Wednesday, April 15, 2015


About three weeks ago, my parents took me to the vet.  I don’t understand why they did that because I was feeling just fine.  There was a lot of discussion about travel … whatever that is.  The vet drew blood (that was bad), they spread me out like a frog and took pictures of my lungs (that wasn't fun either), and I got to return (Oh, joy) another day for a bladder and kidney exam.  I passed all my tests, and they say I can travel … I still don't know what that is.

Things are very different around the house these days.  Mom and dad keep taking things out to the garage and putting them in boxes.  They spread out large documents on tables and draw on them.  Something about maps.  I don’t really mind any of this activity because I can still get my usual 18 hours a day of beauty sleep.

Well, everything was going along just fine, until they started putting a harness on me.  They tried several different kinds – I don’t like any of them.  I haven’t been very cooperative in spite of all the special treats they give me.  As if THAT wasn't bad enough, now they drag me around in a little tiny fabric house with windows.  I can’t get out.  

There is more talk about travel and speculation about whether I will fit under the seat.  So, what is Southwest, anyway?   And what is Los Angeles?  I am so confused.

Yesterday I went to watch a youth Lacrosse game.  Lots of strangers came up to talk to me in my little box.  It was cold out.  I shivered and couldn't nap.  I liked the can of tuna they gave me, but was exhausted, and happy to finally get home.

Today, I went on a field trip with the harness and the box.  We went to the fishing store and the hardware store.  What is Alaska?  Apparently I am going to Alaska.  I am so confused.

All I can say is that things are changing … every day, and I don’t know what to expect tomorrow.Mom and dad keep saying it’s going to be an adventure … whatever that is.
I’ll let you know how that goes.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Preparing, Planning and Packing

Where to start???

Once the goal was set –to be in Alaska … for the summer, then the planning could begin.   The vehicle (Lazy Daze 27MB) has been procured.  The task then became when, where and how.
The when defined itself as Tom’s retirement plan firmed up.  Kris retired less than a year later, allowing a spring departure for the big trip.  The plan included starting in Nevada, where our daughter lives.  We would pick up the RV in Los Angeles; ‘gear up’ in Nevada, do a weekend test camping trip, then head North from there.

In planning for a late spring departure, we poured through travel books, read all identifiable blogs about RV travel in Alaska, posted relevant questions on Alaska RV travel forums, etc.  Trying to leave no stone unturned, we did start to see recurring comments in the information regarding the ‘best’ itineraries; the best fishing spots, the best bear viewing areas, the prettiest roads, the worst camping locations, must see places, and places to avoid.

With pen in hand, we wrote the key information directly onto maps, making it easier to visualize a likely travel route.  But, the problem became too much information on a map too small for all the information.  So, Kristen made an over-sized map of British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska.  There was now PLENTY of room to write, add sticky notes, and add clipped and cut text.

As we planned the possible routes and stops, we also started to compile a list of all the things one might need to live in and RV and travel in an Alaska. Having camped before, some of the ‘stuff’ on the list was obvious.  Other stuff, not so much.  Again, back to internet, downloading checklists and recommendations from other travelers, we created the master packing list, which has been revised numerous times.  EVERYTHING was included, dividing items into rooms for functionality.  Bedroom items included linens and towels, clothes (from freezing to 100 degrees), shoes and boots.  Kitchen items included dishes, cooking utensils, etc.  Toys, games, activities, tools, awning supplies, campfire supplies, tire patch kit, jacks, shovel, hatchet …. You name it … it’s on ‘THE LIST’.  While we could buy things along the way, the goal was not to start each day with a shopping list of things we didn’t think about, or forgot to bring.  In addition to that, we might not be near the right kind of store (or any store) when we needed something.  It made more sense to think it out in advance.

When we decided to start the trip in Nevada, the logistics of packing became a bit more complicated.  So, ‘THE PACK LIST Spreadsheet’ was born.   Hoping that the formulating travel plan would actually work, we took many items to Nevada in December.  Back at home, we identified some of the items on ‘THE LIST’ already on hand.  Some items needed to be purchased.  Some items we could ship to Nevada closer to departure day, some could be ordered and drop shipped there.  Some had to be personally carried and not shipped (medicine, photography gear).  

WHEW – keeping track of it all !!

The current ‘PACK LIST’  is an Excel spreadsheet with the following columns – In Nevada Already, To Be Shipped to Nevada from home, To be Carried on Flight, To be Purchased and Drop shipped to Nevada,  to be Purchased in Nevada,  and Included with the Purchase of the RV.  It’s a bit compulsive, but waaaay easier than trying to remember it all.

Departure day is about three weeks out, and we’re scrambling to get ‘The LIST’ packed, processed, ordered, and setting up the logistics of running one’s life while ON THE ROAD!

Next post - Stinky

How it all started

We met as camp counselors at a YMCA camp in Connecticut and tent camped for years before having children.  Children added another dimension, not so compatible with tent camping so we “moved up” to a pop-up camper for many years and trips, including a 73 day trek with two pre-adolescent children to ‘do’ the national park circuit.  What a great summer that was!  And, it felt like an hors d’oeuvre to our future.

The children grew up, flew the coop, and we ‘lost’ camping for other vacation opportunities.  But there always lingered a desire to go back to the roots of where it all began.

About 4 years ago, we went to the Hershey RV show to look at truck campers.  We thought that’s what we would want for our eventual return to traveling the outdoors.  Our goal was to be ‘nimble’ on the road using a basic unit with few unnecessary frills.   We wanted to go out all day to play, hike, explore, experience, then return to a safe simple home to crash.  It would be more about the traveling, and less about the staying.   As it turned out, our old bones didn’t like crawling up into a platform bed, and the lack of space for golf clubs and other gear trashed the truck camper idea.  So we wandered aimlessly around the show, searching for a more perfect vehicle.

We stumbled into the Leisure Travel Vans display and fell in love with the Unity twin bed unit.  We loved the creative floor plan which would have worked very well for two people.  The unit was petite at 24’6” – really no bigger than a truck camper.  Fortunately we weren't ready to buy.  We still had several years between us and retirement … time to learn what we needed to know in order to make the right decision for us.

Let the research begin!  We poured over floor plans, specs, blogs, brochures, web-postings and we learned so much.  The next year at the RV show, we had an Excel spreadsheet and many questions for each manufacturer.   Our friends laughed at the visual; “Oh No!”- Here come the folks with the spreadsheet!!”
We persisted until we understood all we thought we needed to know in order to make our buying decision.  The two driving factors in the end were; 1) ease of servicing the unit anywhere USA/Canada, and 2) great cargo carrying capacity.  The choices fell into two chassis categories – Sprinter or not Sprinter (mostly Ford).  Sprinter based RV’s didn't meet the two requirements and smaller Fords came the closest.

We studied every single manufacturer and finally selected a Lazy Daze 27 foot mid-bath with twin beds in the rear.  The unit is exceptionally well made, has magnificent windows to see what we’re out there to see,  is not loaded up with unnecessary bells and whistles (which are subject to malfunction), and has a sensible floor plan.  The twin beds in the back can easily be configured into a king, and with the forward dining area, the relatively short unit offers two separate ‘places to be’.  Perfect for us, who have different sleep schedules and often enjoy different forms of entertainment.

Funny how things work out.  Lazy Daze did not have a unit or a representative at the Hershey show.  We had to do our own research, set our own priorities and find Lazy Daze on our own.  We pick up our unit in May.  Can't wait !