Archive for category RV Upgrades

My Favorite Things

Mesa 2017

Arizona is in full spring bloom!

Jeff and I have been bouncing around the Phoenix area for the last month working multiple RV Shows. We love the mountains and desert here and never lack great trail running or magnificent sunsets. Since the weather is still a bit unpredictable further north, it’s not a bad place to be!

So far in our travels, Arizona and Utah have been our top two favorite states. Both have wide-open space with plenty of BLM to free camp. And both have mountains and rock formations that will knock your socks off.

The beauty is like nothing I’ve seen growing up in the mid-west and there is so much still to see. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to linger here, just to take it all in.

Speaking of favorites, I thought I would write a post on my favorite things that make our RV life easier and more enjoyable on our journeys to some of our favorite places. Living in an RV is an amazing lifestyle, but as always we are challenged on space. So the things we have with us are either multifunctional or compact.

Here are some favorites by category.

Technology

I must confess. I don’t know anything about technology. When Jeff says he wants to go to the Apple Store or Best Buy I want to stick a pencil in my eyeball. (I suspect he feels the same when I want to watch another re-run of Property Brothers).

Wifi boosters, an unlimited data plan, tire monitoring and RV specific GPS. They all make staying safe and connected much more reliable. But for my area of influence, there are three things that help in my day-to-day life as the bookkeeper and CFO in the family.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Portable Scanner

I’ve had this little gem since 2011 and it has worked consistently for 6 years now. I use it to scan receipts for expense reports, legal docs that need to be emailed and just general paperwork that needs to be saved. Its super compact and fits in my office tote and keeps us paperless on the road.

Favorite Things

Fujitsu ScanSnap…isn’t it cute?

Favorite Things

Paper goes in the top and spits it out on the bottom

Canon Pixma iP110 Portable Printer

I just picked up this printer last fall out of frustration. Any time we needed to print something we would make a trip to a local Office Max or Staples, and pay a fee to do it. So I bit the bullet and bought this printer. This guy is compact, wireless and will print in black & white and color. I wish I had bought this sooner to make life a bit easier.

Favorite Things

Portable Canon Printer

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Organization

Office Tote

When we lived in our sticks & bricks home, I had a whole room dedicated to my office. File cabinets, paper shredder, fax, printer, pencil drawer with various paperclips, post-its and rubber bands. I had everything I needed…in abundance. Now I have our lives condensed down to a 15” X 11” X 6” tote. I keep a few files folders, a tray for pens, postage, paperclips and checks. And my scanner tucks neatly into this box. I stuff the box into an overhead cabinet, stack my little printer on it’s lid and pull it out on accounting day.

Mesa 2017

My 15″ X 11″ x 6″ Office

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Office Caddy

Last fall I started a little side hustle doing direct sales for Monat. Thankfully, this line of hair care products (which are amazing by-the-way) does not require me to carry any inventory. But I do keep samples to mail out to potential customers. It doesn’t take up a ton of space, but can be a challenge to keep organized and contained.

I bought this cute metal stand at Home Goods for $29.99. I use the top tray for remotes, pens, fingernail files and such. Then I use the two bottom levels to hold my samples, brochures and mailing supplies. I absolutely love it and it’s adorable too!

DebSpencer.mymonat.com or check out @Monathairtestimonies on Facebook. I love sending out samples.

Mesa 2017

Pretty Office Caddy

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Shoe Rack

Like most RVers, we struggle with what to do with our daily shoes. Specifically our managery of running shoes. After seeing this idea on Pinterest we mounted 2 metal coat hooks from Lowes to the wall just inside our door. With the two racks we can hang 5 pairs of shoes. It worked so well we added another higher up the wall for jackets, hats and running hydration belts.

Mesa 2017

Three pairs of shoes for Jeff; One pair for me…HMMMM!

Shower Caddy

In an RV, anytime you pull up stakes every item in our home has to be put somewhere to prevent it from moving. Including shower supplies. And with my Monat business, I have a lot of products taking up space in my shower. I have two very small shallow shelves that are only capable of holding one bottle of shampoo. We have to remember to put it on the floor when we move.

Another Pinterest idea has worked perfectly. I wedged a shower rod between my shower wall and the vanity medicine cabinet and hung a metal basket via two shower curtain hooks.

Its super sturdy and holds ALL of our shower products. I don’t even have to take it down when we travel.

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Mesa 2017

Happy shower bottles

Catch-all Box

This little box sits on our kitchen counter just inside the door. We throw our sunglasses; spare change, Chap Stick and dog poo bags (empty of course) in it. It keeps our countertop clear and we know just where our things are as we head out the door.

Favorite things

The stuff box

Home

Infinity Woven Vinyl Flooring

During our RV renovation in 2015 we pulled out all the carpeting and replaced it with thick vinyl tile flooring. But on our slide we used Infinity Woven Vinyl Flooring. This product got its start in marine as wall and floor covering and has worked its way into the RV community. It comes in one big sheet and is installed like carpeting. I can mop it and spills come right up. Love the product and its style fit our modern décor.

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Nothing stains this stuff

Fabric Curtains & MCD Shades

RV’s do not have much in the way of modern interior detail. So when we bought our new to us Carriage Domani, we remove the old smelly accordion blinds and replaced them with custom fabric curtains (thanks Mom!) and MCD Shades. Our MCD’s are a dual roller type that has a black solar shade as one roller and a cream-colored blackout shade as the other. MCD’s are EXPENSIVE running about $300/window. I would have never spent $3,000 on ten windows.

Fortunately, I found 9 out of 10 window dimensions at an RV surplus store in White Pigeon, MI…for $25 each. I have one window that I still do not have a MCD shade for, so I just keep the curtains closed on that window. I continue to look for a shade on eBay, but haven’t found one yet.

The reason I love these is that you can block the sun with the solar shade while still seeing out your window. And when we are parked in an urban location with lots of RV Parking lot lights, the black out shades block the light COMPLETELY.

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Custom curtains & valances to give a homey look

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Solar Shades to block the sun while still offering a view

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Black out shades for ultimate privacy

Berkey Water Filter

Jeff and I are not fond of drinking water straight from our holding tanks on the RV. We had a Reverse Osmosis System at home to filter our water. But RO systems are not very conducive to dispersed camping, because they discharge A LOT of water in the process of filtering.

We used to run to Walmart or another drinking water dispensary every other day to fill our two 3 gallon water bottles.

Last year we bought a Berkey gravity fed water filter tank. It’s stainless steel and looks so much more attractive than blue water bottles. We still fill our blue water jugs, but from any tap or from our holding tank. Just pore the water in the top section of the Berkey and let gravity filter the water into the bottom section. It has its own spigot so everything is compact and ready to use.

Filters last for up to two years and the unit requires a good cleaning a couple times a year. We just have to be sure to time our pore so that we don’t overfill the night before we travel so that water doesn’t slosh around and spill.

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Baby Berkey

Dometic CFX-35 portable refrigerator freezer

Full disclosure! Jeff and I work with Dometic. But this CFX portable refrigerator/freezer is awesome. You can set the temperature anywhere from 50F to -7F and it runs off 12V or 110.

We keep ours in the slide trey in the bay of our 5th-wheel. Most of the time it holds sports drinks, water bottles or extra almond milk to free up more space within our RV refrigerator.

It’s also portable, so we can plug it into the back of our truck and store smoothies to drink after a long hike or use it to transport cold groceries on a hot day.

Favorite things

Dometic CFX-35 for extra frig or freezer space

There are lots of other items that we find very useful to our RV lifestyle, but these are just some of my favorites. Everything in an RV has to have a purpose and a place. If something is not useful or used, then we don’t keep them around.

Do you have a favorite item that you can’t live without? Enquiring minds would like to hear about it in the comments below!

Until next time!

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If we move the sofa over a bit I think it will fit!

 

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Continued Migration to the Pacific North West

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Welcome to Track Town USA!

After leaving Bend, Oregon Jeff and I headed west to Eugene so that we could stop into AM Solar.

About a year ago we got most of our RV projects/repairs completed in Elkhart, Indiana and made a dash back to Arkansas to regroup. We had planned on having a month to catch our breath and install our final project, solar, before we headed to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Unfortunately our repairs lingered on in Indiana and we were left with a measly week to complete our final project.

As I mentioned in my last post, Jeff is extremely handy. His single Mom of five kids became a General Contractor in California and raised her kids to know how to “raise a barn” from the ground up. Jeff was certified in solar installation and has installed hundreds of solar water heaters all over California and Arkansas.

 

Installing 4-6 little solar panels on an RV roof would be a breeze!

Oh our plans!

We had a Solar panel that was damaged during shipping and our NorthStar  batteries needed to be picked up 2 hours from home. The week flew by and we only got as far as installing 3 panels on the roof, batteries placed and inverter mounted. No connections were made and we left for ABQ without a functioning system.

Once in ABQ we received our replacement panel. With a little help from our friends, Kuhl Odyssey and Technomadia, we finally got our system up and running.

Over time Jeff has tweaked our system and it has been running beautifully. We got all of our supplies from the highly recommended AM Solar in Eugene/Springfield, OR. Since we were in the neighborhood Jeff wanted a consult just to have them give us the once over.

AM Solar made a few modifications and after $800 our completely functioning system… wasn’t working properly! Darn it!!!

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AM Solar “fixing” our system

We couldn’t have planned a delayed stay in Eugene any better since the Track & Field Olympic trials happened to be going on. We headed over to Track Town, USA to Hayward Stadium. Interesting history…The University of Oregon outgrew their football stadium. Instead of demolishing the old stadium it was retained as a track-specific venue that is held in reverence to those who have competed here.

The day we attended, the women’s Hammer Throw was happening. We learned that this was the first time ever that the hammer throw was being held INSIDE the actual stadium. Normally the event was held off-sight with very little attendance. But this year was different and the Hammer Throw was given its just due. The crowd was still small but we heard that the ladies were feeling honored to finally be having their beloved event inside the stadium.

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Top 3 Olympic Qualifiers..Good Luck in Rio!

Neither Jeff nor I knew anything about Hammer Throw, despite me growing up in Track and Cross Country. We learned that HT is about pure technique of heel-toe foot action with maximum spin in order to hurl the 8.82lb hammer down field.

The top 2 ladies at Olympic Trials competed in Rio where Amber Campbell finished 6th and DeAnna Price finished 8th.

Toutle, Washington

Toutle (too-tle) is a very small town that was located in the devastation zone of Mount St. Helens that erupted in 1980. There are times in your life that you remember certain world events. The eruption of Mount St. Helens was one of those events for me and I remember hearing about the mushroom cloud of ash that re-routed airplanes states away and covered towns as far as Alberta, Canada.

Tootle, WA

Morning run along the Toutle River right from our campground

Jeff had heard about a training bike ride from Toutle to Mount St. Helens, so we stayed at the Harry Gardner City Park in Toutle. This park was destroyed in the 1980 eruption and was never re-opened until 2015. There is a very nice 14-site campground in the park with water and electric hook-ups for $20/night. We were there on a weekend and were one of only four RV’s parked here. We loved this CG on the Toutle River. Unfortunately there was no connectivity what so ever and we had to shorten our stay.

Jeff’s bike ride was cold, rainy and 80 miles of long hard hills and 6,000’ of elevation. Since I wanted to see Mount St. Helens from the Johnson Observatory, I took a drive and met Jeff there.

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Some of the group in front of Mout St Helen

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Before and after photos of Mount St. Helens

What a sight! The drive was stunning and the regrowth of trees were so symmetrical that I was almost dizzy until I reached the blast zone. The devastation is still palatable even after 36 years. I listened to the Ranger talk about that fateful day and learned that 57 people lost their lives, how rivers were rerouted, new lakes formed and the mountain lost about 1,300’ of elevation. Ms. Helen has remained active off and on since then, with her last recorded activity as late as 2008.

Auburn, Washington (Seattle)

We were getting to Seattle a little earlier than planned so I made last minute reservations at the Game Farm Wilderness Park in Auburn WA. This was another gem of a find especially since most RV parks that I spoke with in Seattle were booked up.

There was a wonderful paved trail system that ran through the park and it was also home to the busiest 18-hole frisbee golf course in the state! Over 300 people come here daily to play!

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Beautiful Des Moines, WA Marina

Since we had a lot on our plate for work we didn’t really explore too much of Seattle except to have Sunday brunch with a co-worker of Jeff’s at a marina in Des Moines. It was a beautiful sunny day and we finished our meal with a relaxing walk out on a peer.

Abbotsford & Vancouver, Canada

 Jeff had an intern years ago that was getting his master degree from John Brown University. They hit it off and have stayed in touch since then. He and his wife have been asking us to come for a Canadian visit for a long time, so we purposed to make it happen this summer. The added “bonus” was that the Ironman Whistler was taking place during our stay. Not one to miss a race, Jeff signed up for the half.

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Not sure what Sam was thinking but we were prepared for our boarder crossing!

This was our first boarder crossing in the RV and we were a bit nervous and had braced ourselves for a long wait. We used up most of our produce and got rid of the rest. I had Sam’s medical certificate and our passports ready. We nervously pulled up to an empty boarder crossing where we were asked where we were heading, how long we were staying and if we had any fruit on board. Then we were waved through. Easy peasy!

We spent our first couple nights in our friend’s backyard getting caught up before heading to Whistler for the Half Ironman. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler was spectacular! I’ve never been to Switzerland, but this drive made me think of the Swiss Alps.

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Jeff and Sam relaxing before the big race

Incredible blue water, dramatic mountain views and lush forests. We were on sensory overload for sure! We stayed at the Wonderland RV Park in Squamish, B.C. and made the 30-minute drive to Whistler for the race. It was a great race on a beautiful sunny day in a picturesque setting!

Vancouver

After Whistler we returned to our friends backyard in Abbotsford, BC. We spent time exploring their community, visited mutual friends, tasting some farm-to-table food and just hanging out with their family.

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Another awesome driveway surfing spot!

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Dear friends Dave and Danaya taking us to Harrison Lake for dinner. Truly a delightful evening!

We planned a day trip to Vancouver via a train, water taxi and city buses with 4 kiddos in tow. Our first stop was Grouse Mountain known for the infamous Grouse Grind. This is a 1.8-mile hike, 2800’ elevation gain, and 2,830 stairs at a 30-degree slope to the top. There is a tracking device at the bottom and top of the mountain and you can see how fast people are hiking here.

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After shredding our gluts and hams on “Natures Stairmaster” we took in the Lumberjack show, saw two grizzly bears in captivity and our favorite…the Birds of Flight show at the top of the mountain.

The Birds of Flight featured an Eagle, Falcon and Owl that were released high above the outdoor amphitheater and swooped down over the crowd to gracefully land on designated perches. What a treat to feel and hear the power of their wings as they flew just above our heads. It was interesting and highly entertaining and we would highly recommend this show!

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Giant carved lumberjacks

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Grouse Mountain resident bears

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The beautiful eagle on Grouse Mountain

Funny…the falcon flew off into the surrounding valley and was enjoying its freedom until a wild falcon aggressively went after him. The two tangled and the captive Falcon made a b-line back to the safety of his handler. Poor guy. Out for a leisure stroll around the airways when the big bully showed up!

After we were all sufficiently sunburned we took the sky tram down the mountain where we picked up the city bus. The bus was air-conditioned and super comfy and all eight of us took power naps while we were transported back to downtown Vancouver. We stopped for a late lunch then walked the city a bit before catching a train back to Abbotsford.

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Train ride into Vancouver

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Sky Tram ride down Grouse Mountain

It was a great day full of new adventures with our host family of 6! Our week’s stay flew by and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the states!

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What’s the Hold Up-PART II

 

Rise N Roll

Thinking positive about getting out of here!

I know that the gripping tale of RV modifications in Part I had you sleepless for nights on end until I provided the rest of the story! So before you lose any more sleep, here is the final shop talk of our RV modifications!

Quadra Big Foot leveling jacks

Quadra didn’t have an appointment available for a couple of weeks, so we camped at MorRyde a bit longer, then move to the driveway of some VERY gracious friends.

T-s place

Driveway surfing with very gracious friends

We met our friend Tom a year ago at the Hersey RV Show. Jeff had is bike in our hotel room and just across the hall Tom had his bike in his room. They both noticed each others bikes. Jeff and Tom got to talking and found out that they were both Ironman Triathletes, and an instant bond was formed.

We’ve kept touch in with Tom (who also works in the RV industry) and have made a point to go to dinner whenever we were in Elkhart.

Since we have been in Elkhart for so long Jeff started riding with Tom and his cycling group each morning at 4:50AM. We got to spend a lot of time with Tom, his wife Tera and their 3 girls. It was so fun being a part of their family while driveway surfing. I’m not going to lie…I’m going to miss those girls. I just might have shed a little tear when we left.

We vacated our delightful accommodations in Elkhart and headed over to Quadra in White Pigeon, MI and camped in their parking lot while they installed our leveling system over two days. We thought that Big Foot was just an exaggerated name for their system, but after seeing the plate sized pads of the levels, BIG Foot is no joke.

Big Foot Leveling

It’s a giant saucer perfect for Boondocking in the desert

Bontrager Rv Surplus

White Pigeon is a two stop light town that is home to an amazing RV surplus store called Bontragers. They have axles, thousands of RV windows, RV electric and plumbing parts, lights, windshield wiper blades, appliances, furniture and even the tiniest screw, plug and spring. They even had stuff you didn’t know you needed until you saw it! It’s a very organized flea market feel with great prices.

We found a replacement porch light (the only one it’s kind) for the Domani for $35. We were having a hard time finding it online…and there it was!

My biggest find was the coveted MCD dual roller shades  that every RV’er dreams of owning. We had a quote from MasterTech for $1,800 for ten windows, so pricy that we opted not to get them. I was able to find 9 MCD’s shades out of my 10 windows for $270…TOTAL. The kick is good, SCORE!

Fox RV

Of course, while Quadra was installing our leveling system they informed us that we needed a new underbelly cover. Most RV’s have a covering on the underbelly to prevent water and

Fox RV

Fox RV Mission Statement…they keep their promises

road debre from damage. When Quadra opened up the covering water was dripping out…which meant that it has been compromised.

Quadra recommended driving to Middlebury, IN to have a new covering installed by Fox RV. Of course Fox RV couldn’t get us in until the following week. AND, since we are going to be there we will have them replace our 3 step fold up entry stairs with a 4 step.

Why a 4 step? When we raised the RV with new axles it caused our 3 steps to be raised too high. Plus, the last step was unstable from previous use. The 4 step entry was another bargain find at another RV salvage yard for $65 (reg $299).

Rise N Roll Bakery

Ok. So this was not an RV upgrade, but it was one of the most memorable stops of our trip. This is an Amish bakery with the most amazing pastries we have EVER tasted. After having their famous cinnamon donuts we were speechless. Literally speechless! Pure melt-in-your-mouth gooey dough with just the right amount of sweetness. No wonder the locals call it “Amish Crack”! Instant addiction and I want it bad!

If you ever come to this area you have to make every effort possible to stop a Rise N Roll. Really. YOU. HAVE. TO.

One thing has led to another on our RV project and we have this last appointment to make this week before heading back to St. Louis, then on to Arkansas. By then we will have missed the annual World Championship Squirrel Cook Off ), The Weiner Dog Races and Mule Jumping Competition.

We were supposed to be back in Arkansas for about 4-6 weeks before heading West, but now we are down to less than 2 weeks.

What do we have planned for 2 weeks? ONE MORE PROJECT…I SWEAR!

Solar panels!

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The View From our Window is Finally Changing

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The Domani’s view for 3 1/2 months. Nothing to see here folks!

I love watching HGTV. Having been a General Contractor and dabbling in interior decorating, I have to say that I’m addicted to real estate and rehab shows. House Hunters, Fixer Upper, Addicted To Rehab, Property Brothers are all of my favorites.

I guess that is why Jeff and I felt ok about purchasing an RV project. There is a certain thrill and satisfaction that comes from making something out of nothing. But I have to say, this project has been one of those labors of love that is often seen in rehabbing an old Victorian home along some of our countries most historical main streets.

The old dilapidated, leaning home that people thought was a total tare down is resurrected into a magnificent showpiece, lovingly restored back to its former glory. Usually at a cost that exceeds what new construction would have run all in the name of love.

I think that is where we are at with our Domani.

Carriage Domani

Damage only a mother could love!

We should have probably taken a bulldozer to her the day the roof was pulled off. But she had bones, class and character that couldn’t be overlooked nor found in new construction. And now that we are nearing the end and we have had a chance to spend some quality time with our girl, she has made an impression on our hearts. She has become our labor of love!

After 3 1/2  months of pulling our hair out restoration, it’s all finally coming together. And we couldn’t be more pleased with our home on wheels.

Things I love about the Domani:

Counter space: Every RV’er knows that countertops are a premium in campers. Though still small by housing standards, I have twice as much counter space than before. And, they are solid surface rather than plastic.

Lobster Pot Sink: These sinks are popular in Airstreams. Frankly, I have not heard of too many people liking them. But me? I’m a fan! It’s deep, it’s wide and there is plenty of room to wash a pan without mopping the floor at the same time.

Bedroom Door: It’s the simple things that contribute to happiness. Having a door that closes off the bedroom from your spouse watching howling piano playing puppies on facebook at 4:30AM is one of them.

Open shower & sink, enclosed toilet: We have an open shower/sink area to the bedroom with an enclosed toilet closet. Jeff and I are both vertically endowed, so having a sink area that allows brushing our teeth without hitting our elbows feels palatial.

Carriage Domani

Open bath, elbow room and a bedroom door. What more could a 6′ tall girl ask for!

Closet & Cabinet Space: The Domani is only 32’ long so there was some bedroom closet space sacrificed along the front of the coach that typical 5th wheels have. But I do have a tilt out laundry bin and 24 upper cabinets in the living room/kitchen that more than make up for it.

Full Length Mirror Closet Door: I didn’t know that I wanted a full-length mirror until I had one. It’s very helpful when you are putting on a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops to make sure that the fit is just right…. she says sarcastically!

Carriage Domani

Bedroom with Closets, Cabinets, tilt out laundry and full length mirror

Storage Bay: Holy mother of storage! Jeff and I both could fit in there with enough room to roll around in. I’m thinking of turning it into my office.

Larger Frig: Who doesn’t like more refrigerator space. Our frig now has an extra shelf over our previous frig, which is like going from an apartment sized refrigerator to a side-by-side.

Carriage Domani

Big Sofa. Big Windows!

Big Windows: In the Domani we have lots of big open windows and skylights that let the light flood in. We removed the old smelly accordion blinds and are replacing them with MCD roller shades (more on that in the next post). The views are going to be great once we get this baby out on the road!

Sofa and Two Chairs: Before, we had a jack-knife sofa which was adjacent to the kitchen. So when we wanted to put our feet up they ended up on the kitchen counters. (The multipurpose kitchen sink/ottoman). Now we actually have a sofa long enough to stretch out on and two very comfortable chairs. The space between the sofa and chairs is cavernous so no more footsies with Jeff while making dinner.

What now?

We are disappointed that we did not make it to Iowa for RAGBRAI this year. The repairs just kept us stationary a while longer.

We have now moved on to the MORryde parking lot for a new hitch, basement slide out tray and new axles and will hopefully finish up here end of next week.

Carriage Domani

MORryde’s cozy camping lot

We have our sites set on getting our girl back to Arkansas for a wedding in September before heading out west for the fall and winter.

It’s been a long time coming and we are itching to get on the road. I’ve booked our campsites for the Xscapers Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and the Grand Canyon, both in October, which gives us some sense of hope that we will be rolling out of Elkhart very soon. We’ve kissed the frog and she has turning into princess charming. Now lets ride this thing off into the sunset!

Can’t wait!

Carriage Domani

Finally out of that dang shop & riding off into the sunset MORryde’s parking lot.

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