Welcome

The CoolRVers are actually a couple of retirees, Judy and Luke Rinehimer and our 5 year old German Shepherd Dog, Miss Shady Lady. We are "extended-time" travelers with a home in Cool, California. Thanks for following along with us as we travel North America in our "rolling condo", enjoying the RV lifestyle. Your comments are always welcomed.



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Monday, May 30, 2011

Heading for the Border

Driving through Oregon and Washington on I-5 and surrounding freeways were not the most scenic of routes. We did snap a couple of shots that represent what we saw:

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This place reminded us that Washington is know for its apples.  Unfortunately, we never saw an orchard.

 

 

How about this relic?  When was the last time you actually saw a “working” telephone in a booth.  It even had a current telephone directory! This booth was in an I-5 Rest Area with even a lot for RVs separate from the trucks and cars.   While I had not been looking up geocaches in our travels, I did do a look all around.

 

IMG_3047Luke driving through Seattle.

Our plan for getting through Washington State over a holiday weekend backfired.  We thought if we stopped at a military FamCamp we could snag a couple of sites and stay into the weekend without having to deal with those folks who only get to camp on holidays.  Wrong.  Frank King, our traveling partner, tried calling multiple military camps in the Tacoma & Seattle areas only to learn we could not get in.  Back to the Elks Lodge RV Parking Guide…

We found open sites at the Puyallup Lodge, but they were on wet grass with more rain expected.  While we didn’t sink, we thought one night there was enough.  The crazy looking pole out our front window was interesting. On closer inspection we discovered it was a warning siren in case the Mt. Rainier Volcano decided to erupt.  We all thought it funny that the instructions were to go to higher ground.  As Frank said, “isn’t that where Mt. Rainier is?”

 

A call ahead to the Mount Vernon Elks, just 50 miles to our border crossing, did find us two spots to rest for the weekend.  A day off from driving in rainy, urban areas is something we needed.  This lodge was convenient to the freewaWA Mount Vernon Elksy, shopping, and fuel.  The Lodge was closed while we were there so didn’t get to check it out.  Most of the rigs in the lot were long-term residents, with only a few spaces for transients. 

We were advised to fuel up before leaving the USA so we both took on diesel at the local Safeway – $4.16 with our grocery card .03/gal. discount.  (Prices between Mt. Vernon and the border ranged from $4.27 to $4.39,)  Who would have thought we would be celebrating these prices!  We understand the Canadians cross the border constantly for their fuel.

Besides a stop at Walmart, we used our Sunday to shop for new rain pants for Luke. (We actually had purchased a rain suit before leaving home, but discovered the Men’s Medium he thought he was buying turned out to be a Woman’s Small.  Ooops!  Wrong merchandise on the wrong hanger.) 

He found what he needed at Sportsman’s Warehouse where we also got to claim our wildlife photos of the day:

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We are not hunters, but I guess if you were, these guys lining every wall of the place would inspire you to run out and buy all the gear you would need to claim your own trophy collection.  We hope to collect our wildlife the digital way.

Monday was our travel day into British Columbia.  You can read about that in our next blog.

NEXT:  Border to Cache Creek

Boomer Fixes on the Road

Boomer Banner - 1For our non-RVing friends, “Boomers” are members of a sub-group within the Escapees RV Club.  They are very much our social network and on-the-road family.  When we are “in the neighborhood,” you can almost always count on an invitation to meet for a get-together, meal out, and even a place to park your RV. 

[Jargon lesson: large gatherings of Boomers are called “boomerangs,” while smaller gatherings are called “mini ‘rangs”.  To carry the nickname identification a little further, in January, the Boomers gather for an annual boomerang in the Quartzsite, Arizona desert on a portion of BLM that is lovingly called “Boomerville”.]

So, when we announced our route through Oregon and Washington en route to Alaska, the emails lit up with offers.  Unfortunately, for this trip, we have been too focused on getting across the border and haven’t been able to get our full-blown “Boomer Fix”.

Boomers Bill Joyce and Diane Melde offered to meet us in Bill and DianeEugene while they were having their motorhome serviced in the area.  Our paths probably crossed on I-5 on Wednesday, but the rainy day drive pushed us beyond and we tucked in for the night at the Escapees RV Park in Sutherlin, OR.

Ed and Hazel MazurowskiOur Thursday overnight stop at the Kelso Elks did allow us to meet up with Boomers Ed and Hazel Mazurowski.   (A photo of their rig parked between our rig and the Kings appeared in our previous blog.)  We did get a chance to get caught up since we last saw them in Lake Havasu City and Apache Junction last year.

Rinehimers & GruellesA health issue, however, kept Boomers Dianne and Frank Gruelle from joining us for dinner.  The Gruelles home-base in Portland and we met them for dinner on a previous visit to the area.  Next time….

IMAG0290While not Boomers, we also had Monaco RVing friends Merriann and Jeff Martin offer parking accommodations at their home in Hoodsport, OR. We saw them at their winter place in Desert Hot Springs back in January and again in April, but we had to skip them this trip. Sorry guys.

Centralia, Roy-Kathy EmoryWe also had an offer to stay in Olympia, WA with Boomers Kathy and Roy Emory.  We stopped at their place a couple of years ago and apparently had left a steak knife behind at a “mini-rang” they hosted for 10 Boomers.  We’ll have to collect that knife down the road.

Heading north we had planned to stay at the Fort Lewis FamCamp and to take a driving break where we might have been able to schedule a “mini-rang” with other Boomers in the area.  The park was full for the Memorial Day weekend so we decided to keep the wheels rolling.  We had also hoped to make a day trip to our visit our t & Howard-1former neighbors, Howard and Janet Pelton, who now reside in East Wenatchee, WA.  They were our RVing role models. Now 87, they have lived in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for more than a decade.  This photo shows them sitting in their “backyard” with the Kenai River behind them.  They have put us in touch with close AK friends we hope to connect with in the coming weeks.  They still RV and we may see them down the road, yet.

Our final Boomer offer for a parking space in front of their home in Brier, WA came from Vicky and Terry Webb. We have clip_image002previously graced the streets of their neighborhood and taken them up on their offer to baby-sit our dog Star while we played tourist in the Seattle area.  (BTW, they are now considered Star’s grandparents, having spoiled her on more than one occasion.) This trip, however, didn’t work out.  We will see them again in Albuquerque in October for the Balloons and Boomers Boomerang we are hosting. (The Webbs have previously hosted in ABQ, too.)

Thanks to everyone mentioned for your offers of accommodations and ‘rangs as we passed through your neighborhoods.  (Sorry, also for some of the dated photos from our files.) 

Tomorrow we will cross into British Columbia and the next phase of our Alaska adventure will continue.

Next:  Heading for the Border

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Trip Continues

Thursday was another driving day that took us I-5 from the Escapees’ Timber Valley Park in Sutherlin, Oregon, around Portland on I-205, then back on I-5 to the Kelso Elks Lodge.
As RVers will tell you, there are driving days intended to get you from Point A to Point B and sometimes those days can be calm, scenic and uneventful. Today’s drive was wet, involved lots of traffic, and required the driver’s full attention.
Then there is Moi, sitting in the co-pilot's chair with laptop running off our Aircard-equipped router.  I had multiple internet screens opened while I checked out Facebook, Blogs, my emails, and as the co-TripCheck Logo--CLICK to return to Road | Weather entry page.pilot and navigator, I was also busy following the live traffic cams and local weather radar.  Now, fully informed, I could report back with confidence to Luke that we could expect heavy showers just about the time we hit Portland and, not surprisingly, the traffic would be be slowing, the trucks would all be in x-lane, and little cars would be cutting in and out trying not to get stuck behind RVs. [I said you would not be surprised!]
Then it hit me…  maybe I could see OUR rig on the live traffic cameras!!!!   I realized that IF I could see us, then I would only have a second or so to Right-Click on the image and then scroll down to “Save Picture As…” in the pop-up menu that would appear.  It took me a couple of tries but…
TA DA… That’s our Itasca Horizon just making the curve…

Rinehmer Live Cam on 205

I was also able to actually get Frank and Gloria King’s Montana 5th wheel in the same location before I got our picture. You can see us back a ways in the next shot.)

Kings Live Cam on 205

Now, is that COOL, or what?  They don’t call us the CoolRVers for nothing!

I was still gloating over my live cam photos when we pulled into the Kelso, WA Elks Lodge.  WA Kelso Lodge 1482We were going to meet up with Boomer friends, Ed and Hazel Mazurowski, who had just arrived in the area to visit family.  The weather was still wet but we pulled in on either side of their rig for an extended happy hour and then dinner at the local Red Lobster.


NEXT:  Boomer Fixes on the Road

The Alaska Trip Has Begun

After much planning, shopping, and more medical check-ups than either of us had wanted, we got the okay to travel. Started packing the clothes and non-perishables on Monday night, and on Tuesday morning moved the motorhome from its storage space to a flat area where we could level it up, open the slides for closet access, and turned on the refrigerator.  “Star” and her bed got to get in last.

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With full tanks (water, diesel, and propane) we logged our starting mileage – 33,398.5 -- IMG_3009from our Silverleaf and finally got on the road about 2 hours later than planned.  Our traveling friends, Gloria and Frank King, left on time so they had quite a wait for us at our rendezvous rest area just above Red Bluff. We caravanned to the Redding Elks Lodge where we enjoyed two spaces with a picnic table.  The Kings provided Happy Hour snacks and then chili with our salad to complete the dinner.  Chatted until almost 10 pm and then retreated to finish stowing the “stuff” that just got tossed in before departure.

The rains started overnight and, with an eye on Weather Underground radar maps, we knew we would have a wet day ahead of us.  IMG_3015Oh, did I mention SNOW, too?

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After a couple or rest stops we used Gas Buddy on my Droid smartphone to check out diesel prices along our route.  We thought we found diesel at Seven Feathers Casino truck stop for $3.99 – NOT. After the PUC taxes it was $4.29 – the same price we paid when we started with close to home in Penryn, CA.

Speaking of trucks, we had forgotten that Oregon IMG_3031permits “triples”.  With all the up and down grades of Southern Oregon, the truck traffic has really dominated I-5.  The good news is that  I-5 through Oregon is like a piece of silk compared to I-5 through California’s Central Valley.

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WILDLIFE REPORT:

We have been following a number of Alaska travel blogs and most are posting their “wildlife” statistics. I guess I’ll make that a feature of this blog, too:

(Do I get to count the pre-trip day: 1 peacock strutting along Interstate 80 in Rocklin?)

Day 1:  None

Day 2:  IMAG0407

  • 4 squirrels and two black birds fighting over something in the parking lot at the Manzanita Rest Area.  The birds won. 
  • Mickey Mouse strapped to the back of a red Jeep;

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  • And then there was the 10’ tall metal cow sculpture alone in the middle of a field. Sorry no photo. 

We arrived at the SKP Timber Valley Park in Sutherlin, OR just before closing and got two adjoining sites at the top of the hill.

Today was Frank King’s 70th birthday and we celebrated at a local Italian restaurant. Fun dinner, good food, and even desserts.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FRANK!

NEXT:  The Trip Continues…

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“You’re just going to Alaska, and not climbing Mount Kilimanjaro…”

Doing homework for a big trip not only means reading through all the bags of literature and reference materials one has collected [see our last blog], it also means applying what we have learned. 

Pre-Alaska travel planning has involved checking the expiration dates on our passports, getting Canadian Vehicle Insurance Cards, making sure our dog Star has the proper International Health Certificate, and lowering the glass deductible on our vehicles just in case one of those infamous AK rocks should find our beautiful $$$$ panoramic windshield.  I have bookmarked an assortment of web pages on what you can or cannot bring into Canada, or more restrictively, what you can or cannot bring back through the USA border crossings.

Then there are creatures to worry about. We DO hope to see lots of wildlife, but we have no current plans to hike the back woods in search of Grizzlies (although they were the mascot of our daughter’s high school).  That means we are not going to buy bear spray, Mace, or even wasp spray to keep the big guys away.  And, since we are not gun owners, we won’t be declaring any firearms crossing into Canada.mosquito baby

But, what about mosquitos?  Aren’t they the national bird of prey in the far North?  Skeeters love me to death – my death in terms of swarming any piece of exposed skin that they may decide to feast upon. 

mosquito toes

So now it was serious shopping time!!!   REI, Sports Chalet, Big 5 Sports, and even WalMart carry a wide selectionTherma Cell of choices to do battle with skeeters.  Hmm, how much Deet is too much?  Can I carry a waist clip deterrent?  Bug Candles?  Zappers? ThermaCell Repellant?  Oh, and don’t forget the Columbia bug repellent line of clothing?  (Sorry, I may hate skeeters, but I’m too cheap to spend $80-$100 on a bug repellant blouse.)

And, finally, what’s the weather going to be like.  Yes, Alaska does have a summer and, after more homework, I was able to print out the Weather Underground temperature and rainfall averages for a number stops along our planned itinerary. Even though we saw temps in the 60s-70s, surely we must need WARM jackets if we were heading to Alaska.   Should we buy “water repellant” or “water resistant”?  Waist length with hood? Fleece liners?  Back to the internet, Facebook and the RVer bulletin boards and blogs for more research.

Then the best comment of all came from our good Boomer friend, Sarah Shong:  “You’re just going to Alaska, and not climbing Mount Kilimanjaro…”

Duh, light bulbs going off.  I checked my closet and discovered I already had a “good” all-weather jacket, found my golf rain suit, and we both had a couple of pairs of long-johns and ski caps, if needed. Luke picked-up a rain suit for those glacier sightseeing tours, and a trip to Wally World solved my skeeter repellent needs.

Time to load it all up and hit the road.  Thank you, Sarah.

 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Doing Our Homework

If you have read my previous posts you have discovered that we are “lifelong learners” and that I am a former Public Information Officer, Journalism/Communications Professor, and I’m anal….

Since retiring in 2004 we have also become “rally rats” where going to seminars and socializing with other RVers often influences our travel destinations.  We have attended 5 Escapee Club Escapades, 3 Gypsy Journal Gatherings, 2 FMCA Western Regional Rallies, 2 Winnebago Grand National Rallies, 1 Monaco Coming Home Rally and even a Freightliner Chassis weekend clinic.  As Escapee Boomers we have attended many “Boomerville” fire-pit sessions and, of course, sat around Happy Hours and evening bonfires learning everything we could about the RV lifestyle – both the technical stuff and the travel side of roaming the country.

We are NOT full-timers (some would call us “extended” or “long-timers) on the road.  Our “Winter Trip” normally takes us to various locations in Southern California and Arizona January through mid-April.   We return home to Northern California to do the various family fixes, health appointments, and prepare our residential property for fire season [we live in a designated wildland fire risk area and must pass inspection annually to keep the proper “fire safe” 100’ clearances].

Come late-May, however, we get hitch-itch and then we are off exploring until November.  We are home for the holidays, get that family fix again, and then we head out the first of the year to do it all again.

This year the big trip will start with a jaunt up to Alaska for 2-3 months and then back down into the lower-48 for the Boomers Black Hills ‘Rang in SD, Escapade in Gillette, WY and then down through Colorado and into New Mexico where we will host 40 Boomer rigs at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

So it has been homework time.

Our best resources have been RVers who have been there, done that!  And where best to find those experiences than on the Escapee Discussion Forum and among our fellow Boomers. [For our non-RVing readers, the “Boomers” are a subgroup within the parent Escapees RV Club.  While we belong to a number of RV Clubs and Escapee chapters and groups, we identify most with the very active Boomers.  “It is not an age thing, but a state of mind.”]

Back in November I started a thread in the SKP Discussion Travel thread Alaska – 2011 asking for hints and recommendations. There have been over 100 responses and many folks who have gone before have posted many other discussion threads and/or forwarded their own blogs and travel journals. There have been a similar responses from the Boomers Website and the Boomers Yahoo BBB.

Spending January down in Quartszite, AZ  gave us the opportunity to collect still more recommendations and LOTS of literature. 

I’ve been called a “Bag Lady” more than a few times after attending a conference or an RV rally.  Give me “stuff” and I’ll have a cloth bag (I’m trying to think “green”) that then gets toted back to the motorhome.  Q was no IMG_2999disappointment for gathering “research” materials.  Each of the Canadian Provinces and the Alaska Tourist Bureaus had well-stocked booths at the “Big Tent” during the annual RV Show.  Welcoming staff were eager to fill my bags with glossy brochures to entice us to stay a few extra days in their part of the world.  [Staying with our weight-conscious rule of new things into the rig means old things out of the rig, I had to sort through all my 2010 “bags” to compensate for the new load.  Here’s hoping I didn’t screw up the rig’s weight balance!]

Boomerville also provided an opportunity for Traveling Alaska talks around the firepit and an evening slide show on a fly-in/rental trip to AK.

The most consistent advice we got was: IMG_3003IMG_3002

 

 

 

 

 (1) Get Mike and Terry Church’s Alaska Camping and their Pacific Northwest books since we would be leaving from California,

(2)  Order the The Milepost 2011 Edition -- the bible of what to see and do along the way,  and

(3)  Get the 2011 TourSaver Coupon Book which includes two-for-one deals that clearly pays for itself in just one or two uses..

DONE!

      DONE!

            DONE!

 

NEXT: “You’re just going to Alaska and not climbing Mount Kilimanjaro…”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

RVs We Have Owned

I spend a lot of time online participating in RV-related forums.  I’m often surprised at how many people jump right into the RV lifestyle without any prior experience.  They have a dream and, surprisingly, most are making it happen!  Congratulations and I wish you all safe travels.

For us, however, our story has evolved over 42 years and 12 different RVs.  You might call us “lifelong learners”, but getting there sure has been a lot of fun!

Neither one of us had been campers growing up. So once we decided that we wanted to explore our local forests, cook and eat in the great outdoors, and sleep in a tent, we thought we had discovered living life to the fullest.  NOT.   I think that bubble burst the first night when we tried to change a very messy diaper by flashlight in a rented military canvas tent.

1st camping trip001     1st camping trip - eating002

We all obviously survived and quickly came to the conclusion that maybe having a bit more creature comforts would fit our style better.  Bring on the Porta-Potty, home-built beds, air mattresses, and a roof over our head.  Now we would be camping in luxury!

Our RVing friends will understand this statement:  “You should buy your third RV first.”  We didn’t.  We were still working and knew it would be quite awhile before we could afford a “real” RV, but we knew we wanted to be “campers”.  So we began our camping days with a 1963 GMC Carry-all truck, a mini pick-up truck and shell, and then a home-built van conversion.  Each time we upgraded we thought we were set for a life of adventure on the road.

Green Carry-All 003    Green Carry-All  beds004   Toyota with Shell005

Then we saw a 21’ American Clipper Class C motorhome with a real kitchen, bathroom, beds, AND a TV.  Had to have it!!!  That RV lasted a few years until our move to Cool American Clipper front drivers side view where, with a new home and yard work, life demanded a full size pick-up truck. So, why not sell the Class C and get a 11’ Aristocrat Cab-over Camper…. and then it was a Class B Cobra bubble van we called “The Ambulance”, followed by another 21’ Clipper.  You get the idea: we were still learning.

When I retired in 2004, we knew RVing would be our next passion so that required more research and learning.  While I was shopping online for a new, 2004 24’ rear kitchen Holiday Rambler Atlantis Class C with a slide, Luke found a very clean used 1996 22’ Itasca Spirit Class C (no slide).  Okay, we’ll give it a try.  NOT.  One trip with his mom, our German Shepherd, and all our “stuff” made us realize it wasn’t going to work.  Back to 110_1031buying the Atlantis.  1-Atlantis 24RBS

 

 

 
But after a 4-month cross-country trip, even the extra closets and slide couldn’t out weigh the disadvantages of not having a bedroom, personal space, and storage.

Did I mention we were lifelong learners?  If we really wanted to be on the road a lot, we were going to need something bigger yet.  The next logical step would be a Class A motorhome; but how could we ever drive something so big? Our “ah ha” moment came when we realized that the width of the Class C body and the Class A body were the same.  You drive, stay in yourPalm Desert - 005 own lane, and the rest follows.  A 2006 Monaco Monarch gas rig would be our ticket.  Well, at least for the next two years.  You see, we were still attending RV shows, visiting sales lots, and reading all those glossy RV magazines and brochures.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of those fancy diesel pushers with a front kitchen and a living area where the TV was actually at eye level?  Yep, found a new 2007 Itasca Horizon 40TD “repo” on our dealer’s lot and drove it home on Dec. 22, 2008. Merry Christmas, Happy Anniversary, and Happy Birthday… for the next 20 years.

Did I mention “buy your third RV first”?  So, who’s counting.  We may have been lifelong (slow) learners, fickled over what type of RV would work best for us, and, just maybe, a little addicted to RV shopping, we are very happy with our current rig.  (No, I’m not going to write “for now”.) 

There is another saying in the RV world:  “There is no perfect RV”.  It may have taken us a long time to learn this, but we have been IMAG0076having fun along the way.  We’ve put about 33,000 miles on the Horizon over the last two years, with a lot more miles to come. The wheels on our rig are about to start rolling North to Alaska and there will be lots to see out the windows of that big ol’ motorhome we call our “Condo on Wheels”. 

Stay with us as I use this blog to chronicle our travels and comment about the RV lifestyle.

NEXT:  “Doing Our Homework”

Monday, May 16, 2011

IN THE BEGINNING...

“In the beginning…”   
Well, isn’t that how a story should begin?  Since this is the first installment of the blog we are calling “CoolRVers On the Road”, I thought it would be appropriate to write something that tells you who the CoolRVers are and fills in the gaps from our first RVing adventures 42 years ago to our upcoming trip north to Alaska (and beyond). 
First of all, the “COOL” part of our name comes from living in a small community actually called Cool, California.  We moved to Cool in 1979 and learned that the annual Founders Day Celebration was to honor the town’s namesake, Aaron Cool, a Gold Rush era traveling preacher.  It seems the area had been known as Cave Valley, but when it came time to get its first US Post Office, that name was already taken.  Legend has it that Rev. Aaron Cool was in town at the time and the local town folks asked if they could honor the fine gentleman by naming the town after him.  Thus, Cool, California got its first post office in 1885 (and later became Zip Code 95614). 

The rural area has about 4,000 residents and we live within a gated development called “Auburn Lake Trails” that got its start in 1970.  (BTW, there is NO Auburn Lake – but that’s another story sometime.)  http://www.sierranevadageotourism.org/content/cool,-california/sie519B2A48F9E3FDEDD
Our home, with 2000 feet of decking, sits atop one of the highest hills in the area, overlooking the American River Canyon with a 360-degree view where you literally can see a 100+ miles in any direction.

We have spectacular sunsets. Looking towards Sacramento.

Some say Cool is the pot of gold at the end of our wonderful rainbows.
 
Who says we don't have all our ducks in a row.  Too bad they missed the cross walk.

Deer live a protected life and love to visit yards and the golf course.

Not all creatures are welcomed. Rattler on the dog's pillow in the garage.
     The “RVers” part of our name goes back to our courtin’ days.  In 1968-69, Luke was going to college, just starting his post-Air Force DoD career at McClellan AFB, and living in a bachelor apartment in Sacramento.  I was going to college at San Jose State and it would be at least two years before we would wed.  To save money, Luke purchased a 22’ Terry Travel Trailer and had it moved into an old, somewhat-dingy, mobile home park.  To pull it he purchased a 1963 GMC Suburban.  While it served him well as a place to sleep and study, it wasn’t very mobile for him.  In fact, I think it only made one trip – July 20th, 1969 – a weekend trip to the “Valley of the Moon” near Napa, CA.  The day is truly memorable because that was the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon! 

The GMC Suburban, however, did become our first true traveling “rig”. The back seat was eliminated and made way for home-built twin beds, a porta-potty, a Coleman stove, two 5-gal. plastic water jugs, and a K-mart dorm-style storage trunk for our panty.  It took us from California to Pennsylvania via the Trans-Canadian Highway and back along I-80 later that summer so Judy could meet the Rinehimer family.  Guess things worked out because we were married in December, 1970 and have been RVing ever since in some form of a vehicle. 
Up next:  “RVs in Our Life”