Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How much does it cost to live in an RV?

5th Wheel RV
One of the main reasons we decided to live in our RV was to save money.  It sounded like such an affordable option - only $670 month for the RV space (garbage, water and sewer included).  In addition to the space rent our only other regular monthly costs were electricity, propane and cable for TV and internet.  We had our own electric meter which was read once per month and the usage rate of the local electric company was 9 cents per kilowatt hour.  So here's a breakdown of our average monthly cost to live in the RV Park:
  • RV Space $670
  • Electricity $40
  • Propane $25
  • Cable TV and Internet $115
    Total:  $850
But then we had some additional expenses we hadn't thought of....
We discovered that we needed a longer RV sewer hose and connector for our sewer hook-up and to keep a downhill flow, a set of sewer hose supports that makes the whole thing resemble a giant caterpillar.

RV Sewer Hose and Sewer Hose Supports
After a couple of weeks we noticed that we had a humidity problem.  The Pacific Northwest doesn't have an arid climate anyway, cooking and heating with propane releases moisture into the air and we had two humans and two dogs living and exhaling moist breath in a small space.  We noticed condensation forming on the walls and mold was starting to grow in places where there wasn't much air circulation.  So we tried to solve the problem inexpensively by purchasing several small Vornado fans that we hung in each area.
Vornado Personal Fan
Alas, the fans helped, but didn't solve the problem to our satisfaction.  We stopped using our propane furnace which releases a lot of humidity into the air and switched to portable electric space heaters.  Yes, we ended up with a lot of Vornado products.  We like them because the fans are quiet, but do a good job of circulating the air.

Vornado Electric Space Heater
We talked to one of our neighbors at the RV park and they recommended getting a dehumidifier. We're not talking one of those inexpensive little convection units that sell for about $60 and are used in the winter when an RV isn't in use.
This is a big unit that can be set to maintain a set humidity percentage and can literally suck almost 9 gallons (70 pints) a day of moisture out of the air.  Just what we needed - another large item to take a hit on our wallet and more of our minimal space.  However, it did do the trick - it is amazing how much it has reduced the humidity.

And finally, since in the past  for the most part, we had only used our trailer for boondocking where there wasn't any TV hook-up, we had never used the ten-year old TV that came with the trailer except for an occasional DVD movie.   Now that we would be living in the RV full time, we wanted cable TV and that old TV wasn't digital. Time to buy a new  32" Visio flat screen TV - ca-ching!

32" Flat Screen TV
So our transition to RV life wasn't quite as simple or inexpensive as we had imagined, but after buying a few extra items, we thought we were all set to be comfortable for the next few months.  Stay tuned....

Camping World

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Living in an RV Park in the Pacific NW - Life in 240 Square Feet

Living the full-time RV Life in the Pacific Northwest

240 Square Feet of  Home Sweet Home

I debated about writing about our new life in an RV Park, but after several months, I decided I couldn't hold back any longer -  I just had to share our adventures and what we've learned.

We sold our 2800 square house and moved temporarily into our 30 foot 5th wheel trailer in an RV Park at an undisclosed location in the Pacific Northwest. Yep, that is two humans and 2 fluffy, hairy, active, neurotic border collies all living together under one rubber-coated roof in 240 square feet. Although thankful that we have that roof over our heads, it has been adjustment to live full-time in a space that is smaller than the master bedroom in our former home.

RV Kitchen

So I guess the first question you may ask is, why?  Trust me, we've been asked.  I'm fairly certain some of our friends and relatives suspect we've lost our minds, if they hadn't already figured that out long ago!

RV Dining Table/Office with His and Hers Computers

Here is why we are now full-time RVers:
  1. We needed to sell our house to use the proceeds to start building our retirement home on our acreage in Pend Oreille County, Washington.  (I'm sure next year there will be numerous blog entries about backwoods life.)  We put our house on the market in the summer because we didn't know how long it would take to sell.  It sold in less than a week and we needed to find a a place to live before the deal closed less than a month later.
  2. Since we didn't want to start building our new home until spring we needed a place to live for six to eight months.  We considered renting a house or apartment.  Not a good idea because  landlords want a one year lease.   Plus we have two dogs which severely limited our options.  Having pets increases the damage deposit and non-refundable cleaning fees.
  3. By mixing together 2 parts frugality, 2 parts optimism, 1 part desperation and half a brain we came up with the idea of simply moving into an RV park with our 2004 Fifth Wheel that we use for camping. 

RV Closet and Dresser for Two - where do I hang a dress?

It all sounded so simple and easy.  We sold a lot of our stuff and put the rest into storage, keeping just the clothes that we regularly wear every week. We looked at several RV Parks and discovered that many were full and had waiting lists.  Others either wouldn't accept more than one dog or dogs over 50 pounds. (Thank God we don't have pitbulls or rottweilers or we probably wouldn't have never found any RV Park to take us.)

RV Bedroom with A Border Collie or Two on the Bed

We finally found a nice RV park that had an opening.  We filled out our application and found out we needed to include our driver's license and social security numbers for a background checks to be done on both of us.  We had no problem with that since we pay our bills and neither of us has so much as a an overdue library book. (ok, they might find court records from a few messy divorces, but nothing criminal or illegal).  It was also reassuring to assume that others living in the park would have been similarly investigated making it unlikely that we'd be living next door to a convicted serial murderer.
RV Bathroom

A week or so after submitting our application, I got a call from the RV Park Manager.  She told me there was one little problem, but it could probably be resolved.  The RV Park doesn't accept long-term guests (anyone staying more than a couple of weeks) with RVs more than 10 years old without special approval.  In 2014 our 2004 5th wheel was, as she put it, "right on the cusp" of being too old. She asked if I would email a recent date-stamped photo so she could see what it looked like.  I assume this was to prove that it wouldn't be an eyesore.  I later learned that denying long-term guest applications of people with an older RV is common practice in RV parks and is called "aging out".

Our 2004 Thor Jazz 5th Wheel - an eyesore?
Thankfully my husband was diligent about keeping our 5th Wheel in excellent condition, so our application was accepted.  Who knew an RV park would be so exclusive?  Just one of many things I've learned.

After we moved in, it was obvious that we have one of the smallest and least luxurious RVs in the park.  We have only one slide-out and most of our neighbors have three on one side and one or two more on the other side for a total of four or five.

RV with 3 slide-outs on One Side
 To say that this is an adventure is an understatement.  Stay tuned for more installments.

Camping World

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Dog Mountain Farm to Table Cafe - Carnation, WA

Dog Mountain Farm to Table Cafe - Carnation, Washington
I ordinarily don't do restaurant reviews, but I was motivated to write one after a meal I had this weekend. After a short hike on the nearby Snoqualmie River Trail with some friends, we naturally wanted to have a bite to eat.  I won't speak for my friends, but one of my main motivations for hiking is to burn off calories so I can eat!  We decided to stop at the Dog Mountain Farm to Table Cafe.  As you can tell from the outside, it is a converted old gas station including the antique gas pumps and has outdoor seating both in front and in the back making it a dog-friendly place to enjoy a meal on a sunny day.
Fresh Produce Stand Year-round
Before entering, we checked out the fresh organic produce, some of it grown right at Dog Mountain Farm.  The produce stand is open year round, so some of the produce by necessity is not local during the winter months.
Wild Honey and Gourmet Jellies and Jam for Sale
 After stepping inside, there is an area with wild honey, gourmet jams and jellies, a freezer with poultry raised on the farm and other tasty food items available for sale.
Dog Mountain Farm to Table Cafe Menu
 Since it was a weekend day around noon, we could choose from both the brunch and lunch menus.  With so many yummy sounding dishes to choose from, it took me awhile to decide what to order. Meals can be ordered to eat at the cafe or for take-out.
Specials at the Dog Mountain Cafe
 Adding to my indecisiveness, I had to consider the daily specials!  Orders are taken at the counter and your meal is served to your place on the long farm-style tables. You can gather up produce, jams, honey, bakery, dairy and take-home meals and pay for everything as you leave.
Farm Fresh Eggs, Locally-made Cheeses and other Goodies
 In addition to the produce outside there are fresh eggs from the farm, local cheeses and other goods in a refrigerator for sale.
Bakery Goods at Dog Mountain Farm Cafe
 And of course, don't forget the bakery.  On the day we visited the dessert selections included pecan pie, German apple cake (both gluten-free and regular gluten recipes), rosemary lemon scones and maple walnut muffins with cream cheese frosting.
Healthy Benedict at Dog Mountain Farm Cafe
I decided to order the Healthy Benedict and it was delicious!  Grilled sweet potato slices topped with greens, perfectly poached eggs drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  Yum!  As you can see the presentation was lovely with garnishes of colorful cherry tomatoes and fresh fruit.   If you are in the Carnation area and looking for place to eat lunch or brunch with local organic ingredients, check out the Dog Mountain Farm to Table Cafe.Dog Mountain Farms offers four course farm dinners and culinary classes.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Starting 2015 with Alki Beach Walk

Alki Beach Seattle - January 1, 2015
Nothing like starting out 2015 right with a walk on a gorgeous sunny New Year's Day morning at Alki Beach in West Seattle.   Here is the Google map. We parked along the street near Me-Kwa-Mooks park at about 10 am and started walking down the Charles Richey Viewpoint sidewalk.

People and Dogs Walking near Alki Beach in Seattle
Considering that it was New Year's Day, the area was surprisingly crowded with lots of people walking their dogs.

Alki Point Lighthouse
For lighthouse enthusiasts, there is a peek-a-boo glimpse of the Alki Point Lighthouse.  Unfortunately it is not open for visitors or tours even if it had not been a holiday.

Constellation Park and Marine Reserve Sculpture
The Constellation Park and Marine Reserve is part of a complex of connected parks along the Alki Beach area.  A sculpture depicting a tide pool with local marine species and a plaque commemorates its establishment in 1999.
 Canis Major Constellation in the sidewalk at Constellation Park
Why is Constellation Park named Constellation Park?  For about a half mile there are artworks that create diagrams of a couple of dozen constellations imbedded in the sidewalk along with a plaque with the name of each one - a great way to learn an astronomy lesson while taking a walk.  I couldn't resist posing my border collies for a photo op on the Canis Major Constellation (below).

Canis lupus familiaris and Canis Major
Along the beach walk there are several interpretive signs concerning Harbor Seals, in particular about protecting the young pups from harassment by people or dogs.  The young seals like to rest on the beach while their mothers feed.  Well-intentioned, but uninformed people often made the mistake of assuming the pups were orphaned and would try to "rescue" them.  The signs help to educate about the habits of harbor seals and encourage people to leave the seal pups alone.

Harbor Seal Sign at Alki Beach Seattle
Birding along Alki Beach in winter is always interesting and full of surprises.  You never know what species you might see.  I spotted this pair of beautiful Harlequin ducks on a rock a few yards off shore.

Harlequin Ducks at Alki Beach, Seattle

.Another of the pleasures of Alki is watching the marine traffic including the regular trips of the Washington State Ferries.

A Washington State Ferry Cruises Across Puget Sound
 Alki has so many random, unique features like this miniature Statue of Liberty. 
The Statue of Liberty at Alki Beach

The view of the Seattle downtown area and the Space Needle from Alki offers the perspective of what those on an approaching ship see as they enter Elliot Bay.
The View of the Space Needle from Alki Beach