term people. 

There is one muddy strip of grass nearby to walk the dogs but wasn’t very nice and did have evidence of dog poo that hadn’t been picked up. The dumpster area is very trashy with food scraps, etc. all over the ground. I didn’t look around when I checked in but they apparently have some entertainment in the way of shuffleboard and indoor games, as well as  laundry and showers. I disliked the way the whole property was rocky gravel, making it very hard for the dogs to walk around, even walking to the grassy strip to go potty. All in all, I would not recommend this as a place to stay. If you need a quick overnight near Springfield, I would highly recommend RV Express 66, which is just a few miles down the road.

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