2018: Oct 21-28

We just wrapped up 5 days at Rainbows End, an RV park located at Escapees headquarters. The weather did not cooperate much and the sun did not peek out until the morning we packed up to head out, but nevertheless, we enjoyed our time there.

Rainy days at Rainbows End
Rainy days at Rainbows End

Being the newbie RVers that we are, it was great to be at a place that is filled with helpful people to answer all of our questions. We were able to set up our mail service and learned about some of the great programs Escapees offers. They have an RV Boot Camp scheduled next week which is a class for RVers to learn all of the ins and outs of RVing and they even offer informational lessons online as well.

Escapees Trolley
Trolley tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays
Tiny Teddy at Rainbows End
Always easy to find Teddy!

When we first arrived, we were handed a schedule of events for the week. You will never be bored at Rainbows End! There were line dancing classes in the morning, a beginners sign language class in the afternoon, a community social hour at 4pm every day and nightly movies. There are two community breakfasts offered – one on Friday mornings for $6 and a pancake breakfast on Saturdays for $5.  They also have this program & facility on site called C.A.R.E. (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees) which Russ talks a bit about in our video below.

We took long walks with Billie and Abbey and took them to the on-site dog park. Lots of people stopped to talk with us and the dogs even made a few friends too.

Most importantly, Russ and I started to figure out how to work and live in our tiny trailer (a.k.a. Teddy).  It is a small space – there is no doubt about that. But it has everything we need and with just a little communication and planning, navigating our way through the day works just fine. Russ will typically get up first and take out the dogs for a quick break. By the time he gets back, the dinette has ‘magically’ turned itself from Abbey’s bed back to a dinette and our bed has been made. We repeat the process in reverse every evening as we set up for bed.

A benefit of the rainy weather last week ….it kept us focused on work! The toughest part about working on the road is the wifi. We quickly hit our max on our Verizon jetpack. Wifi at Rainbows End was fairly good, but you do have to pay extra for it and it is per connected device. We have also considered getting a wifi booster, but haven’t done much research on it yet. We are open to suggestions, so if you have one, please let us know!

I do want to give a shout-out to some of our new friends. Our ‘neighbor’ Dennis who has the coolest set up to see the stars and to Michael and Louise who invited us over for drinks and shared a ton of information about their time living in a tiny T@B trailer (they currently have a Lance 1995).  If you ever hear people ask “where are all the good people in the world” …..I think they have gone RVing 🙂

 

 

It’s official! We’re full-time RVers!

 

My sister thinks we’re crazy. Our kids just shake their heads. We just keep pinching ourselves to make sure it’s all really happening.  You know the saying “Go big or go home?” Well, we are going big and we are determined to make it work because the only home we have to go back to is hitched to the back of our truck!

I initially thought buying the RV (in our case it was a Little Guy Max trailer) was the most daunting decision. I have since changed my mind. Downsizing – really committing to the choice – was the toughest part. We got rid of nearly everything but did wind up renting out a 5′ x 5′ storage unit to put some of the things we just couldn’t part with quite yet. We have a plan to go back to it in a year and reassess what we want to keep and try to pare down further. Other than the storage unit, we have only what fits into our 18ft trailer and the truck. My only bit of advice if you are starting this process, as you downsize don’t dwell on the price you paid for things or even some of the emotional attachments. The song “Let it Go” played continuously in my head during our yard sale. Focus on what you will be able to do once these things aren’t holding you back.

The process is also an exercise in self-awareness. I had to acknowledge I had a problem with letting go of paperwork. I had copies of our tax filings going back to 1991, copies of old utility bills, etc. I shredded A LOT of paper. Anything I couldn’t just let go, I scanned and saved. As each stack of paper disappeared, I felt a huge weight lift off of me.

Watching a lot of YouTube videos and reading blogs from other full-timers really helped a lot. We made list upon list to try to make sure we had all of the “must-have” items.  We are to the point now where we don’t know what we don’t know. So far, we haven’t hit any items that we needed that we didn’t have.

At the time of this post, we have been on the road full-time for 5 days. We are taking things slowly and only traveled 4 hours a day to start as we make our way from El Paso to Nashville, stopping along the way for Russ to meet up with people for his work.  In the five days, we have stayed at 3 different campgrounds. Lots of practice hooking up the water/sewer/electric! That being said, we have yet to USE the bathroom in our trailer. Baby steps! Are we the only ones that the thought of emptying the black tank seems like a process fraught with the potential for failure and catastrophic consequences?

The one thing that we did that I really like so far…..if we see something interesting along our route – we stop, we explore, we take our time. We have traveled back and forth on the I-10 corridor so many times over the years and just focused on getting from point A to B, never knowing what we were passing by. Our days of travel flew by and made the travel so much more enjoyable. Here are a few things to see just off the I-10 between El Paso and Livingston, TX. (We found them using http://www.RoadsideAmerica.com):

We would love to hear from you! If you are full-time RVers, any tips for the newbies? If you are thinking of going full-time, let us know!

True to the Union Monument
Treue Der Union Monument – taken during the only bit of sunshine we have seen in 5 days!

 

Watermelon Tower
Giant watermelon water tower in Luling, TX
Giant Stag made of Junk
40ft tall stag made from scrap metal nestled in a neighborhood park
Stonehenge II
Stonehenge II  in Ingram, TX

Camper Cooking with Kerry: Instant Pot Beef Stew

Instant Pot, Instapot, no matter how you say it….yes, the hype is real.

This recipe using an Instant Pot is good no matter where you make it, but there are certain benefits that someone cooking in a small space (such as the kitchen in our Little Guy Max) can truly appreciate. Without having to deal with multiple pots and pans it makes preparation and clean-up a breeze. If you are cooking in an RV, trailer, camper, etc it also minimizes the amount of electricity being used (if hooked up to a generator) as well as saving your propane for other uses.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1  1/2 lbs of beef stew meat
  • 1  Tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of pepper
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 8 oz chopped carrots
  • 2 cans whole potatoes (chopped) – or baby red potatoes
  • 2  1/2 Cups beef broth
  • 4 oz can tomato paste (or 8 oz tomato sauce)
  • 4 Tbsp flour

DIRECTIONS:

  1.   We’re going to start off by putting in some olive oil into the pot.  One of the best things about the InstantPot – EVERYTHING is done here. Fewer dishes? Sign me up.
  2. Now select the saute button on the front of the Instant Pot.
  3. As the olive oil heats up, add in the stew meat. We’re going to stir it occasionally so that all sides of the meat brown.
  4. While the meat is browning, add in the pepper and pepper
  5. Now add in some Italian seasoning.
  6. Next, we’re going to add in our beef broth. Slowly pour into the pot and stir, scraping up any bits of meat that might have been stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  7. Add in the Worcestershire sauce
  8. The recipe next calls for tomato sauce. You’ll see that I used tomato paste – it’s smaller and takes up less room in my Little Guy Max kitchen. I just added an equal amount of water to my 4 oz can of paste, mixed it well and then added it into the pot.
  9. Here’s where I cheated a bit by using canned potatoes. They keep longer and take up less room (plus, no peeling!).  The cans with already diced potatoes are diced too small for my liking, so I bought the whole potatoes and chopped them up.  If using non-canned potatoes, go with the small red potatoes.
  10. Carrots. I didn’t use canned carrots because I didn’t want them to turn to mush. I did, however, use baby carrots (again, no peeling!) and just chopped them up a bit smaller, you could just throw them in as is.
  11. Time to add the garlic! I have had this garlic press from Pampered Chef for more than 10 years and absolutely love it. If you don’t have this in your kitchen, you need to.
  12. Last but not least, chop up your onion and add into the pot.
  13. Place the cover back on and turn to lock it in place. Make sure your release valve is set to lock. Press the manual button and adjust the time (by hitting the + or – buttons) to 35 minutes.  After the 35 minutes, let it sit and do what they call a “natural release” of pressure for about 10 minutes.
  14. While you are waiting, equal parts of flour and cool water together to form a paste. Set aside.
  15. After the 10 minutes of natural release, press the pressure release valve and wait until it stops steaming.
  16. Remove the cover and add in the flour/water mixture. Stir well.

All I can say is WOW. From start to finish this took less than hour….and let me tell you, it does taste amazing. The perfect comfort food on a chilly day.

Camper Cooking with Kerry: Making bread without an oven

No oven? No problem! Follow these simple steps to make bread without an oven.

INGREDIENTS:

2 ½ cups Flour

1 cup hot milk

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (1 packet)

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

2 tsp powdered milk

2 tsp salt

1 tsp butter

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE:

  1. The first thing you need to do is pour hot milk into a bowl.
  2. Pour in your sugar and whisk the milk and sugar together until all of the sugar has dissolved.
  3. When the milk has cooled a bit (you want it lukewarm), add the yeast to the milk and sugar, stirring just a bit. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to proof. You are looking for the yeast to look a bit frothy.
  4. Once your yeast is ready, add in flour.
  5. Add in powdered milk.
  6. Add in salt….make sure to do it in this order because if you add the salt directly to the yeast, you will kill the yeast.
  7. Now mix together all of the ingredients.
  8. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on a flat surface. Gather the dough into a pile, place it on the table and start to knead. It will be a bit sticky at first but keep working it with your hands, forming it into a ball and then reshaping it. Knead with the heels of your hand, pushing away from you and folding back over. Continue this for about 10 minutes. You know when the dough is ready when is shiny, relatively smooth and springs back when you press into it.
  9. Now take the butter and knead it into your dough. Once it is worked in, set it aside for a minute and grease the bowl that you will use to let the dough rise. To grease the bowl, take some butter and spread it around the entire surface of a bowl. You want a bowl large enough to let the dough expand about twice its size.
  10. Place the dough in the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Set aside for 1 hour.
  11. While you are waiting for the dough’s first rise, prep the pan that you are going to cook the bread in by spreading butter on all interior sides and edges. Don’t skip this step as the bread will be very difficult to get out of the pan without doing this.
  12. Now that your dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and punch it down. Knead for again for a few minutes. You are aiming for a smooth dough. Pinch cracks and continue working until smooth.
  13. Place your dough into the prepared baking pan and press to fill in evenly.
  14. Cover again with a damp cloth and set aside for 1 hour to rise.
  15. After about 50 minutes, heat up your “oven”. Any pressure cooker that you can fit your loaf pan into will work. My All American Pressure Canner/Cooker is a bit of overkill and I actually recommend a smaller unit (something like this: Add salt to the bottom of the pan – this is mostly to absorb moisture during the cooking process. Place cutting rings or racks into the cooker to elevate the loaf pan during cooking. NOTE: remove your gasket and weights from your pressure cooker before using. Place cover on cooker and turn on heat to high.
  16. Unwrap your dough and brush the top with milk. The fat and sugars from the milk will help your bread develop a nice golden color during cooking.
  17. Place your bread into the cooker, cover and reduce to medium heat. At about 20 minutes, remove cover and brush bread with milk once more, cover and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes or until you achieve a nice golden color.
  18. Take your bread out of the cooker and place on a rack to cool.
  19. To help make your bread nice and soft, take a bit of butter and brush it on the top of the loaf.
  20. Once the pan has cooled just enough to handle with your hands, flip over and remove the bread. Wrap the bread in a damp cloth and set aside.

After about 2 hours, unwrap the bread, slice and enjoy!

IMPORTANT NOTE: As I mentioned earlier, my All American Pressure Canner/Cooker was a bit much – fine for a traditional cooktop/range, but I found that when using it in my camper, the cooktop and surrounding countertop became a bit hot – a potential hazard. Using a smaller pressure cooker that doesn’t extend past the sides of the cooktop is much safer. 

-Kerry

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War Eagles and BBQ

If you are ever traveling through El Paso, looking for something to do and don’t want to spend a lot of money, Russ and I have some suggestions for you!

After working hard all morning cleaning our Little Guy Max “Teddy” from top to bottom, Russ and I decided to treat ourselves and go out for the afternoon. That got us thinking if someone were passing through the area and looking for some recommendations, what would we say?

We decided to share two of our favorite places in the area that are not only budget-friendly but RV-friendly as well. Both locations offer ample parking and are easily accessible.

Our first stop was Rudy’s.  Rudy’s is a BBQ place with good food and a ton of character (especially for a chain restaurant). There are two in El Paso, both located just off the I-10 – we usually go to the one at 6401 South Desert Blvd and is the one featured in the video above.

Rudys

Rudy’s is a little different….. in addition to a few sandwich options, you order your BBQ by the pound and it is served on parchment paper, placed in a plastic milk crate/tray and all utensils are plastic. Thick slices of bread are available at no charge with your order, just let them know how many you would like. Traditional sides are available, such as potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and pies and puddings for dessert. They are also open for breakfast with delicious breakfast burritos!

The environment is very casual and set up with picnic tables throughout. There is also a little shop up front that sells snacks, flavored sodas, ice cream and “touristy” type items. Also for your convenience, there are gas pumps out front so you can fuel up before you leave.

After having consumed way more calories than we probably should have, our next stop helped us walk some of it off.  Just 8 miles to the west of Rudy’s is the War Eagles Air Museum. Now technically this isn’t in El Paso, it is actually located at 8012 Airport Road, Santa Teresa, NM, but it is adjacent to it so close enough – right?

Excerpt from the War Eagles Air Museum website:

The War Eagles Air Museum is dedicated to collecting, restoring and displaying historic aircraft of the World War II and the Korean Conflict eras. This unique Museum pays special tribute to military aviation and reminds us all of the significant roles these airplanes, their pilots and support crews played in securing our freedom.

To demonstrate the sights and sounds of these high-powered machines, most of this magnificent collection is maintained in flying condition. These aircraft provide public enjoyment while in actual flight. The Museum features various educational programs, exhibits and special events that help preserve our heritage and promote pride in our country.”

 

landscape War Eagles Air MuseumOpen Tuesday through Sunday from 10am-4pm, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the exhibits (and play in the helicopter!).

Message if you have any questions and if you go, let us know!

 

 

 

 

 

Practice makes perfect?

Russ and I thought we would take a quick trip to get in more practice with our hitching & set up “skills”.  This was only our second outing in our Little Guy Max travel trailer so it is still relatively new to us. Which was quickly apparent ….

If you need a place to rest for a bit and you are traveling through the El Paso, TX area, this will fit the bill. Basically, it’s a gravel parking lot with full 30/50 hookups as well as a few tent sites where you will find plenty of space, lots of pull-thru spots and the mountains in the distance make up a bit for the noise from the freeway.

IMG_1795
All set up! View from spot I-4

 

 

There is a trailer on site which houses two private restroom/showers as well as 4 washing machines and 4 dryers. Fees to wash are $1.50 per load and to dry are $0.25 per load.

Look for the giant dog bone to head over to the dog park and children’s play area. Each section is provided with a picnic table and an awning cover. The dog park was well stocked with doggie bags and a trash can to dispose of any waste.

Quick facts:

ADDRESS:  901 S Leisure Fun Road, Anthony, TX

AVAILABILITY: Open year-round

COST: Fee was $40/night for a pull-thru site with full hook-ups

This is a KOA property and as Russ mentioned in the video, there was thankfully a Camping World adjacent to the campground, so if you forget anything (like we did!) they have got you covered.

Even though Russ tried to pass the blame for his forgetfulness and I made a mess in the kitchen (make sure to watch the video above!), it was still fun to get away for a night. Maybe next time we will remember everything!

IMG_1789
Abbey & Billie keeping an eye on things