New Zealand

This post has nothing to do with RV’s or genealogy, but it does have to do with retirement and bucket lists!  I have wanted to visit New Zealand ever since I first heard about its incredible natural beauty when I was in college.

Lake Matheson, New Zealand
Lake Matheson, New Zealand

As with many things in life, time and money were barriers.   A trip to New Zealand requires at least two weeks, and it’s not easy to schedule that much time off from work.  Over the past four years, I’ve been taking care of my family and dealing with my own illnesses, so there hasn’t been a good time to go.  But perhaps the biggest challenge for me was not having a traveling companion.  I didn’t want to go alone.

Well, the opportunity has now presented itself, and I’m going!

Eric’s retirement agenda always included overseas travel during the first year.  Over the past couple of months since the house sold, he’s been planning and researching, but nothing has gelled.  Then, just a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned New Zealand as an option, and I asked if I could tag along if he chose to go there.  He said “Sure,” and the next thing I knew we were booking flights.

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re going to Seattle for Christmas to see our kids, and were planning to return to Florida on December 26th.  So it was the perfect time to go:  our RV’s will both be in storage, we’ll already be on the west coast, and it’s summer in New Zealand in January.  We’re flying to Auckland the day after Christmas and returning to Florida on January 19th – a good long visit.

After some quick research, I learned that the south island is the one with most of the natural scenery, so we agreed that we would rent a car at the Auckland airport, and head south right away.

Eric’s father was wounded in World War II in the South Pacific, and recuperated for quite some time in Wellington. So our first few days will include visiting with a World War II historian in New Plymouth, and locating the places in Wellington which would have been familiar to Eric’s father.

We’ll take a ferry from Wellington, and then drive the south island:

Planned drive around the South Island, New Zealand
Planned drive around the South Island, New Zealand

That’s about 1,200 miles of driving – and we’re driving on the left!

After many hours of research, we’ve booked twelve hotels along the way, and arranged to drop our rental car off at Christchurch and fly back to Auckland for the flight home.

The cost?  I know it seems like this will be a very expensive trip.  But neither of us have much money, so we need to be frugal.  We both have enough frequent flyer miles to cover the airfare, all the way from Florida to Seattle to Auckland and back.  The rental car will be about $1,500 with both drivers on the contract, and we split that.

The hotels were a challenge, as this is the very busiest season in New Zealand.  Some places were almost completely booked and we didn’t have many options.  But we managed to keep the cost of hotels to an average of $100/night, including taxes.  So for 22 nights, we’ll spend about $2,200 on hotels, which we’ll split.

Including the small frequent flyer fee, the flight from Christchurch, and the ferry from Wellington, that’s about $2,000 each.   Adding meals and activities brings it to perhaps $2,500 – $3,000, which is pretty reasonable for 3 1/2 weeks on the other side of the globe!!  And I would have spent $500 anyway to fly to Seattle and back for the holidays.

So I am BEYOND excited!!  It feels like a dream that I’m actually going to see New Zealand….

Back in Bucks

I spent six terrific days back in Bucks County last week.  Eric was at the same campground so we were together for a couple of days before he left for South Carolina.

Beaver Valley Campground, Ottsville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Beaver Valley Campground, Ottsville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

The weather was GORGEOUS (sunny and in the 70’s and 80’s), and so was the campground.  It felt good to be back in familiar territory!

One of my projects while in Bucks County was to re-think all the stuff I’m carrying in the RV, now that I have the perspective of traveling in it for a few weeks.  So, I filled the Cooper with a pile of stuff which I took back to storage: a tent, an extra sleeping bag, a duffel bag full of clothes, an entire plastic tub full of small things.  It’s amazing how little you really need to live.  My RV has plenty of storage, and I’m using only maybe 60% of it.

As a counter-balance, I also needed to pick up some stuff from storage.  I’m going to Seattle for Christmas, so I needed to retrieve my winter coat and other cold weather gear.  And, I needed to make sure I had all my important files for taxes.

I also had to make sure I have all the genealogy files I need for my upcoming research.   I’m trying to get everything scanned so I don’t have to drag around heavy paper files, but that’s a long term project.  Since I’m going to Georgia next, I need to have with me all the files on Eric’s side of the family.  And since I haven’t finished documenting all of my research on the families in the places I’ve recently visited, I still need all those paper files as well.

I have a good scanner with me in the RV, so I’ll work on scanning everything over the next few months, and then I can leave the paper files in storage the next time I’m here – probably in the spring.

So, in balance, I’m not sure whether I’m coming out of this lighter, or heavier!

In addition to taking care of storage, I got my flu shot, visited my friends Denise and Cindy, and attended a Board meeting of the Bucks County Genealogical Society.  A great visit!

Last week, I dropped the RV off at a repair shop in Jackson, New Jersey, and drove the Cooper to my friend Carol’s house on Long Island.  Carol and I drove up to Pepperell, Massachusetts to visit our friend Debbie for the weekend, and I’m now getting ready for the drive south to Georgia, stopping at my cousin’s house along the way.  It’s starting to get cold here –time to go!!

I’m excited to see the RV with its new roof and awning, and I’m looking forward to being “home”.  I’ve learned that home is wherever the RV is, and I miss it!

Cortland County Cemetery

One of my Patriot ancestors is Stephen Price (on my father’s side), who served for seven years in the Revolutionary War as a Sergeant in the Continental Line of the State of New Jersey.  He enlisted in May of 1777 when he was 19 years old.  He participated in the battles of Short Hills, Brandywine, Germantown, Newtown and Yorktown.

When Stephen’s widow, Elizabeth, applied for a military pension based on her husband’s service, she included pages which had been ripped out of the family Bible in order to prove the date of her marriage, and the births of their thirteen children.

Page from Price Family Bible in Stephen Price Revolutionary War pension file
Page from Price Family Bible in Stephen Price Revolutionary War pension file

Affidavits of two of Stephen and Elizabeth’s sons indicate that the Bible record was written in their father’s own hand.  The Price Bible – priceless!!

After the war, Stephen and Elizabeth Price relocated from New Jersey to Homer, Cortland County, New York, and I recently spent a week in a campground near there so I could research the family.

On a sunny fall day, I visited Atwater Cemetery, where Stephen Price is buried.

Gravestone of Stephen Price, Atwater Cemetery, Homer, Cortland County, New York
Gravestone of Stephen Price, Atwater Cemetery, Homer, Cortland County, New York

Although I had seen a photo of his gravestone online, it’s an entirely different experience seeing it in person.  The cemetery was peaceful, with many old gravestones, and I tried to imagine the way it might have looked when Stephen was buried in 1831.  His wife Elizabeth was still living at the time of his death, and I imagine she surely visited his grave there.

There’s a large Price monument directly next to Stephen’s smaller gravestone which I didn’t know about.

Price Monument, Atwater Cemetery, Homer, Cortland County, New York
Price Monument, Atwater Cemetery, Homer, Cortland County, New York

At the foot of the monument there are two markers, one on each side, which are barely legible, but I could make out “Father” and “Mother”.  The monument itself has no words on it except for “PRICE”.

To the left of the monument are two tombstones, for Almira R. (d. 183?) and Sibyl M. (d. 1840), both of whom were 24 years old when they died, and both of which say the young woman buried there was the wife of Aaron L. Price (one of Stephen’s sons).  Another small tombstone near the two women is illegible; perhaps it’s a Price child.

I know very little about my 4th great uncle Aaron.  Most of Stephen and Elizabeth’s children left Homer to go to the western part of New York, including my ancestor, William.  But Aaron stayed; he was still living in Homer in 1850. The U.S. Census shows him living with Ann (probably his wife), and children ages 13, 8 and 1.

I had no idea that Aaron had been married twice before.  Now that I’ve seen the cemetery, I know that the 13 year old living with Aaron in 1850 is NOT the child of Ann, the presumed wife of Aaron in 1850.  Aaron could not have been married to Ann in 1837 when that child was born.  He was either married to Almira or Sibyl.  This is a really great example of the reason we can’t assume relationships based on census records.

As so often happens in genealogy, the more questions which get answered, the more questions arise.  Who are the Father and Mother buried under the Price monument?  Could they be Stephen and Elizabeth?  If so, why does Stephen have an additional stone?  Who is buried under the illegible stone?  What are the full names of Aaron’s two young wives?  What year did Almira die?  These are all research questions which need to be addressed in the future.  I’m definitely planning to come back to this place next year.

Weather and the RV

I’m going to be in the RV in all kinds of weather.  Except for winter weather – I will absolutely avoid any freezing temperatures.  But then when I woke up this morning here in Cortland, New York, my thermometer said this:

Temperature in Marathon, New York, 11 Oct  2016.
Temperature in Marathon, New York, 11 Oct 2016.

The top is the outside temperature, and the bottom is the inside temperature.  I have an electric blanket so I was completely comfortable while sleeping – I had no idea it was that cold!

Then, I discovered there was no water – evidently the campground management had turned it off.  And that would be fine, except that I have little to no water in my fresh water tank.  The good news is that the water that’s in there isn’t frozen.   I turned the heater on in the rig, and in just a few minutes, it’s 57° in here, and I’m drinking a nice hot cup of coffee.  So, all is well!  I’ll see if the management is planning to turn the water back on, and if not, I’ll hit the road.

Back in early September, Eric sent me a link to a website which has First Frost maps, so I knew I was pushing it.  The area I’m in now usually gets its first frost between October 1st and October 10th, and here it is October 11th. I’m not sure what’s involved with winter camping (except being cold!!), but I don’t want to find out.  I check the weather every day, because it’s so critical to know, and I thought the temps were supposed to go down to 34°, so it’s just a little bit of a surprise that it’s below freezing.

So I’ve officially hit the full range of temperatures I expect to encounter.  I’ve learned that it’s ALWAYS warmer inside the RV than outside.  I’ve seen the difference be as much as 20°.  Yesterday, it was sunny and 50° outside,  while inside the RV, it was in the mid-60’s, just from the sun.  So today is the first time I’m using the heater!  I’ll turn it off shortly, though, because it’s supposed to go into the mid-60’s this afternoon, and it will get warmed up inside the RV quickly.  It will be a perfect day to go to the cemetery!

At the end of August and into September, there were many days in the 90’s, and humid.  The RV acts like a tin can in the sun – it gets exceptionally hot inside.  And if I’m cooking, it’s gets even warmer.  So, as much as I would prefer to keep all the windows open and enjoy the fresh air, it’s just impossible to be in the RV without air conditioning when it gets that hot.

I’ve also been in pouring rain, enough that the dirt roads of the campground became small creeks, large enough to make it challenging to navigate, even in a car.  The rain was really LOUD on the roof of the RV and when I first heard it, I couldn’t figure out what was happening!  It was so loud that it drowned out any other sounds.

The previous owner installed vent covers on the roof of my RV, which are really helpful with summer rains.  Eric’s rig doesn’t have them, so if he accidentally leaves his roof vents open, he’ll get water inside.  The covers on my vents allow the fresh air to get in, without allowing the water to get in.  I never would have thought of adding these, but I’m so glad I have them, because I ALWAYS prefer fresh air if possible.

Although I’ve now had the full range of temperatures, I’ve yet to experience a big storm, like a Nor’easter.  At one point I was concerned that the cone of Hurricane Matthew’s path might come too close for comfort.  RV’s are very vulnerable in those strong winds.

And I haven’t yet had a bad weather day coincide with a travel day.  That will be a challenge.  I would have to go outside and hook up the car, disconnect the water and electricity, etc. etc. in the rain.  I will not be able to hold an umbrella and work at the same time, so will need to wear rain gear.   And, part of hooking up the car involves getting on the ground to connect a cable to a hook underneath the car, which could really get down and dirty in the rain.  I might even need to plan on a shower and a complete change of clothes after the rig is all ready to go.  That’s all speculation but I’m sure it will one day happen!

My plan is to head down to Bucks County on Friday, but if I can’t get water, I’ll go earlier.  I haven’t finished my genealogical research here – I’ve barely started – so I’ll just have to plan to come back next year.  The temps in Bucks for the next week or so range from a low of 41° to a high of 74° – which will be terrific.  But it’s time to head further south very soon!

Cattaraugus County, New York

Cattaraugus County, New York, is where three lines on my father’s paternal side intersect in the early 1800’s:  the Dows, the Prices, and the Goodenoughs.  Below are the members of my family I’m researching there:

Families in Cattaraugus County, New York
Families in Cattaraugus County, New York

Revolutionary War Patriot Thomas Dow moved from Vermont to Cattaraugus with his wife Mary Barker late in life, to join several of their children already there.  Their daughter Elsie Barker Dow married William Henry Price in Cattaraugus County on Christmas Day in 1816.

William Price moved to Cattaraugus, along with several of his siblings, from Cortland County, New York.  They had all been born in Morris County, New Jersey, where their father had served in the Revolutionary War, and then the entire family migrated to upstate New York.  William Price was a prominent resident of Cattaraugus County, serving as Justice of the Peace, Coroner, and Associate Judge, as well as being elected the first Supervisor of the Town of Freedom.  He signed the minutes of the first town meeting.

William and Elsie’s daughter Malvina was born in 1820 in Cattaraugus County, and married Darwin Erasmus Goodenough in 1838.  Darwin’s parents David and Hannah, along with several of his siblings, had moved from Lewis County, New York to Cattaraugus County around 1835.  Darwin and Malvina left the area for Wisconsin in the late 1840’s.

On my first day in Cattaraugus, I easily located David and Hannah Goodenough’s graves in the Delevan Cemetery.  It felt really good to pay my respects.

Gravestone of David Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York
Gravestone of David Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York

 

Gravestone of Hannah Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York
Gravestone of Hannah Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York

It’s a shame that Hannah’s gravestone seems to have been cut off at the top so that her name is no longer present.

There were actually five Goodenough gravestones, all in a row:  David and Hannah, and three of their children.  Adoniram Judson Goodenough and Hannah Keene Goodenough were both single, and the third stone was for a married daughter, Dinah Goodenough Sage, and her infant child, who both died in childbirth.  Dinah was only 29 and left behind two very young sons.

The next day, I found Thomas and Mary Dow’s graves in the Arcade Rural Cemetery in neighboring Wyoming County.  William Price is buried there as well, but I wasn’t able to locate a gravestone.  Elsie was 52 years old when William died in 1844; she remarried and is buried in East Aurora, New York with her second husband.  I’ll have to visit her grave on another trip.

Gravestone of Thomas and Mary Dow, Arcade Rural Cemetery, Arcade, New York
Gravestone of Thomas and Mary Dow, Arcade Rural Cemetery, Arcade, New York

As you can see, Thomas and Mary Dow’s stones are illegible, and you would have no idea that a Revolutionary War soldier is buried here.  I’m going to remedy that.  Thomas Dow’s stone should be clearly marked as a Patriot and I will make sure it happens.

I also visited the Cattaraugus County Historical Museum, which had wonderful resources for genealogists, and very helpful people.  I asked if they knew where the records might be for the Town of Freedom.  They didn’t know, but referred me to the historian for the Town of Freedom, who I called the next morning.

My visit with this delightful woman, Lorna Spencer, was one of the two highlights of my trip.  Lorna is in her late 80’s, and a plethora of knowledge about the history of the area.  Among many other things, she helped me to pronounce some names which I was sure had been lost to history… can you say “Adoniram Judson”??  This was the name of a gr-gr-gr-uncle of mine, the single son of David Goodenough, one of the gravestones in the Delevan Cemetery.  I was pronouncing it ALL wrong.  The emphasis is on the long I sound in the middle syllable. I had no idea that it was the name of a Baptist minister of the time, who had gone to preach in Burma – apparently many families named their children after him.

Lorna was interested in more information on the Goodenoughs buried in the Delevan Cemetery.  I was really glad to provide it so that my family is not forgotten.  Now the folks taking care of the cemetery will have the information to pass on to others who might inquire, and Hannah will have a name!

The other highlight was my visit to the Cattaraugus County Courthouse.  I first went to the Office of the Surrogate Court, which has all of the original probates from the formation of the County, available for public inspection.  I was able to view the original probate file for my ancestor William Price – papers which my gr gr gr grandmother Elsie Price had touched and signed in 1844.  I literally had goose bumps while touching it.

I also saw, touched, and photographed the original probates (1860’s) for the two single children of David and Hannah in the cemetery, Adoniram and Hannah.  We often hear that the probate files of the unmarried siblings of our ancestors are an amazing resource.  Well, I can vouch for that.  Both files were filled with information about all their nieces and nephews, their married names, and their residences at the time.  But the piece de resistance and the highlight of those files: one contained a promissory note signed by my direct ancestor, their father, David Goodenough.  Any time you can see your ancestor’s actual signature is a real treat!!

But that was not the highlight of the day. After looking at the probates in the Surrogate Court, I was in the County Clerk’s office looking at Miscellaneous Records and Mortgages.  Across the room at the back was a clerk working at one  of the surfaces – I don’t even know what to call it – it’s where the big books are stored underneath, and you pull them up and put them on the surface to read them.

Well, it got to the end of the day, and the clerk was gone.  I was over in that area, looking for early mortgage books.  I got down on my knees in the area where the clerk had been, so I could read the titles of the books underneath there more easily, and I saw several very old books. Naturally, I took a look.

Here is the first page of one of the books:

Book of County Officers, Cattaraugus County Courthouse, New York
Book of County Officers, Cattaraugus County Courthouse, New York

If you are a genealogy researcher, you will understand how magnificent this is.  This is the original book of officers from when the county was formed in 1817, and my ancestor William Price is listed there – he’s at the bottom of the page.  He was sworn in as Assistant Justice, and Justice of the Peace, on 18 June 1817, almost 200 years ago.  AND, I believe that’s his original signature, which means he touched this piece of paper!

Looking further through the book, I found William Price over a half dozen more times, taking the oath of the County Coroner, Justice of the Peace, and Assistant Justice in subsequent years.

I really have no words to express how incredible this whole experience was!  All I can say is that I’m definitely coming back to Cattaraugus County to see Lorna, but also to continue my research on these families!

Land Has a Heart

I’m a really big believer in the use of land records in genealogy research.  Land records have helped me solve some of my toughest genealogical problems.  One time, I was able to get back several generations with the information in a single deed.  At the very least, land records help to locate our ancestors in a specific place and time.

My research into the land records of Washington County last week was especially personal and emotional.  For my entire life, I’ve heard the stories of the Fourth of July gatherings at my mother’s grandparents’ farm.  All of the aunts, uncles and cousins were there.  These were some of her most precious memories.  Below is a description in my mother’s own words:

Homework Assignment written by Mary Payne Furlong, age 17, 1 October 1948
Homework Assignment written by Mary Payne Furlong, age 17, 1 October 1948

In October of 1948, my mother was still heavily grieving, and you can hear it in her words.  She had lost both of her grandparents in the previous eleven months.

Below is a visual – my mother is on the far right, her sister Arden is to her left, and then her brother Jimmy.  The other two children are cousins.

mary-payne-arden-and-jim-furlong-and-cousins
Playing at Grandfather’s farm, Fourth of July, about 1940

So finding out when and how my mother’s grandparents acquired the farm where my mother spent so many happy summers in her childhood was really a very personal mission.  My great-great grandparents were James Furlong and Mary Ball.  Their son, James William Furlong, married Mary Payne; these were my mother’s grandparents and two of her most favorite people of all time.

Mary Payne and James William Furlong, 50th Wedding Anniversary, 18 November 1941
Mary Payne and James William Furlong, 50th Wedding Anniversary, 18 November 1941

As I‘ve mentioned before, many years ago I obtained some land records from Washington County using the “grab and go” method.  I had no citations for these records, nor did I know if they were all or only part of the collection of deeds for James Furlong and James William Furlong.  Reminiscent of Thomas MacEntee’s “Genealogy Do-Over”, I needed to go back and re-do everything the correct way.  Which I did, and I now have about twenty five deeds scanned on my computer.

What now?  Well, I have to abstract all the deeds, and organize them before I can start analyzing them.  I will read each deed several times, and then summarize the basic information into a deed abstract.  Then I’ll make a table listing the transactions in chronological order, to see if I can trace the path of the land parcels through time.  That will take many hours.

Deed Abstract, Walker to Furlong, 1883
Deed Abstract, Walker to Furlong, 1883

I’ve created a template that I use to abstract deeds, to make sure I don’t forget to note some critical piece of information.  I’m happy to send anyone a Word version of it if you’re interested – just send me a private message on the Contact page of the blog.

I’ve heard people say that for every hour spent doing on-site research, we should plan on five hours of documentation and analysis of the records retrieved.  I really think that’s true.  I spent a full day last week, about 5-6 hours, doing research in land records at the Washington County Register of Deeds Office.  But since I haven’t yet spent the 25-30 hours it will take to process and analyze it all, I don’t have any firm conclusions yet.  I do, however, have a few observations to report.

After a cursory review, the land records indicate that James Furlong, the coal mining immigrant from Wales who came to Washington County with his wife and two small children right around the end of the Civil War, was able to purchase four acres of land in 1874, and then another ten acres in 1883.  James died in 1896 and then his wife, Mary, in 1901, but the land wasn’t distributed to the heirs until 1906.  This was because James’ will stipulated that the executors “hold the property intact” until the youngest child turned 21, which happened in 1906.

Below is the top of one of the 1883 deeds and the subject of the above abstract:

Deed, Walker to Furlong, 1883
Deed, Walker to Furlong, 1883

And, I was able to see that the ten acres which James Furlong purchased in 1883 was the land which ended up with his son, James William Furlong, the same land that my mother loved.  There’s more work to be done to get the whole story, but I’m happy to know this much for now!

How I Spend My Time

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a week since I last posted – time is flying!  I have many posts half written but I haven’t actually completed any or posted them because I don’t have time.

How can that possibly be?  I’m retired, for pete’s sake!

First, let me just say that all is well – I’m happy, healthy and safe.  I’m having a fabulous time researching my ancestors in this area, and I’ll write a separate post (s) about those experiences.  Here’s a picture of the campground where I am this week:

20161007_170633

The trip here was an easy three hour ride, and for the first time, I felt like I could relax enough to find a classic rock station and sing along.  A really big improvement over the white knuckles of the first few times!

But – back to being busy.  You would think that being retired, I could just spend all day every day doing exactly what I want to do.  Not true, perhaps especially because I’m living in an RV.  I still have to do the daily tasks that we all have to do, like cooking, cleaning, food shopping, laundry, and bill paying. But everything seems to take longer in an RV.  I’m not complaining at all, but here are some observations.

When I’m cooking, it seems there’s never enough storage and counter space, so I’m always juggling washing dishes with food preparation.  Sometimes it takes longer to find something, either because it’s buried underneath 50 other things, or because I can’t remember where I put it and I have to dig for it in several places.  It all takes more time.

As for laundry, I have learned that Quarters are King.  At my first campsite, it cost $6.50 to do one load, wash and dry – that’s a lot of quarters!  So quarters are in demand, and they can be hard to come by.  In one town, I stopped at a bank to buy a roll of quarters, and they said they only provide them to customers.  Well, I’m a customer of two different banks, and neither had a branch within 100 miles.  So I’ve had to start scheming about how I’m going to accumulate quarters.  When I’m buying something with cash, I plan it so that my change can include several quarters to add to my stash.  Accumulation of quarters is a THING.  It takes time.

For a lot of reasons, I prefer to shower in the bath house at the campground.   The shower in my rig will be absolutely fine if I need to use it, but the water volume and pressure is just not the same.  But it takes longer to go to the bath house, and there are always unexpected glitches.  When I first used the shower at the campground I’m in now, I walked all the way there and then had to come back for – you guessed it – QUARTERS!!

Food shopping has to be done more frequently because I have to buy in small quantities.  And, I have to figure out where the grocery store is in each new place.

I have to say that cleaning is a dream.  It takes me about 10 minutes.  I have a little bit of linoleum floor, a little bit of carpet, and then there’s the teeny bathroom.

To get mail, I use a mail forwarding service in Florida.  They throw away obvious junk mail, and then scan the envelopes so you can view them.  You can choose to have them sent to you, held there, or shredded.  It’s a fabulous service.  I have to consider where I’m going to be so I can time the next mailing.  So far, it’s worked well.  The campgrounds don’t mind receiving my mail, and it’s always arrived in time before I have to move on.  But it does take time to coordinate – longer than just checking the mail when it’s delivered to your home every day.

I spend time fiddling with the TV.  I had a new digital antenna put on the roof, which means I can get “over-the-air” stations.  But there’s a process to go through at each new campground, which involves pointing the antenna in the correct direction and then programming the TV to find the strong stations.  It often takes several attempts.

One thing that takes a LOT of time is trip planning.  Finding the right route, finding the right stops on the route, and finding the right campground in the right location – it can take half a day.  With the RV, I need to be careful that my route doesn’t take me somewhere scary, like under a low bridge, or up a steep hill.  I try to stay on the interstates as much as possible, and I use a GPS which is specifically designed for RV’s.

So I research on Google maps to get the big picture, then check the GPS to see if the route is good for the RV.  Once the route is settled, I estimate when and where I’ll need to stop along the way.  I don’t want to just pull off the highway and look for a gas station.  Not all gas stations will work for an RV towing a car – there’s not enough turn around space, or perhaps not enough height.  So I locate gas stations along the route, and look at them on Google Earth so I know exactly what my approach will be, as well as my exit.

Did you know that I can’t go in reverse in the rig while it’s towing the car?  Eric has taught me to always know my escape route.  That’s constantly on my mind when I’m driving, and that’s why I research all the stops in advance.

In addition to researching the route, I research campgrounds. If any of you are a researcher like me, then you know what’s involved with identifying the place, reading all of the online reviews, examining maps to determine proximity to your destination, and then contacting the campground to check on pricing and availability.  It’s really a process!  And if I’m moving to a new place each week, which I’ve been doing this fall, it takes a lot of time to nail down all the stops.   On top of the planning, I’m spending one day a week packing up, driving, and setting up at the next place.

And I have to keep good records of RV expenses, miles driven, the cost of gas, etc.

Aside from the activities of daily life,  RV-specific tasks, and travel planning, I’m working on genealogy, which involves online and onsite research, processing the information I find (for example, abstracting deeds), doing an online workshop with an advanced genealogy group which involves homework, and doing genealogy work for clients.  I’m also working on a couple of tax returns which are due shortly, and getting caught up with my personal bookkeeping.  And, of course, maintaining this blog!

I’m still learning how to do this new life and how to schedule my days.  Amazingly, I feel like I’m trying to do too much.  I need to find that happy middle ground where I’m doing enough to have fun with it, and not so much that I feel stressed.  One thing I’ve certainly recognized is that I can easily spend the entire day on the computer, just like when I was working.  This is something that needs to change.

It’s all part of the learning and adjustment process!

Buh Bye, RV Buddy!

Yesterday was the moment of truth:  Eric and I went our separate ways.  As planned, I drove up to Franklinville, New York, and Eric went west to Ohio. Eric has been my buddy, my teacher, and my safety net.  I’m SO grateful to have had the past 5 weeks with him, learning how to use the rig.   Now I’m alone, and not very happy about it, but this is what I signed up for when I started this crazy plan!

On our last evening together, Eric made steak and baked potatoes on the open fire, and I made some broccoli and a salad.  It was a fabulous meal!  Then, we got some paper, and at the picnic table, Eric gave me a few final lessons.

Lesson on the Electrical System of my RV, by Eric Roberts
Lesson on the Electrical System of my RV, by Eric Roberts, Copyright  2016

O.M.G.  After a few glasses of wine and a cigar that night, I would have sworn that I completely understood this diagram…but looking at it today, I’m not so sure….  All I can say is – Eric is on speed dial!

As we were leaving Washington County, we stopped at a truck stop, got gas, weighed our rigs, put air in the tires, and checked the RV (aka “house”) batteries for water.  During our visit, two different people stopped me and asked “What kind of mileage do you get?”, and I was embarrassed to say that I didn’t really know, except that it’s “really bad”.

The reason I haven’t known the mpg is that there seems to be an issue with the fuel tank gauge.  A couple of times when I’ve filled up the tank, the gauge doesn’t register that it’s full.  So I haven’t been sure if the calculation was correct.

The first two times were after I first bought it, when I was driving it home.  The gauge seemed off, and the mileage calculated at 6.8 mpg’s on the second fill.  I figured something was very wrong.  Then I filled it in Freehold, NJ before leaving for Gettysburg, but it only took 11 gallons and the gauge didn’t register full, so I couldn’t count that and had to start over.

When I filled up in Gettysburg, I calculated 5.93 mpg’s.  Again, I thought something must be very wrong.

When I filled up in Washington County, it calculated at 5.52 mpg’s.  OK, now I was seeing a trend.  A very disturbing trend.  I could no longer be in denial. But still being optimistic, I thought maybe I would see better mileage on the trip up to New York, because since the last trip, I had reduced the weight, and put the correct air pressure in the tires (they had been really low).  Dare I hope for 10 mpg’s??

It did improve, but not by as much as I’d hoped.  I got 7.42 mpg’s the next time I filled up in Jamestown, New York.  I’ve spent about $250 on gas since leaving NJ, and driven only 675 miles.  I’ve learned that the weight and the tire air pressure makes a big difference in the mileage, and that it’s better to camp longer in one place, saving on both campground fees and gas.  I’ll definitely be looking for other ways to improve the mileage!

I also learned something else on the trip to New York.  Wind has a huge impact when driving the rig.  I drove through lovely countryside, but when the road was open and unprotected by trees, the force of the wind was significant, and the strength of it sometimes caught me by surprise.  The fall colors are just beginning here, the trees mostly green with splashes of orange, red and yellow.  And as I admired them, I could see the tops sway in the wind, with many of the leaves showing their undersides.  I don’t know how strong the wind was that day, but I made a mental note to factor it in during trip planning, and to avoid driving in high winds if possible.

My Happy Place in Franklinville, NY
My Happy Place in Franklinville, NY

The important thing is that I made it to Franklinville, New York, safe and sound.  All is good – the campground is filled with pines, the night sky is spectacular, and I’m looking forward to visiting my ancestors in the local cemeteries this week!