Monday, October 29, 2012

Two minute tip- Towels

Since we have 5 people in our little r.v., towel drying space can be limited, especially since we beach camp quite frequently. And since you just jump out of the shower and quickly dry off, before throwing clothes back on, I think thinner, lighter towels are the way to go. I found these little beauties and just couldn't resist the rainbow colors. They're so cheery! Added bonus is that each family member has their own color (I let them choose at the beginning of each trip) so no shared cooties. haha.
They have worked great so far! So, for rv'ing, don't get those luxurious thick bath towels, look for thin & cheap. See, this post will save you money!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Towanda!!! My first solo outing- Hurkey Creek Campground

Full disclosure, it took 4 years for me to get a semi-decent photo of me driving the RV. On this trip, my daughter could not take it from the back of the RV, and on subsequent trips, my hubby, well...let's just say he tried valiantly.... So anyway, this picture is NOT from this trip, but you get the idea. :)
Last weekend I got the chance to take the r.v. out by myself for the first time. Oh, and when I say "by myself" I mean with my three children. So not really alone...but without my trusty companion, fellow child-wrangler, driver, mechanic, engineer, and guide, otherwise known as my husband.

The hubs and I are both really willing to jump in and work together on things, preferring to both do yard work, or home improvement projects, then jointly tackle the dishes or laundry later, maximizing the amount of time we get to spend with each other. To be honest, I much prefer mowing the lawn to doing laundry, and (weirdly I know) love to paint the house, or do home improvements. But with the birth of our offspring, it gets harder to do all of these things together. We still try to do the jobs as a family, but of course, a two-year old is going to lose interest, and one of us is relegated to playing/entertaining him while the other one finishes the task. All this to say, I am a pretty "hands-on" type of wife, and I have been so excited to get my hands on this little r.v. of ours. Okay, I haven't been so thrilled about cleaning out the tank (which scared me a bit, I must admit), but everything else has been a great learning process for me. There's something empowering about being able to take care of the things you have, and knowing how they work.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Car Seats in an RV?

Before buying our View, my husband and I thought about how we could configure three car seats for all of our children in an r.v. We were very happy to read that the View had four seat belts in the dinette, which were actually bolted down to the floor for safety. Because of this feature, we would be able to safely install all of our seats. The Winnebago View also has anchor points behind the seats for car seat tethers. It was very difficult for us to find information on car seat installations and even seat belt locations, without physically inspecting them, so I decided to show you how we chose to install our seats. Keep in mind, each state has its own safety laws, so make sure you check what the laws are for your state (or the state you are driving in). This is what we have chosen to do for our children's safety, we are offering this information for anyone who is interested, but in no way telling you what to do for your kiddos. If you'd like professional help, you can ask your local police or fire station for help with your installs. They should have certified car seat technicians available and willing to help!

When we first got the r.v., we just placed the car seats in the dinette area to get an idea of how they would be set up.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Goodbye Yosemite

We had a wonderful time in Yosemite, and hope to be able to visit again sometime. As night fell on our last day in the park, our little guy relaxed with a good book.
He loves to snuggle on the first step and read his book, while keeping one eye on the campground outside. I guess he doesn't want to miss anything exciting that might be going on!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Yosemite: Day 6; Hike to Vernal Falls

Our oldest daughter had asked for a "hard hike" so we decided to try the Vernal Falls hike. It began with about a mile bike ride to the trailhead, followed by a 2 mile hike with a 400 foot elevation change. This would be no problem for the adults in our party, but it could be somewhat challenging for our 2 and 4-year old. We would see. The trail was paved, which was kind of hazardous for toddlers, but the kids did great for a while. Our 4-year-old hiked the entire thing without being carried, but our little guy got a shoulder or back-pack ride for most of the trip.
The trail to Vernal Falls

Yosemite: Day 5; Glacier Point and Tunnel View

Our trusty Winnie, taking in the gorgeous view
Glacier Point was on our "must see" list for our visit to Yosemite. We decided to have breakfast in Yosemite Village, and then head out to Glacier Point for the remainder of our day.

Yosemite: Day 4; Biking and breaking out

Morning broke, and our little K was covered in hives. Poor little thing. So we decided to stay around our campground and explore, and bike ride if she felt up to it later.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yosemite Evening 3: Olmsted Point; Dinner al fresco

After two hikes in one day, all of us were happy to get back to the rv and sit down for a bit. And now it was about 5 pm, the time that our kids normally eat dinner. We decided to get on the road, and either stop at a grill we had seen on the way up, or make dinner somewhere along the road home. Before we passed the grill, we asked if anyone was hungry yet. Of course, there was a resounding, "No Way!!" from the back of the vehicle, so we drove on by. 10 minutes later, the kids were so hungry, they were about to chew their own limbs off. Ay yi yi (yes, I find myself saying this a lot!)

As luck would have it, we were just approaching Olmsted Point, a lookout we had seen on the drive up, but drove past, in order to get to Soda Springs in time. We pulled right in to the large parking lot, and looked out over the valley. Wow, what a breathtaking view!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Yosemite: Day 2: Biking around Yosemite Valley

In my opinion, biking around Yosemite Valley is the way to go. There is often a lot of traffic, large buses, and huge (many rental) RV's driving around, making for lots of congestion and lots of wasted time for you. Also, parking is very scarce, and almost impossible for rv's. There are very nice, paved bike paths all around the park. Just make sure you don't ride on trails or dirt paths, as they will ticket you!

There are so many beautiful views, you can easily stop your bike for a fantastic photo whenever you like. Here are some of the photos I took during our ride:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Yosemite: Day 1; Bee Stings, Bike Rides and Baby Deer

So, the big trip to Yosemite is upon us! First the road trip itself. It takes about 8 hours to drive to the park, so we got an early start and left at 6 am. That was perfect for our early risers! They were so excited to go, they all woke happy and ready to hit the road.

We watched stark, desert landscape like this for many hours.

Yosemite trip is on!

 After discussing it at length, and reading all of the information possible, my hubby and I decided to make the trip to Yosemite, despite the recent news of hantavirus outbreaks, including two deaths from the virus. During our previous visit in 2002, we had looked at Curry Village, and the "tent-cabins" they provide for guests. We felt pretty certain that the illnesses were due to the mice nesting within these cabins themselves, and we would be safe staying in our own rv, in a different campground. If you look at the cabins, you can see that they are insulated to provide greater comfort against the elements. As Yosemite staff has substantiated, they have found nests and mice within the insulated walls of these cabins (ew, blah, yuck, disgusting! I hate mice...even if it is nature & all.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Packing for kids


I feel very lucky to have so much storage space in our little Winnie, but it is always a challenge to get everything packed and in order before each trip. This is due in large part to the fact that I have a two-year-old very active baby boy who likes to attempt to give us heart attacks at every moment with his latest adventures. I can't leave him unattended for even a second, or hand soap gets spilled all over the counters, he unscrews the toilet seat and flushes the bolts down, gymnastic feats of epic proportions etc, etc. You get the picture, right? 

So all of my prep work must be done at nap time, or with my little "assistant" who is not really a little helper at all, but an energetic ball of fury, bound on un-doing all of my hard work. That being said, I'm getting more & more efficient at the packing thing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yosemite and the Hantavirus

 I thought my 5 year old son's rat drawing was fitting for  a Hantavirus post. Much more fitting than for   his homework...but I digress.

You may remember my last experience trying to camp in Yosemite. If not, here it is. Well, since that disappointing time in 2002, I have been trying every single year to score campground reservations in the Yosemite Valley for a vacation. Each time, I've been denied. Of course, there is always the first-come first served reservations, but 8 hours is a long time to drive to a "possible" site. Especially with our kids.

So this year, we were really trying to get a week in Yosemite in October. Our eldest has a week vacation from school, and we thought it would be perfect. So, I decided to try for reservations in September, just to practice and fine-tune my reservation skills. At 7:30 am I was up, coffee in hand, reservation screen up, mouse finger pointed...7:59....and 8:00 am, GO!! By some miracle, I got the first spot I tried for. Wait, what?! I got a spot? For September? In Yosemite? YES!! So, my kid's just gonna have to miss some school. This is monumental. I had also sent the reservation link to my brother in the hopes that they could camp with us as well. Again, this was a huge reach, as it is nearly impossible to get a reservation in the park. And my brother is not quite as er...meticulous okay, anal as I am. But about 9:30 or so he called me and told me he had gotten a site too. What?! Awesome. Apparently he had forgotten about it being reservation day until about 8:40 or so, when he remembered, and managed to get a site anyway. Have I mentioned what a terrible time I've had trying to reserve at this place? Maybe it's me. Anyway, I asked what site he got & it sounded way higher than my number. Just to be sure, I checked the campground map. Turns out, our spots are right next to each other. Right next door! Isn't that crazy? We hadn't even tried to get neighboring spots. Just got really, really lucky! I was elated. It looked like my Yosemite luck had changed.

Well, looks can be deceiving. Or dead wrong as the case may be. Now, just weeks before our trip, there are all these stories about two people passing away from the hantavirus, which they contracted in the Yosemite Valley. Yikes!! Very sad for those campers and their families.

Right now, we are still planning on going. We are staying in an r.v., not in the tent cabins, and we're not staying in Curry Village, which is the place where both victims contracted the virus. I have read all about the virus, and will bring Lysol, bleach, and be prepared to do a lot of hand-washing. Still, I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't a little nervous. Just another reason for me to hate rodents. I hope this is not an omen for the rest of our vacation!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bike Riding with three small children

Beautiful view of the overlook on our family bike ride near Mammoth Lakes, California
Because my husband didn't think I was crazy enough, he suggested we get some bikes for our family. Our oldest daughter already had a little bike, and she was getting very good at riding. So good, in fact, that we could barely keep up with her, even if we were running at full speed. Her Dad had resorted to riding her little razor scooter while she zoomed along on her bike. Hilarious to watch, but very sweet. "Big man on a little scooter!"(Tommy Boy, anyone? Big Man in a little coat...okay, nevermind).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Our First Trip-- Silver Strand State Beach: Coronado, California

After my good-natured husband had fully recovered (after a good shower, and a good night's sleep) we began planning our first RV trip in "The Skinny Winnie" as these rv's are sometimes called. We wanted to go somewhere pretty close by, since we weren't totally familiar with our new rig and wanted to be near home in case something should go wrong.

We decided on the Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado, California. I knew there were beachfront spaces there...and how can you go wrong with that?! It was very easy to get reservations, as the campground is not terribly in demand in February. There are no hook-ups or dump stations there, and rv's must be fully-contained in order to camp there.

We arrived on a Friday evening, and pulled in to our space. The spaces there are like large parking spaces in an asphalt lot. Beachfront spaces (like ours) allow your back end to be directly over the sand.
Here is a pic of our spot:

Beautiful spot at Silver Strand State Beach

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Our 2008 Winnebago View J- RV Tour

Here she is, our 2008 Winnebago View J, or as we fondly call her, "Winnie." We love to explore in our little rv, and get out as often as we can. 
We decided to purchase this model for several reasons. First, its diesel engine is dependable and long-lasting (knock wood). Made by Mercedes, these little guys have a great reputation for quality. So we were able to purchase an older model and not worry so much about it falling apart on us. Also, the View consistently gets between 15-17 mpg, making it a very fuel-efficient vehicle. It gets better gas mileage than many passenger vehicles on the road!
Possibly most important to our family, the Winnie is slim and trim (relatively) making it easy for almost any driver. We wanted to get an r.v. that both my husband (who can drive anything) and I would feel comfortable driving. I have even taken her out on a solo trip, and have no qualms about doing so! It's actually really fun to drive. It's also very easy to park and because it is so little (again relatively) it can almost fit into a standard parking space, so parking and camping spots are simple to find.
For those of you curious, here is what some of the interior looks like. The fabric is a little 70's chic, but since we have three (messy, VERY messy) kids, it's almost always covered in protective fabric (read: dropcloths for children) anyway. 
Here's the dinette. We were enjoying Thanksgiving dinner in Sedona, Arizona here. As you can see, it comfortably seats four, so we purchased this little stool which is comfy enough for us, and super-easy and light for storage during our drives.
Our fridge and freezer have been perfect so far. I can always (barely) squeeze in just enough food for our trips. Our longest time out has been for 10 days so far and we made it perfectly. Any longer than about a week, we need to shop and replenish our fresh supplies.
Little vanity sink outside bathroom.
Toilet and shower. It may look tiny to you, but it's a glorious, amazing commodity to me, a mom of three active kids who love to play in dirt or beach sand. It's so nice to let them fully enjoy themselves, knowing they'll be neat and clean at bedtime. Ahhhh....
Our master bed. Very cozy and comfortable. We sleep better in the r.v. than at home. Maybe it's the vacation, but I'm seriously thinking about getting a bed like this for our house. hehe. We've topped it with a memory foam piece purchased on amazon and cut to size. Then use regular sheets and blankets. Perfect!
Our kitchen includes a stove-top, and microwave/convection oven combo unit. It also has a great large sink. 
Just some of the plentiful storage in the View. There is so much well-thought out storage that we always have extra space left after packing. And with five campers, I think that says so much about the Winnie's design. We love it!
The kids love the bunk above the cab. The girls sleep up here normally, but all three of our kids have fit there and slept well on occasion. There is also a TV/DVD player but we need to do some upgrades as the player stopped working right after we got it! Anyway, it's a great feature for the drives, as we can use it to play our own movies on it through our own devices.
 So, that's our tour of the Winnie. Hope you've enjoyed it. We sure love our mini-home away from home, and are very thankful for it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

RV or not an RV? Winnebago View or Bust

So, my husband and I had the RV bug. Well, really we had the camping/outdoors/hit the road/see more scenery/get out of the house/get to hike again bug. And with our three kids we really felt like the easiest and most enjoyable way to do that was to buy an RV. 

As I mentioned, my hubby had been researching them for quite some time now, and had really taken a liking to the Winnebago Views. Of course selecting the right RV is so subjective, but after really evaluating everything, this model seemed to fit our needs best.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Big Sur & Big Changes for us

 In 2010, our family experienced some big changes. We sold our house, and moved to a slightly larger one, and welcomed our third child into the family. Little baby boy L made his appearance in the summertime, and we were thrilled to have a bedroom for him when he arrived. hee hee. Unfortunately, when we moved, we had to give up our little pop-up trailer, as we no longer had room to store it at our new house. Don't worry about "old trusty," she was re-homed with my brother-in-law and his new wife. They are still enjoying the heck out of her.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

El Capitan, San Simeon, and wind storm in Gaviota

So, we had such a great time at El Capitan last time, we wanted to try it again. This time, feeling more confident, armed with our trusty camping book, and better able to navigate the reservation web site, we decided to take another trip there when our youngest (at the time), "K" was a few months old.

We reserved our now favorite site (sorry, I just can't share, some things just must remain sacred). You probably wouldn't like it anyway. I mean, these favorite spots are so subjective. I'm sure you understand, right?
Pretty private space, with a few trees and a view of the ocean behind us. However, this was also the favorite site for an ENORMOUS raccoon who visits us every time we reserve it. He is not easily scared away either. 

Campground Reservation Tips (how not to pummel an agent)

Anyone familiar with camping (especially in California) is probably well-aware of the difficulty acquiring reservations at the popular campgrounds. It can be extremely frustrating to say the least. The first time I tried to reserve a spot in Yosemite, I could not even believe what I was up against. The week before the reservations were going to open for summer camping, the hubs & I had looked through the campgrounds, chosen our favorite one, even picked a site out. We were so excited to get our spot. At 8 a.m. sharp, I had my computer ready, and my mouse-finger clicking. I also had the phone on, dialing the reservation number. I tried online, I tried calling...I felt like pummeling someone when I got off the phone (and computer). The reservations had been completely filled within 6 minutes. INSANE!! Needless to say, I didn't get a site. The customer service representative I spoke with on the phone was completely un-helpful, unhappy, sluggish, and apathetic. He would have been a good candidate for my pummeling, I thought. I felt totally defeated, and didn't know how anyone could possibly get a reservation in this %$@# state. I spoke to many of my friends who had lived in California much longer than we had, and asked for their advice. They brushed me off, saying things like, "Oh yeah, it's a pain. We don't even try." What the heck?! At the same time, I heard lots of people talking about camping trips to Yosemite, so I knew there must be a way. I was determined to find out how to get a site!

The Holy Grail for CA Campsites

After the good fortune (aka pure luck) of finding (aka stumbling upon) the beautiful El Capitan campground, my husband and I mused about the absolute randomness of our campground selection so far. After all, our first camping trip in California had been just north of this little gem, and let's face it, that place was not even close to this one in beauty or enjoyment. We had no idea about the quality of campgrounds here. And that was not for lack of trying. We had purchased the only book we could find about California Campgrounds, we had googled the heck out of the internet, blindly searching for "good campgrounds in California" and everything else we could think of. Of course, we had looked on the state and national park reservation sites, but they were not very descriptive, and didn't have any sort of reviews listed. It was a monumental and daunting task to try to find the really good parks.

Then, we found this: 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beach Camping: El Capitan

We had such a fantastic time at Lake Mary, we just could not wait for our next camping trip. Our neighbors told us about their favorite campground, El Capitan State Park, near Santa Barbara. Ironically, we had been just north of this campground for our first camping experience in California. We were excited to try our hand at beach camping, and we just knew our little girl would love it too.

El Capitan is a very desirable campground, and it's really difficult to get reservations for it. We decided to try our luck in the off season, and booked a site in October. It was beautiful, and though there were other campers there, we had our choice of several premiere sites.

Camping in California; Santa Barbara and Lake Mary

Speaking of camping in's a little complicated. Don't get me wrong. I love California. I think it has some of the most beautiful landscape you could imagine: mountains, oceans, cliffs, beaches, forests, redwood trees, deserts (not my thing, but everyone's different :) Anyway, you get the point. It's a beautiful state. But the red tape, and the crowds, and the traffic, and the tiny campsites, and the lack of privacy, and the bears... it can all be rather daunting when planning a trip. After Yosemite in 2002, we  decided to try our luck on the California State Park Reservation System for our next trip, and found what looked to be a pretty campground just outside of Santa Barbara. At the time, we were tent camping. We had a great time! The campground was "woodsy" and rather private, and close enough to easily drive to Santa Barbara for fun and a pizza night.

In 2006, we were gifted an older model pop-up tent trailer. By this time, our little R was about 18 months old, and a little better in the car. We were getting antsy to try our first camping trip with our daughter.
Our trusty pop-up trailer

A Taste of Camping in California

Prior to having baby R (in 2002), we had attempted to take a trip to Yosemite National Park in California. Clueless and carefree, we drove to Yosemite without reservations. After all, in our native state of Arizona, we never needed a camping reservation. Of course, when we arrived, the campgrounds within the state park were completely full, and we ended up at a campground just outside the south entrance to the park. It was still beautiful, and amazing, and we *almost* had a great time there. You see, we had done some research prior to our visit, to see if our dog would be allowed within the park. The website said pets were allowed only on paved areas in the park. We figured that would be no problem. Unfortunately, there were only a few areas where the dog was allowed, and everywhere we went (within those paved locations) we were approached by staff who reminded us of the rules firmly. It was really frustrating and beyond annoying to be constantly approached, when we were following their rules.

Beautiful scenery within the park

The beginning

As a young(er) couple, my man and I were both working in the corporate world, making good money, and enjoying life. My job as a commercial real estate property manager allowed for wonderful perks like free weekends at exclusive wineries and ski resorts. It was amazing. We spent time driving the curving country roads near Napa, California and explored the rugged beauty of the mountains near Beaver Creek, Colorado. We spontaneously decided to drive up the west coast one evening; rented a convertible and watched the sunset as we cruised with the top down, and the ocean breeze blowing softly around us. It was a fantastic time. We both remember it fondly, even now, 13 years later.

Jeep-ing around Big Bear

Since Big Bear was only a few hours away, we decided to bring the Jeep along with our  RV. This way we'd be able to try out some of the ...