RV Options

For those who followed our move from Illinois to Texas, you know that we lived in our RV full-time while waiting for our house in Illinois to sell.  The Class A RV we had, while great for travel was not great for full-time living.


As a result, we traded it in on a large 5th wheel.

We purchased the 5th wheel knowing we would be living in it for 1 or more years.  After all, we had a house to sell back in Illinois and the housing market back there wasn’t very good at all.  It didn’t matter that we didn’t have a truck to tow it with, because we would be living in it, not traveling with it.  So we made the purchase and arrangements to have it delivered to our space at the RV park.

We had hired a couple of people to do some work on our house back in Illinois before putting it on the market and the purchase of the 5th wheel was complete when our realtor was finally able to list our house.  Three days later we got the call that someone had put in an offer on the house.  It was a good offer that we accepted and we found ourselves in the position of now owning a 5th wheel with the option of being able to purchase a sticks and bricks home in Texas.

They say hindsight it 20/20 and in this case, it may have made a bit more sense to wait until after our house was listed before purchasing a different RV.  However, we all make decisions based on the information we have on hand and our information lead us to believe our house really would not sell quickly and certainly not as quickly as it did.

We lived in the 5th wheel for about 5 1/2 months before closing on our house here in Texas and after getting some warranty work done, we moved her to a storage facility.  There she sits, unused 😦

Now that we are feeling settled in our new home, hubby and I have begun having conversation about what we do with her.  It doesn’t make sense to make payments on something we are unable to use.  We could go out and buy a truck to pull her with, but she takes a pretty good-sized truck and neither hubby or I want to drive that big of a truck around on a regular basis.  Plus, we’ll likely be adding a couple foster kids to our household in the not too distant future.  Putting six people in the cab of a truck, while doable, isn’t a great idea in our book.  I really don’t like the idea of a child in the front seat and that would be our only option.

So, we nixed the idea of buying a truck to keep the 5th wheel and decided to hit the Dallas RV Show over the weekend in an effort to make a decision on an RV.

We left the RV show without making a decision.  At least not a final decision.

After looking at some Class C’s and a couple of Class A’s, we decided that a travel trailer probably made the most sense.  Maybe something we can tow with our Suburban.  Now it’s a matter of determining exactly how much our Suburban can pull.  Or will it make more sense to get a heavy-duty van that can more easily pull a travel trailer?  A van would certainly be more comfortable for two adults, four kids and three dogs, but we’re just not sure what would be best at this point.  At least we can begin looking into all of this and will hopefully find something that works well for our family so we can get back into camping.  After all, unlike Illinois, camping in Texas is a year-round event and we should take advantage of that.  Plus, camping helps fill my travel bug 🙂





Beautiful Weekend

Labor Day!  The end of summer and beginning of autumn.

We headed out late Friday afternoon for a campground near our home.  It was our first time camping there and it was HOT!!!  It felt like we were in mid-summer heat, but we toughed it out and spent a lot of time outside and even built fires in the evenings.  Camping without a campfire just doesn’t feel right no matter the temperature 🙂

One evening, Lili and I put FS2 in the stroller and took a walk around the campground.  As we walked by the lake, I stopped to enjoy this beautiful view.


They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I don’t often behold beauty in Central IL, but this sunset was certainly beautiful to me.

I hope all of you had a beautiful weekend!

Another Camping Weekend

We headed back to Fox Ridge outside Charleston, IL.

We’ve visited some nice campgrounds this year, but Fox Ridge may be my favorite so far.

It’s a wooded state park and all the campsites are separated by trees, shrubs, vines and other foliage. It’s quiet, peaceful and beautiful.

The girls and I left the guys at the RV and went on a short hike to enjoy more of the park.










We hope to go back to Fox Ridge in October before the end of camping season.   Cool days, cooler nights, colorful leaves and warm fires.  Can’t wait!

Trying Out Campgrounds

Since returning from our trip to North Carolina, we’ve been able to check out some other campgrounds.

Like Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground at Pine Lakes.

It has a nice lake for fishing and swimming, including water inflatables.  The swimming pool was the highlight for us though.  Of the campgrounds we’ve visited so far, it was by far the nicest.

The playground has obviously been updated and was a hit with the kids, as was the jumping pillow.

The roads thru the campground are in desperate need of work.  They are very uneven with tons of ruts and potholes.  The campsites, while nice, are narrow which makes it difficult for larger RV’s.  We had to ask the neighbor across the road to move his truck so we could get into our space and he had to move again so we could get out.  Not convenient for anyone.  However, the spaces have nice shade, with picnic tables and fire pits.


Also, it’s a hike to get to the office/store.  Since they didn’t offer delivery of any supplies, having some form of transportation to carry needed supplies back to the campsite should be considered by anyone staying there.  Unless you get one of the pull-thru sites near the entrance.

Our space was a short walk to the dog park, which was a nice treat for our dogs


and the large grassy area behind our campsite is nice for playing Frisbee, catch, or giving kids a place to run off some energy.


We introduced the girls to Jiffy Pop.

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I highly recommended having fun glow sticks on hand.  They are quite entertaining before turning in for the night.

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Jellystone at Pine Lakes will stay on our list of places to camp in the future

Last weekend we headed to the Richmond, IN KOA.  We were invited by a fellow Guat adoptive family who were going to be there with a camping group.  Unfortunately, the other family had to cancel due to some significant storm damage to their RV during a previous camping trip.  Since we want to check out different locations, we kept our reservation and headed east.

We had read reviews of the campground before the trip and found the #1 complaint was the noise from I-70.

Yes, you could certainly hear the traffic on the Interstate, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as we had anticipated.  While it was part of the background noise, it wasn’t distracting for us.  Unless, you were playing miniature golf.  The little golf course is at the campground entrance and when hubby and the girls returned from their game, I was informed that they needed to yell so they could hear each other over the traffic noise.  Still, they had fun.

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The campsites were nice and most were pull-thrus, which I love.


The pool at the campground was small, but in the opinion of my children, any pool that is usable is a good pool.

There is a pond for fishing and a big sand pit for the kids to play in.  However, the majority of the time they spent playing at the playground.  It was a short walk and we could easily see them from our campsite.

While we wouldn’t specifically make a drive to stay at the Richmond KOA, we would certainly return with a group or as a stop-over.


Georgette and the Great Southeast Adventure – Part 3

On Day 3 of our adventure we ate breakfast, dressed cool for hot weather and headed out for a day at Carowinds theme park.

We had taken Lili and Naomi to Disneyland several years ago, but being so young, Naomi remembers nothing of the trip and Lili has only vague memories.  This would be their first memorable theme park visit and we were all looking forward to the day ahead.

The park was not far at all from the campground.  For a matter-of-fact, we had a view of the park from our camp space.


However, the entrance was just over a mile away.  Instead of walking, we took advantage of the shuttle service offered to those staying at the campground.

What I didn’t realize about Carowinds until shortly before our visit there, is the fact it is built on the North Carolina and South Carolina state lines.  So as we walked into the park, we stepped one foot in North Carolina and one foot in South Carolina.



Staying at the campground also allowed us to enter the park 30 minutes prior to opening to the general public.  This allowed hubby an opportunity to ride the Fury 325.


For a matter-of-fact, when entering the park, you walk under this roller coaster and after watching it, I was absolutely convinced that I would NOT be on the Fury 325 at any point during our visit.

If you want to get a better idea of what this roller coaster is like, feel free to watch this . . . .

We had a thrilling morning at the park.


Lili got to experience her first big roller coaster ride.


We took a break for some Dippin Dots.


Enjoyed some rides in Planet Snoopy.


And with the heat index in the 100’s, we decided to head back to the campground for a cool down, some lunch and naps before heading back to the park for an evening of more rides and souvenirs.


As we returned to the campground, Georgette awaited us with refreshing showers and soft beds for the night.

It was a good day!!!


Georgette and the Great Southeast Adventure – Part 1

I had a wonderful plan in place.

First, I would take a lot of pictures along the way.  Then, after the kids were in bed, I would post about each day’s adventure.

It really was a wonderful plan, but I took far fewer photos than I had hoped and none of the campgrounds had great Wi-Fi.

For now, Georgette now sits in the driveway, recovering from her Great Southeast Adventure.  I’ve spent the week getting laundry done and preparing for our weekend away.  This time a closer-to-home adventure, but I wanted to at least share Day 1 of Georgette’s Great Southeast Adventure with you.  After all, I’m sure you’ve all been checking in daily hoping to read the exciting story 🙂

Wait no more . . . . .

We were loading the last of our supplies shortly before 6 a.m. and by 6:15 the kids were buckled in their seats and the dogs were in their travel crates when hubby took his place behind the wheel.  He turned the key and Georgette’s engine began to purr.  She doesn’t have a quiet, gentle purr.  Instead, she purrs loudly letting us know she’s ready to travel.  Hubby raised the levelers while I did a final walk-around to make sure all basement compartments were closed and locked, then made my way to the end of the driveway.  My job was to make sure there were no vehicles coming and then direct hubby out into the street.

With Georgette safely backed out of the driveway, I took my place in the passenger seat and we headed toward the highway.   This is when we discovered a problem.

Georgette’s generator wouldn’t start.

Georgette has air-conditioning in the cab, but it’s not enough to cool the living quarters and that is where the kids and dogs were riding.  If they were going to stay cool on the trip, we needed generator power while on the road and we didn’t have that.  Had Georgette let us down so early in the trip?  Since we would be traveling thru 90+ degree temperature, this truly was a problem that needed to be solved.  We had to make a stop to fill the fridge and that would give hubby a chance to check the fuses.  This would be an easy fix and if it didn’t solve the problem, we weren’t sure what we would do.

While I quickly wheeled the cart thru the grocery store picking up fruits, veggies and lunch food for the road, hubby was checking fuses and trying to get the generator running.

I returned, opened Georgette’s door only to discover her generator still wasn’t working.  What would we do?

Obviously, the next step was pulling out the Owner’s Manual.  Within a few seconds I discovered the problem wasn’t Georgette or her generator.  It was inquisitive FS2 who had turned a switch to the Off position when we weren’t looking.  Once it was turned back on, the generator started right up and we made our way to the Interstate and headed east.

We drove for a few hours looking at field after field of corn and soybeans.  Farms, towns and small cities were scattered about, but overall, it was a view we saw every time we left our small town for any destination within the Central Illinois area.

Finally, we got to Indianapolis and Georgette took us in a southward direction to Kentucky.  Finally, a change of scenery.  The flatlands were replaced with hills, which got bigger and bigger the further south we travelled.  The corn and soybeans fields disappeared and were replaced with rocks and trees.  Suddenly, our trip was much more visually appealing and we enjoyed looking out over the beautiful landscape.


Georgette had been used to driving over the flatlands of Illinois and we didn’t know how she would handle the hills.  She revved her engine and pulled her way up each hill then cruised down the other side.  Any concerns we had disappeared as she tacked each hill beautifully.

By dinnertime, we were pulling into our camp space at the Renfro Valley KOA.  The kids were excited to get out and burn off some energy in the pool.  I also realized just how nice it was to have Georgette.  It took us (primarily hubby) just a few minutes to level her, plug-in the power, get us hooked up to water and put out the slides.  Since our clothes were already in drawers and closets, there was no need to unload suitcases and cart them to a hotel room for the night.  We were soon dressed into our swimsuits and making our way to the pool for a splashing good time.

After the pool, we got something to eat and then took the kids to the playground for a little while before we all settled in for a good’s night sleep.  After all, we had another full day of travel ahead and we needed rest.


Experiences or Things?

A topic of conversation in our house has been downsizing.  Getting rid of all the ‘stuff’.  Minimizing and living on less.  Experiencing life instead of just living a mundane day-to-day existence.

Part of the reason we bought Georgette was to experience life thru travel.  Camping in different places on weekends or taking week-long trips instead of spending so much time at home.  Being out enjoying life and spending less of our money on more ‘stuff’.

Apparently, there is science that backs the importance of spending our money on experiences and Jay Cassano wrote an article on the science of why people should spend their money on experiences instead of things.

Take a moment to read the article and then let me know what you think.  Things or experiences?  Which are more important?

The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things

You don’t have infinite money. Spend it on stuff that research says makes you happy.

Most people are in the pursuit of happiness. There are economists who think happiness is the best indicator of the health of a society. We know that money can make you happier, though after your basic needs are met, it doesn’t make you that much happier. But one of the biggest questions is how to allocate our money, which is (for most of us) a limited resource.

There’s a very logical assumption that most people make when spending their money: that because a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation. According to recent research, it turns out that assumption is completely wrong.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

German skydiver via Shutterstock

So rather than buying the latest iPhone or a new BMW, Gilovich suggests you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences like going to art exhibits, doing outdoor activities, learning a new skill, or traveling.

Gilovich’s findings are the synthesis of psychological studies conducted by him and others into the Easterlin paradox, which found that money buys happiness, but only up to a point. How adaptation affects happiness, for instance, was measured in a study that asked people to self-report their happiness with major material and experiential purchases. Initially, their happiness with those purchases was ranked about the same. But over time, people’s satisfaction with the things they bought went down, whereas their satisfaction with experiences they spent money on went up.

It’s counterintuitive that something like a physical object that you can keep for a long time doesn’t keep you as happy as long as a once-and-done experience does. Ironically, the fact that a material thing is ever present works against it, making it easier to adapt to. It fades into the background and becomes part of the new normal. But while the happiness from material purchases diminishes over time, experiences become an ingrained part of our identity.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

One study conducted by Gilovich even showed that if people have an experience they say negatively impacted their happiness, once they have the chance to talk about it, their assessment of that experience goes up. Gilovich attributes this to the fact that something that might have been stressful or scary in the past can become a funny story to tell at a party or be looked back on as an invaluable character-building experience.

Another reason is that shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption. You’re much more likely to feel connected to someone you took a vacation with in Bogotá than someone who also happens to have bought a 4K TV.

Greg Brave via Shutterstock

“We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”

And even if someone wasn’t with you when you had a particular experience, you’re much more likely to bond over both having hiked the Appalachian Trail or seeing the same show than you are over both owning Fitbits.

You’re also much less prone to negatively compare your own experiences to someone else’s than you would with material purchases. One study conducted by researchers Ryan Howell and Graham Hill found that it’s easier to feature-compare material goods (how many carats is your ring? how fast is your laptop’s CPU?) than experiences. And since it’s easier to compare, people do so.

“The tendency of keeping up with the Joneses tends to be more pronounced for material goods than for experiential purchases,” says Gilovich. “It certainly bothers us if we’re on a vacation and see people staying in a better hotel or flying first class. But it doesn’t produce as much envy as when we’re outgunned on material goods.”

Gilovich’s research has implications for individuals who want to maximize their happiness return on their financial investments, for employers who want to have a happier workforce, and policy-makers who want to have a happy citizenry.

“By shifting the investments that societies make and the policies they pursue, they can steer large populations to the kinds of experiential pursuits that promote greater happiness,” write Gilovich and his coauthor, Amit Kumar, in their recent article in the academic journal Experimental Social Psychology.

If society takes their research to heart, it should mean not only a shift in how individuals spend their discretionary income, but also place an emphasis on employers giving paid vacation and governments taking care of recreational spaces.

“As a society, shouldn’t we be making experiences easier for people to have?” asks Gilovich.

[Top Photo: Justin Lewis/Getty Images]

Jay Cassano

Jay previously worked as a foreign correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey and still writes about the Middle East. He currently co-edits the Turkey section for Jadaliyya, an independent website providing analysis on the Middle East and North Africa. A former Drupal developer, he’d love to chat with you about the politics of software and/or the software of politics.  http://www.fastcompany.com/user/jay-cassano

Camping Before the Rains

Georgette took us on our second camping adventure.  This time we headed to Clinton Lake and spent two nights enjoying nature and our home on wheels.

Nature brought us something we weren’t expecting – Cicadas.  According to my research, this is Brood XXIII, which emerge on a 13 year cycle.  There were so many that we needed to speak a little louder to be heard over all their singing.  They sound would build as it got later into the morning and throughout the afternoon.  By dinnertime, they had quieted down considerably, but were still flying from tree-to-tree, at times seeming to fall from the sky.  Naomi and FS1 were not at all fond of these singing, flying insects.  And when I say not fond of them, I mean one landed on Naomi’s leg while we were eating and she immediately began shaking and screaming for someone to get it off her.  Then she spent the rest of the weekend with her legs up on me or the picnic table bench attempting to avoid having another one attack her leg.  FS1 wasn’t much better, but he did get to the point of flicking them off the picnic table.  However, he could not walk around our campsite without his eyes fixed on the ground to make sure he wasn’t coming into contact with any of them.  FS2 was absolutely fascinated with them and would watch them carefully with a big smile on his face.  Apparently though, cicadas must know that little fingers coming at them is DANGER because as he reached out to touch one, ever to slowly, it flew away.  For the rest of us, they were an interesting annoyance, but they should only be around for a short time and then gone for many years thereafter.  Overall, dealing with them on one camping trip wasn’t that big of a deal and I’m sure we will talk about the cicada camping trip for years to come.


Our dogs, Jada, Jagger and Zoey are becoming quite the camper dogs.  I’ve been very pleasantly pleased with their behavior.  They quietly hang out at the campsite and are pretty well-behaved on walks.  Every once in a while Zoey one of them would begin to bark, but would quickly realize that barking at the campground is against the rules.  Apparently, some dogs didn’t get the campground etiquette memo 🙂  I hope their good manners continue on our future camping trips.


Hubby and the girls were able to do a little fishing on our trip.  They managed to bring in a few keepers and during the couple of hours they were at the lake, it was Naomi – 0, hubby – 1 and Lili – 2.  Lili is turning into quit the little fishergirl.

For me, the highlight of camping was cooking breakfast on my cast iron griddle over an open fire.  Somehow, eggs and bacon taste better while camping 🙂

Getting away, spending time outside, the smell of campfires in the air, and sitting back with my legs propped up under the trees, just relaxing (while occasionally flicking a cicada off my leg) was enough to make me forget that I wasn’t miles and miles and miles away from home.

We packed up and left the campground late morning, a bit worried about the weather forecast.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to deal with any rain until we had been home a couple of hours.  Watching the weather is important, unless you want to be setting up or breaking down camp in the rain.

Our weekend trip brought some new discoveries and we now have more warranty items that need to be taken care of.  Georgette will head back to the shop for another visit.  This is just part of new RV ownership.

We are also beginning to make a list of things we want to change/add.  Like closet organizers to give us better utilization of our limited storage space.  More containers for food storage, which allows for better utilization of limited cupboard space.

I’m sure you see the theme.  We still have unused cabinets, so there is room for more “stuff”, but we’re trying to avoid taking more than we absolutely need and we want to utilize the space we have in the most organized way possible.  A place for everything and everything in its place is the way to go.  Someday we’ll get there.  I hope!!!

Day Camping

Last weekend we went on our first camping trip in Georgette.  This weekend we’ll head out on camping trip number two and next week, Lili will head out on her first week-long day camp trip.

I’m a little envious and somewhat nervous about her venturing out on this camping adventure.  She is going to Art and Science in the Woods, hosted by the Sun Foundation.  She will spend the week on her major, “All About Birds” and each afternoon she will learn something different from Native American art and culture to drawing and sculpting.  It really is the perfect fit for her.  Being out in nature while learning art and science, but it’s also the first time she is spending hours each day for five days out learning and exploring without me.

She won’t be totally amongst strangers since 5 other kids from our homeschool group will be there.  One will be with her each day learning about birds and am quite sure she will leave camp having made several new friends along the way.

She’ll have a great time while I spend the week playing chauffeur and hearing all she has learned each day.

On Friday though, we will head out to pick her up, but this time we get to stick around to see what the kids have done all week.  It’s an opportunity for all of us to learn and experience a little Art and Science in the Woods.

Here’s to great camping experiences for all of us over the next 8 days.


A Camping We Will Go

A camping we will go

Hi ho the dairy-o a camping we will go.

Or should I say a camping we went.

On Saturday, we packed up Georgette and headed to Fox Ridge State Park just outside Charleston, IL where our oldest son lives.  He has autism and depending on how he’s doing on the day we visit him, he may or may not be in the mood for public appearances.  Having Georgette offers us the opportunity to bring him out to the campground for visits and we can either stay inside, hang around the campsite or take a walk.  It provides him some consistency when we visit and for him, that a good thing.   I’m happy to say that he was impressed with Georgette and enjoyed the visit.

This was also our first official camping trip with Georgette and thanks to Mother Nature, we broke her in good.

When we arrived, the sun was shining and the kids were more than happy to run off and explore the playground.  Within 30 minutes or so, the sun disappeared and the clouds began to role in.  Before long, our beautiful sunshiny day was replaced by a severe thunderstorm.  Buckets of rain fell from the sky, accompanied by plenty of thunder and lightning.  The kids sat inside coloring and eventually decided they wanted to watch a movie (and yes, I’m aware that there are those that don’t feel it’s camping if you are able to watch a movie at the campground).  I happen to have a couple of kids who are very afraid of storms, so a movie was a very nice distraction.

I’m also happy to report that Georgette handled the storm beautifully.  At one point the power at the campground went out, which meant Georgette lost power.  In that moment, I was so happy that we had a surge guard hard-wired in.  The power went out a second time this morning and everything is still working fine.

Although the weekend wasn’t a complete wash-out, the sun never came back out to see us.  That didn’t stop the kids from running out and playing when the rain wasn’t falling from the sky.  That quickly made some new friends at the campground, including this guy.


He (or maybe she), was an exciting discovery.


And apparently he liked Lili.


One camping trip under our belts and we learned a lot, which will only make our future camping trips that much better.

I also want to add that even if our son didn’t live in Charleston, we would definitely return to Fox Ridge for camping.  It is a beautiful state park, with a well-kept, clean campground.  The camping spots are level and surrounded by trees.  There are hiking trails (although we didn’t get a chance to check them out) and the roads are great for those who like to get in some bike riding.  In the center of the first loop of camping spots, is a playground.  There are little trails cut thru the trees and vegetation at each camping space that leads to the playground.  The kids really enjoyed

I look forward to our next trip to Fox Ridge and hopefully we’ll see more of Mr. Golden Sun.