Spring… Finally!

It has been a while since The Traveling Kites have traveled, but spring is finally here. You may be quick to remind me that spring actually arrived a month ago, but we live in western Pennsylvania so trust me; spring has finally arrived!

We made an appointment several weeks ago to pick up our camper today from its winter storage home in the mine at Brady’s Bend, PA. Since the temperature in the mine is in the 50’s year-round, I don’t winterize before we take it there. Instead, we try to time it to get the camper put away before the sub-freezing temperatures set in and pick it up when we no longer have to fear freezing our pipes. Our timing today was impeccable! Last night, the temperature dipped into the upper 20’s, but beginning tonight, our low temps are to be above freezing.IMG_20180421_090556

We invited our two granddaughters over for a girls weekend at our house. Addison and Aly are cousins and are a little more than a month apart in age. Both are the only girl in their family, so they really enjoy getting together at our house.

Our appointment was for 8:50 AM at the mine, but we had a one hour, twenty minute drive to get there, so we left early. We arrived in good time; about five minutes before our appointment. We went into the office to settle our prorated balance and secure our place for this fall, then we went on, into the mine. One of the escorts met us and led the way to our camper. It is good that they guide you in because it’s like a maze in there and one could easily get lost.IMG_20180421_091056When we got to the Hideout, our escort assisted in directing us back toward the tongue of the trailer. It is rather dark in the mine, so this bit of help is appreciated. After hooking up, our guide led us back out, pausing occasionally to instruct me on how to negotiate a blind turn. It could be a bit nerve-wracking, maneuvering through such tight turns, but we have done this IMG_20180421_103940a few years now, so we are getting more comfortable.

We stopped in the parking area just outside the mine so I could put on our sway bars and do a walk-around to make sure everything looked good. Then, we were on our way.

I wasn’t sure how the granddaughters would feel about these dark catacombs, but it didn’t phase them a bit and Aly said she was going to tell her teacher all about it!

We stopped for a late breakfast at Bob Evans restaurant on the way home, then backed the Hideout into its place in our yard.

I spent a few hours in the afternoon doing a little maintenance to get ready for our first trip. We are excited to get this new season under-way.

“The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever” ~Psalm 121:7-8 (NIV). We have certainly felt God’s protection throughout our lives and, though our future is uncertain, we do not fear anything that is to come.

Here’s wishing you a great summer!

©2018 thetravelingkites.com

Wintering

Winter in western Pennsylvania can bring some drastic changes in a very short time. Yesterday was one of those days. I picked up my mother for lunch at Amazing Foods Catering Co. & Cafe in Franklin. In the 24 hours previous to our lunch, we saw rain and temperatures nearing 60 degrees. I loved it! But, as we were warned by the weather folks, a big ch20180113_083647ange came. It happened over lunch. When we entered the restaurant, it was 52 degrees outside. When we came out afterwards it was 42. But, it was even worse than that! We dropped 20 degrees within two hours and the downward trend continued as the rain turned to sleet, then snow. When we woke up this morning, there was about nine inches of drifting snow on the ground. I spent an hour-and-a-half shoveling.IMG_20180113_100818_303

If you’ve read our introductory blog post, you know that we are working toward retiring with a Class B or C RV to travel to warm weather during the winter months. We have been following several families on YouTube that have done just that. They bring us inspiration and help us narrow our focus of what we think we would like for the journey.

Although we have not yet entered the fray as YouTube content creators, we have started this travel blog and post my photography to our Instagram page (@thetravelingkites). Things were rolling along quite nicely during the summer camping season, but then winter hit. As I write, there are 55 miles separating us from our Keystone Hideout travel trailer. It is in the mine at Bradys Bend. I wrote about storage day here.

As winter gets long, one thing that we have done the past two years to break up the frozen season is to attend the Pittsburgh and Erie RV shows. The Pittsburgh show is always in January and the Erie show is in February. It was recommended to us by some friends that we try the Ohio RV Supershow this year. Held in Cleveland, this show is proclaimed to be the country’s largest indoor RV show. We had originally planned on going to Pittsburgh today, but the Cleveland show was also this weekend, so we decided to go to Cleveland instead. Then… the big snowstorm! We thought we would rather not show up on one of those YouTube interstate pileup videos, so we called today’s trip off. Pittsburgh is about a one-and-a-half-hour drive and Cleveland two-hours-twenty-minutes. Who knows how long it would take today? So, now we wait a month for the smaller Erie show.IMG_20171201_195642_809

So, at this almost-mid-way point through the winter, I thought it appropriate to check in to let you know we’re still here and looking forward to spring. Binx, the camping cat, is as anxious as we are to get back out there. As for now, I’ll just happily sip my coffee.20180113_110139

A couple of weeks ago, we made reservations for Memorial and Labor Day weekends. It feels good to have a couple of trips scheduled. The planning continues as we consider our vacation travels for this summer. So, stay tuned! The 2018 camping season will kick off in a few months. In the mean-time, stay warm and healthy. We’ll see you after the Erie RV show!

©2018 thetravelingkites.com

RV Shopping

Have you ever narrowed a search down to two products and found that you oscillate back and forth between them, causing you to be powerless to make a decision? That is the case with us as we look toward our retirement RV (still a few years off… thankfully).

Over the past six months, we have watched numerous YouTube videos and scoured the magazines and websites to try to narrow our search toward the perfect solution for our traveling dreams.

Perhaps in a situation like this, it is best to start with what is important to you. Here’s our list:

  • Small enough to maneuver without the need of a “toad” (towed-behind car)
  • Small enough to park wherever we want to go
  • Bathroom and tanks large enough to be usable for showers, etc.
  • At least one extra seat belt for those occasions when we would invite a grandchild along
  • At least one extra convertible bed

Until yesterday, we had pretty-much narrowed in on a Class B van. We like that you can park them anywhere you can park a car. The easy driving would not necessitate a toad, nor would the towing capacity support such a venture.

One of our favorite vans has been the Winnebago Travato 59K. We like the openness of the interior with all of the windows it has to offer. We like the rear bath and the fact that it doesn’t have dualies on the back (two less tires to buy). We like that it has a gasoline engine in the Dodge ProMaster chassis.

The 59K has some pretty serious drawbacks though; at least for our wish list. For one, it doesn’t have a third seat belt and it doesn’t have an extra bed. And though we like the rear bathroom in this Travato, we do not like the way you have to snap in the shower curtain. Those are only a few things, but they are deal-breakers for us.

We looked at the Travato 59G and man, does the inside feel dark and small! It does have the extra seat belt and convertible bed, but the double bed in the back seems small and we don’t like the way it folds up with no usable seating space incorporated. Another deal-breaker.

We would like to take an in-person look at the Hymer Aktiv 2.0. It looks to have a lot of the amenities of the Travato 59G, but the bed is larger, spanning the entire width of the back of the van. The bathroom is half-way up the narrow walkway, so that may seem very small to us. We suspect that this van will also cause us concern that we will not be able to overcome. There always seems to be give-and-take when it comes to a van.

Yesterday, we took a look at a couple of Class C motor homes that were slightly larger than a van and offer so much more by way of our wish list. We took another look at one we had seen in the spring; the Winnebago Fuse 23A. Wow, is this a nice motor home for couple-travel! It has just about everything we would want: extra seat belts, extra bed, dry bath (including a separate, enclosed shower stall). This RV is nice!IMG_20170701_120724105

There are a couple of things we do not like as much about the Fuse. For one, the size is a bit larger than a van; large enough to cause some driving and parking concerns. We hear there are National Parks and city destinations that allow a Class B van, but not a Class C motor home to park. So then what? Pull a car? We really don’t want to do that. We are currently exploring a couple of other options that people have done: 1). Occasionally rent a car, or 2). Use Uber or Lyft when we want to go where the Class C isn’t permitted. We need to look further into these options.

While we haven’t landed on the perfect solution for us yet… if it exists, we are sure having a good time looking and are thankful that we are a few years away from making a decision.

We have our calendars marked for the Pittsburgh and Erie RV shows! Will we see you there?

©2017 thetravelingkites.com

Winter Storage

We were up early yesterday to shower and get ready to depart at 6:40 AM for our trek to Bradys Bend. With sub-freezing nighttime temperatures imminent, we were at the decision point to either have to winterize for home storage or move the Hideout to a warmer location. We opted for the latter and so we made the trip to the mine for our third winter there.

Since we had such an early departure time, I hooked the camper up the evening before. So, it was sitting there ready to hop in and go. All I had to do was plug in the power cord to the truck and turn on the battery. I had previously moved the propane 

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tanks into our shed because they are not allowed in the mine.

In a car, I could easily make the drive from home to Bradys Bend in a little over an hour. However, the combination of the extra 7,500 pounds in tow and the hilly, winding roads that get more challenging the further you go, makes for a drive of about an hour, thirty five minutes.

Upon arrival at the mine, the process is to first check in at the office building, where you sign the lease and pay for five months of storage. Then, when the escorts are ready, you follow a truck into the mine. When you get to the areas where the corners are tight, one of the men in the escort truck gets out and follows on foot behind the camper. His purpose is to watch the tail swing of the camper when we make the sharp corners, to give a yell if I am about to scrape the wall. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

When we got to the location they had ready for us, we followed the direction of the two men, flashlights in hand, as they guided us back into our space. Their help is a good thing to have because of the combination of darkness and damp mirrors.

After we unhooked, the escorts guided us out of the mine and we were on our way.

We went cross-country toward Harrisville to have breakfast at Family Traditions Restaurant. They have a breakfast buffet on Saturdays and Sundays that is quite good.

And so ends our 2017 camping season. Bring on spring!

©2017 thetravelingkites.com

Weekend at Virginia’s Beach, PA

First off, that’s Virginia’s Beach, not Virginia Beach. Virginia’s Beach Campground is on Lake Erie, not the Atlantic Ocean. Our weekend spot was at North Springfield, PA; west of Erie and east of the Ohio state line. Now that we’ve established that…

On Friday evening, September 29, we set out for our next adventure; a Friday through Sunday getaway. The drive took about one hour, twenty minutes (due to the 7,500 pound land yacht that was tailing us) and we were able to watch the sunset during our set-up. It was quite beautiful.VB4

There was a significant amount of wind coming off the lake, so we did not extend our awning. The wind, combined with the cool temperatures, made it feel rather cold.

Sharon made us a delicious spaghetti squash dinner, then we put together a puzzle. I’m not much of a puzzler, but I really enjoyed it this time. I think it was because we were together, away from the busyness of the work week we had just left behind. We had a nice evening and went to bed around 9:30.

On Saturday morning, we had a delicious breakfast of waffles, topped with apple and cranberry pie filling, along with some of Sharon’s warm pumpkin drink. We were discussing what it should be called. I noted that we shouldn’t call it a pumpkin latte, because that would mislead someone like me into thinking it had coffee in it. I also didn’t think we should call it a pumpkin steamer, because that would suggest the inclusion of steamed milk. She said that she has a recipe at home and will look up the actual name of the drink.

After breakfast and showers, we took a nice walk around and outside the campground. There is a neighboring camp called Camp Judson that had a really cool-looking silo with a cross on top. We talked to a man from the camp that just happened to be walking by. He said they call it the tower. If you walk up the bank on either side, there is a doorway around back, half-way up that enters into a prayer room with an altar and Bible.VB3

We took a ride over to Fairview to visit a little cafe that I’ve been noticing when I work in the area: Main Street Cakery Cafe. It was getting on toward lunchtime, so we indulged in some treats. I had a caramel latte and blueberry scone. Sharon had a green tea and blackberry scone. By then, it had warmed up enough that we sat at their outdoor tables.

We noticed that there was an antique store a couple of doors down, so we went to check it out. Main Street Antiques is in an old house and has two floors of treasures from the past. We didn’t see anything we just had to buy (practicing our future minimalism skills), but really enjoyed the reminiscing.

Back at Virginia’s Beach, Binx, the camping cat, was enjoying the sun coming in the window of our slide-out dinette. We had stacked some pillows on the seat to allow him a comfortable place to lay and gaze out.VB6

We took another walk in the late afternoon, which included a trek down a long, straight ever-narrowing road in the woods. Then we walked along the lakefront where we found some nice, flat rocks and I found some more photos just waiting to be captured.

A motorhome from Michigan pulled in beside us on Saturday afternoon. It was towing an old Citroen car on a dolly behind. The car had the shape of a VW Beetle and Sharon mistook it for a “bug.” It was in very good shape. The owners had a cat and dog with them. Binx and the neighbor cat sat in opposing windows, watching each other.

Sharon got out another puzzle Saturday evening, but I just wasn’t into it for a second night in a row. I half-heartedly helped, while processing photos and uploading them to Instagram (@thetravelingkites, should you wish to follow us there). Each photo upload was an event because there was not much of a cell signal. I had to push the button, then set my phone against the window for a minute while the bits flew off through the air.

We enjoy going to church on Sunday morning when we are camping. It’s always interesting, visiting a new church. This time, we did not get out and there were no services offered at the campground. But we did enjoy a morning walk around camp and down the woods trail. We really felt God’s presence in the beauty of His creation.

The Michigan motorhome pulled out in the morning. They must have just used this as a stop for the night while passing through either to or from a car event.

While breaking down our camp, we spent some time talking to our neighbors on the other side who also had a Class A motorhome. They were from the Pittsburgh area and seemed nice. They were going to go to the Erie KOA on their next outing.

Our drive home was good. The sun was shining and Binx was happy. We arrived home around 1:30 after having another great weekend.DSC_0187

We have an appointment for October 21 to take the Hideout to Bradys Bend for winter storage, so this may have been our last camping trip of the 2017 season. We shall see.

©2017 thetravelingkites.com

Weekend at Bear Run

Last month, as we booked our mid-September weekend at Bear Run Campground in western Pennsylvania, we had no way of knowing what the weather would be like five weeks later. It can be a bit unpredictable this time of year. As it turned out, we chose the perfect weekend! The weather was stunningly beautiful; sunny days, cool evenings… perfect. It was a windows-open, fresh air-flowing kind of weekend.IMG_20170917_115839569

We set out after work on Friday, camper in tow, Binx the camping cat in the center front seat, toward our destination near Portersville, PA. We had stayed at Bear Run on Memorial weekend 2016 and really liked what they had to offer. This campground is clean with paved RVsites. The campground is nicely appointed with a beautiful camp store, western town feel and family-friendly atmosphere. The stay was all-the-sweeter as we enjoyed the luxury of paying with a gift certificate that our son’s family gave us for Christmas.

You may remember the challenges of the drive to the campground on our last trip two weeks earlier when Binx made things… let’s just say… interesting. This time out, we placed him inside his screen-sided carrier atop a towel on the front seat between us. He seemed to enjoy the security of his carrier as we drove. He is getting used to camping now. This was his third camping trip and he didn’t even cry when Sharon carried him from the house to the truck.

Our son and his daughter met us shortly after we arrived. We set up camp, then spent some evening time making pizza mountain pies and roasting marshmallows. It was a really nice evening together.IMG_20170918_173828_648

On Saturday, Sharon and I took a morning walk around the campground. This is a large campground that is spread out pretty well. There are seasonal RV sites up over the hill, then a path down past a horse pasture to a road lined with electric and water sites on one side and cabins on the other. Another fork leads down a narrow road that winds through the woods in a large tenting section, including some walk-in-only sites. There are quite a number of cabins available for rent throughout the entire campground. This truly is a beautiful place.

Sharon made a special lunch of zucchini that was spiral cut with alfredo sauce. It was delicious. We took some afternoon time just to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air. We did some reading and some talking and took an afternoon off. It felt great to not have anything to do.

We had an ice cream cone for pre-dinner (you can make up meals when camping… it’s OK) from the camp store, then took a one-mile round-trip walk to Lake Arthur. I was able to capture some nice photographs along the scenic dirt road.

We got back, just in time to hop on a wagon behind a tractor for a wagon ride to the lake, along the same road we had just walked. The man who introduced the ride and explained the safety precautions was quite humorous and everyone enjoyed the ride.IMG_20170916_175039_891

We arrived back at the campground just in time for the evening activities; a mountain pie contest and bluegrass music concert. We only visited there for a few minutes before returning to our campsite for a campfire.

On Sunday morning, our son’s whole family came over for a visit. We had another campfire and enjoyed watching our granddaughter sifting for gemstones across from the store.IMG_20170917_115719154_edit_1505681773952

We are in need of replacing our washing machine at home, so we took advantage of the campground’s coin-operated laundry to clean our clothes before departing.

We packed things up after lunch and headed for home. This was another great time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

The weekend was topped off at home by our getting together with friends at a local ice cream shop. It doesn’t get much better than that.

©2017 thetravelingkites.com

The Sofa Bed Project

If you’ve been following our blog posts, you have no-doubt seen a few pictures of our travel trailer; a 2012 Keystone Hideout. The couple from which we bought it had made some nice little modifications that were useful to us too.

In our time with the trailer (this is our third season), we have continued the tradition of making some mods to more tailor it to our style of mobile living. Our most recent was the remake of the sofa bed. The original was wearing out. It didn’t look bad, but when you sat on it, you felt like you were leaning forward and the center seat felt like it sagged down a bit. It wasn’t comfortable at all.

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Out with the old!

Our makeover was Sharon’s inspiration and we both worked on the planning and design. She took care of the mattress and upholstery and I focused on the carpentry work

Sharon likes to store things under the sofa and the old convertible sofa bed was difficult to maneuver when it came to trying to get something out or put something into the under-seat storage. It was heavy and a balancing act to try to hold in just-the-right position to balance between falling back down into a seat or slamming out into a bed. She would usually call on my help to hold the seat up while she took the dive into the storage area.

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Our first step in the remodel was to remove the old jackknife sofa mechanism from the wooden base that is attached to the floor. Once removed, I did some measuring and assessing the best way to put a solid new seat base in… strong enough to withstand active grandchildren yet easily accessible for the storage area. Sharon wanted a real mattress on the bottom and she wanted some space along the back of the seat to be able to lift the mattress up to rest on its edge while being behind the hinges, so the lid to the storage could be easily opened. To accomplish this, I built some framework and covered it with the thin strip of plywood along the back. The rest of the seat base was attached with four sets of hinges. Since the hinges rest under the mattress, I selected them more in regards to their strength than how they look. Industrial function was priority here.

 

 

I felt the need to have a supporting brace across the middle of the base to offer extra strength under the weight of those of us who will sit or lay on it. However, Sharon likes to store some things in there that are too long to fit in a half-width opening. So, my solution was to make a brace that was removable when wanting to store a long object (like Sharon’s L. L. Bean hammock). So the brace shown here simply lifts out.IMG_20170805_175441308

After the carpentry phase of the project was complete, Sharon went to work. She had ordered a custom-made mattress to fit the space. She then carefully removed the upholstery material from the base and back of the old sofa bed. We wanted to use it, if possible, because it matched the upholstery of the dinette seats. Sharon carefully covered the mattress with the material from the bottom of the old seat and then covered a foam back with the material from the back of the old sofa.

The finished project doesn’t look much different than the old seat, but it is way more comfortable. Plus, all we have to do to turn it into a bed is lift the back off to expose the full width of the bed.

We have a few little tweaks we would still like to make to our newly-remodeled sofa bed, but are for the most-part very happy with the result.

Believe it or not, this was not the biggest project we’ve tackled in the Hideout. I’ll tell you about some of the others in future posts.

Happy camping!

©2017 thetravelingkites.com

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