Camping/RV

October 9-11, 2015: Prophetstown State Park

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Knowing October is going to be a busy month, we decided to head out for a RVing weekend. We weren’t sure which park we wanted to go to, so Pat had the Indiana State Parks website open to their reservations page, showing all available campsites, periodically refreshing it. Two sites came up that were not previously available, so they were probably reserved and canceled.

Both sites were at Prophetstown State Park in Battle Ground, near West Lafayette. The park is primarily on flat prairie land, which is being restored and landscaped to include native prairie plantings. It has a very different feel than the parks in southern Indiana, which have more woods and forests. One part of the park is fairly open (electric only site numbers beginning at 200), but with some young trees in between sites. Depending upon one’s preferences, that may or may not be suitable, but it is still nicely manicured and maintained, with a very nice comfort station / shower house in that area.

The sites that became available were in the area with campsite numbers starting at 100. Pat selected 108, which was a pull-through with full hook ups, so we had water, sewer, and electric, for a total of $40. What was really nice about all of the sites in this area, was the trees! It was a very different feel than the 200-numbered sites. Both the pull-through and back-in sites all had a very generous number of trees surrounding the roomy sites, creating a nice little enclave of privacy one doesn’t usually find many parks. Commercial RV parks are usually close, and state parks are usually spaced farther apart – and this one did quite well! The back-in sites all had three sides of tree coverage, and obviously having a pull-through, we had just two sides – but it was nice to look out and see just trees instead of other rigs and to have a delineation of our site.

Shasta Oasis at Prophetstown State Park

We arrived in the dark Friday night and I wasn’t inclined to do much but go to sleep, but the next day we basically lazed around until we felt like getting up (that feels good!) and had some coffee and breakfast before heading out for a walk. First, we walked around the campground for about a mile. We went back to the campsite to check out the trails for our next walk…I’d say hike but the area is pretty flat, no hills, no stairs or ladders to climb – so it was walking. But the layout of the two trails we wanted to take ensured that it was going to be a long walk. Turns out it was 6 miles!

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The weather was typical October, meaning chilly at night and warm during the day – but warmer in the sun and cooler in the shade. In many of the open prairie portions of trail 3, it got a little warm with no shade to be found, but trail 4 offered a good mix of shade.

Walk along Trail 4 - Prophetstown State Park

After trekking 6 miles, we rested a bit and decided to have an early dinner to replenish some of the calories we burned (and to avoid the post-game Purdue traffic), so we headed to the Dog n’ Suds on US 52 in West Lafayette. Dinner at Dog n Suds, US 52, West Lafayette, Indiana

We indulged in a little frozen yogurt at Urban Swirl Frozen Yogurt and headed back to the campsite.

The Indiana DNR had a fall campfire event in the other area of the campground and was offering free s’mores so we headed over and found that they were for everyone, not just kids. Woo hoo! Not too many took advantage of it, so there were plenty for the small crowd. I only had one though! We were treated to a beautiful sunset as well – though as good as a camera as the iPhone 6 Plus has, didn’t get the deep red colors correct (should have brought the Sony!).

Sunset at Prophetstown State Park

I fell asleep very early and to my surprise slept very late (for me) – 9:15! That was every bit of 12 hours. Yeah, that felt good. We wanted to have breakfast out and already knew we were going to the Route 66 Diner in West Lafayette. It is 115 miles from the closest part of the actual Route 66 (which would be Normal, Illinois) but as the sister restaurant to the popular local favorite the Triple XXX (featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives) the Route 66 Diner serves up some great food and friendly service. We had a bit of a wait, with the after church crowd, but it was worth it!

Next, on to burn off some of those calories with a bike ride. The park had a paved bike trail where they set up a “Scarecrow Trail” for October. Various civic groups set up scarecrow displays along the trail. See images in my photo gallery below.

After the 7+ mile bike ride, we had a couple hours left until Indiana’s most generous 5PM Sunday check out time. We rested for a bit, then set to the task of putting everything away and heading home. Until next time…

October 9-11, 2015: Prophetstown State Park

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September 12-14, 2015: Route 66 RV Trip

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Our latest journey is another trip on Route 66. We decided to take our new Shasta Oasis travel trailer on this trip, rather than our typical road trip by car.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

We initially planned to start on Friday evening after work, but due to a late schedule, needed to wait until morning. We left early to ensure we could meet the schedule we had planned. That was another different aspect of this trip, that we would have some anticipated stopping points; travel less time per day, and spend a little more time in the overnight location.

For the first day, our destination was Springfield, Missouri to the KOA where we stayed for the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival a couple of weeks ago. After we passed St. Louis, we took 66 mainly through Missouri, except in a spot or two.

We stopped by Paris Springs to see Gary Turner’s replica filling station, Gay Parita. Sad to hear that vandals have been stealing signs and memorabilia after his death. His sons have taken down many of the signs to prevent further thefts. Gary’s daughter will be purchasing the property and opening it once again – hopefully, that will deter the vandals when someone is on site!

We went next door to visit Teresa and John – fellow Corvair enthusiasts we met during the Springfield 66 festival last month after conversing on several 66 Facebook groups. Nice visit with new friends!

Once we arrived at the KOA and he’d had some playtime at the KOA’s playground, we took our grandson to the Steak n’ Shake on Route 66 and then to Andy’s Frozen Custard.

We enjoyed this KOA just as we had previously. There is a nearby train tracks and it is pretty close to a crossing, so when the train goes by, you do get the loud whistle sound. Whether that disturbs one is strictly personal preference. I can sleep with it, and fall right back if I wake up…plus I enjoy the sound. Your results may vary, but it’s good to know!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

We moved on the next day to the Tulsa area. We continued taking 66 as much as we could, stopping at as many places as practical given our combined total of 48 feet. Of course, we stopped at Afton Station to visit our friends Laurel and Ron. Jameson enjoyed the station and exploring the Packards and the old motorhome.

Next, we stopped at the Blue Whale in Catoosa, which went well. Luckily, a year later, our grandson has a better understanding that leaving one place doesn’t mean the fun is over and he knows that there is more fun down the road!

Unfortunately, on this day there would be a little less fun than we had planned. First, we ran out of gas in Tulsa. So much for the “Distance to Empty” feature on the truck, which still read 50 miles! Our Shasta came with a year of Coach Net from Forest River, the parent company of Shasta. They did very well, giving us an estimate of an hour but the service provider delivered the gas and we were on our way within 45 minutes. Two thumbs up!

That was great service though the experience was still annoying and we were a bit cranky…and then to make matters worse, we found that our RV park for the night (Cross Trails RV Park) was not at all what we expected.

Here is the description from their website:

“Sapulpa’s newest RV Park located on 7 Scenic acres with all the amentities that you need to feel at home. We are located in the scenic hill country on the Southwest side of the Tulsa metro area. We use the Eaton Powerhouse Pedestal that has 50/30/20 Amp electrical plugs, TV cable jack as well sewer, trash and free WiFi internet access. Our clubhouse offers a Laundry Room, Showers , a Playground area for the kids, a Dog Park, Picnic Area and Storm Shelter.”

Let me first say the good. The manager was very responsive and friendly by telephone (I did not see him in person, though). It was unusual, though, for him to tell us to meet his son by the dumpster along the fence after dark. Not exactly a usual or comfortable “check-in” experience.

The park is very new and to some extent, that is a plus. The concrete pads are very new and in excellent condition, same for the electrical pedestal. And for what it’s worth, it was on Route 66.

Beyond that, I have very little other positive things to say about this RV park. None of the other amenities appeared to be built or ready…no playground or dog park. The only building that was listed as the office and laundry was closed and peeking in the windows, it was still very much under construction. The grounds were similar, with piles of dirt and rocks everywhere. Many of the other trailers were in various ages and physical condition, with some having flat tires (along with their vehicles). All around, it was not a comfortable place to stay and I wanted to leave as soon as we could in the morning. I do hope that someday this park builds or makes available all of the amenities it has advertised….but as of September 2015, it does not.

We did manage to sneak in a very short visit to the very cool playground in Sapulpa where we took our grandson last year. It got dark pretty quickly but he enjoyed it anyway!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Our next day was to be a bit longer day, trying to get to Amarillo, Texas. Unfortunately, in western Oklahoma, the wind picked up considerably and we were getting a lot more sway with the trailer than we felt comfortable. We heard it was worse in Texas, so we decided to stop and stay at the KOA between Clinton and Elk City, Oklahoma. Not too much to do in the area but they had a playground and what more does a 4 year old boy need. :) This park isn’t bad (the grounds), though there are better KOAs. It doesn’t have much around it to do, except if one drives 12 miles in either direction to Clinton or Elk City (I did cruise Route 66 to Elk City to get some groceries and it was very peaceful!). It’s very good for an overnight stop, but maybe at other times there are amenities and activities? Many KOAs have kids activities, but my feeling is this one is geared more to overnight stops. For that, it is very adequate.

We would then have an easier day getting to Amarillo tomorrow!

Below is a gallery of photos from these three days of the trip. Enjoy, and stayed tuned for the remainder of our journey!

September 12-14, 2015: Route 66 RV Trip

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August 13-16, 2015: Birthplace of Route 66 Festival

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As online chatter started among Route 66 roadies about the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival in Springfield, Missouri, we thought it might be fun to attend, especially since we weren’t able to attend the festival in Kingman last year and not able to attend LA next year.

When we thought of attending, we debated on a car trip vs. RV, but after purchasing a new (to us) truck to haul the Shasta Oasis, we didn’t want to leave that costly combo sitting at home collecting dust. If it’s going to collect dust, it had better be road dust! The Rail Haven was booked, and being on Nutrisystem, taking the trailer and eating mainly our own food would be easier and keep me on track.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

We left Thursday afternoon after work, and our plan was to get to the St. Louis area. We did a lot of research on RV overnight parking (Walmart, Flying J, Cracker Barrel, etc.). Parking options in the area were slim, as most municipalities had ordinances against it, and we didn’t want to risk staying in unsafe areas. Rivers recommended against the Alorton Flying J as very unsafe. Highland, Illinois was recommended as a much better area, but it was pretty warm that day, so we decided to stay at the Red Barn Rendezvous RV Park in Edwardsville, Illinois. It had good ratings as an inexpensive place to stay ($35), especially for overnights. We called to make sure they could accommodate us, especially since we’d be arriving a little after dark. They said that would be no problem. We arrived and they were ready to greet us from their home at the camp entrance (the Red Barn) and were very friendly! We had a pull through site, never unhitched, just needed a slight level, and hookup to electric.

Illinois Sunset along I-70

Friday, August 14, 2015

Red Barn Rendezvous RV Park - Edwardsville, Illinois

We had a quick breakfast at the campground and got ready to hit the road.

As I was getting things ready, I was thinking about the pros and cons of car travel vs. RV travel. We have not done much RV travel (mainly just weekend camp) but there is a lot of appeal to RV travel. I know that in the future when we either full-time or at least, part time extended travel, it will be fun, but with our limited weeklong vacations, I was hesitant because we only have so much time, hauling the trailer is slower, and you can’t stop as much and certainly not on a whim to grab a shot of a cool neon sign, roadside relics or other offbeat treasures. Especially now, with a truck and trailer combo that’s pushing 48 feet total! So that is a downside; but stopping at places along the way is not totally impossible. Most whims are difficult and like all good roadies, we do like to travel the odd alignments. However, with some planning, we can stop at many attractions and locations. We also can concentrate more on certain locations than we normally do, by stopping earlier and setting up the RV at a place, then exploring the area for the remainder of the day (or longer if we want).

So we set sail for the day and made our way around the south side of St. Louis. We picked up Route 66 in Pacific and took as much of the route as we felt comfortable with. Where we knew the road would be too narrow or curvy for the trailer, we took the Evil I but that wasn’t too much. Made a few stops too! Fanning 66 Outpost for some Route 66 Soda, a Route 66 coloring book for our grandson – and bonus, a stand outside selling local honey from Fanning Apiary. Bought a bottle and some flavored honey sticks. Redmon’s Candy Factory is always a must stop for us too. Bulk candy and fresh fudge!

Tri-County Truckstop, Route 66, Villa Ridge, Missouri
Tri-County Truck Stop, Villa Ridge, Missouri
Phillips 66 Filling Station - Route 66, Cuba, Missouri

 

Phillips 66 – Cuba, Missouri

 

2016 Shasta Oasis at Fanning Outpost - Route 66, Cuba, Missouri
Fanning 66 Outpost
Devil's Elbow, Route 66, Missouri
 Crossing the Devil’s Elbow Bridge

All Photos from the Journey to the Festival

August 13 & 14, 2015: Birthplace Of Route 66 Festival – Getting There

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We arrived in Springfield, and made our way to the Springfield Route 66 KOA. It’s not on an alignment of Route 66 – it’s actually a couple of scant miles south of 266 (Route 66) on the west side of Springfield. They very much support Route 66, too. When we checked in, they told us about the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival and handed us a festival postcard – we said we were in town for the event. They have a lot of great Route 66 merchandise including souvenirs, shirts, maps (including Jim Ross and Jerry McClanahan’s “Here It Is” map series) and books (including Jerry’s excellent EZ 66 Guide for Travelers).   The campground is fairly smaller than a few of the other KOAs we’ve been to (St. Louis, MO, Dayton, OH and Louisville, KY) but nice and quiet…except for the trains. It was close to train tracks, which for some people might be an issue. It’s not a far off sound in the distance, it’s pretty close and loud. I didn’t find it a problem, personally – others’ results may vary. I enjoyed it there and would stay again!

Arriving at the Springfield Route 66 KOA

As we were setting up, Pat met a fellow Route 66 roadie, Chery, who was staying at the KOA in one of the cabins. Most of the other roadies were staying in hotels and motels, particularly, the Route 66 Rail Haven, so it was nice to see a fellow roadie already!

We were a little tired from the long drive, and we didn’t think we’d make it to the parade, so we stayed at the campground and relaxed. We also were to meet up with fellow Route 66 roadies and Corsair enthusiasts, Teresa and John. Pat had talked to Teresa on the Route 66 Pictures Facebook Group when she posted photos of some of their Corvairs. Pat offered them a few Corvair wheels, that they were happy to take off of his hands! We chatted for a while about 66, Corvairs and trailers and said good night. I decided to play around with the cable TV setup and managed to differentiate between the satellite / cable / antenna hookups. We didn’t really plan on watching it, but it was there and I had nothing else to do before bed.

August 2015: Springfield Route 66 KOA

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Today’s the big day of the festival for us – we would have to leave early tomorrow and not attend any of the festival. Getting ready in a bigger trailer is pretty nice. There’s still a little orchestration required but far less than with the Scotty and everything does have a place – even though I’m still getting used to where those places are! We made our way over to the festival area and started with the car show and local vendors – we made our way to The Glass Place, which was where many of our roadie friends – authors, artists, photographers, and collectors – would be. We met up with plenty of longtime friends, as well as many new that we know through Facebook – Jim & Shellee, Jane, Bob, Fred, Chery, Mike & Sharon, Joe, Jerry, Tonya, Bob, Rhys & Samantha, Ron, Joe, Don, Jason & Woody with the Road Crew and met new folks we know online – KC, Nick, Amy, Dora, Geoffrey and even more – Mike & Dean, Steve! It was great seeing and talking to everyone! I helped Jim & Shellee at their booth for a bit while they had lunch and even sold a couple Tourist Trap Tees! I was wearing mine of the Spooklight, so I already had on the uniform. :) Tourist Trap Tees- 2015 Birthplace of Route 66 Festival We saw a few more booths at the exhibit but needed to head out to see The Road Crew show and would come back later.

Photos from The Road Crew Show

August 15, 2015: Birthplace Of Route 66 Festival – The Road Crew

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Here’s a couple of videos from the show too! Check out our YouTube Channel for more!


The festival was very well done. In its fifth year, they had a car show, the authors / artists / collectors exhibit, concerts, local vendors, a motorcycle show, and kids area with a ton of bounce houses (I can only imagine if we brought our grandson, we’d have to impose a strict limit!). We went back to the Glass Place to see everyone we didn’t see earlier. We headed back to the KOA and debated about dinner – I thought it would be good to have a meal out, and we managed to figure out where everyone was gathering thanks to Facebook posts. We discovered everyone was at Colton’s, so we headed over there and were seated pretty quickly. We enjoyed some “onion tanglers” and steak. Remembering that I had a refrigerator on this trip, I opted to do the right thing for my sensitive stomach and save some for later. Good choice. We then headed over to the Rail Haven, where many (most?) of the roadies were staying and the Road Crew was going to perform an acoustic set. Awesome, especially since we couldn’t stay for their Sunday show. When we first arrived, it was just a notch past the “golden hour” but I still had enough ambient light for some photos of the recently installed replica of the old Rail Haven Motel sign. How awesome to have an owner who honors the past and the uniqueness of the original sign. Holiday Inn, are you listening?   2015 Birthplace of Route 66 Festival-72

I headed over to the pavilion just in time to find Pat and we set up our chairs as The Road Crew got ready for their show. Here is a video of them performing “That Ol’ 66″. Check out my YouTube channel for two others!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Not too much to say about today, really…we start the journey home early. Break down camp, pack up the trailer and haul it east to Indy all day! No festival attendance for us – yesterday was the big day. We took 66 most of the way out, but would have to take the Evil-I home. However, we did stop at the Route 66 Rest Area and Visitor’s Center – which is a great stop to get not only some info on Missouri but Route 66 too. The rest area is very much themed to Route 66. Here are a few examples, see the gallery below for more!

I also enjoyed a new app called iExit. It’s mainly for interstate travel, but could also serve 66 travelers as it quickly brings up services “nearby” based on geolocation from your smartphone. It does very well when traveling on the sometimes necessary Evil-I, by showing you what services are available at upcoming exits and the distance to them. It’s so handy to see at a glance that the next rest area is 58.7 miles, so if you have to “go” sooner, a stop at a restaurant or gas station may be required, and which ones are coming up. Here’s a link to iExit, available for iOS and Android.

The other thing that made the time pass easy is we knew our RV friends, Dane and Elaine, would be traveling home from a trip to Michigan – so after texting them to see what route they were taking, they replied I-70. So we played a game for an hour and a half where we estimated when our paths might cross and if we could see each other and snap a pic! We did so well as we got to the 113 and 108 mile markers, leaving us only minutes apart. Then, my fear happened when a semi passed us…and slowly, which would block our view. He creeped along, barely passing us. It would have been too risky for us to slow down, as we already cruise at a steady 60 MPH when towing, so we held steady and hoped he’d just move on up and pass us already. Once he did, I gathered myself back up, turned my head to look past Pat and out the driver’s window for a split second as I saw a small silver car that looked like a Toyota RAV4 in the passing line westbound. I thought it might be them…and it turns out it was. Too bad I missed getting a photo, but they got one of us!

Caught on Camera!

We set off on our next adventure in a month, a road trip again with the trailer. Plans are sketchy right now, unsure whether we’re going to Michigan or on Route 66. But either way, we’ll be sure to have fun and make more road trip memories!

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Pat & Jennifer

Well, we’re movin’ on up!!

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As indicated in my previous blog post, we are selling our Serro Scotty HiLander travel trailer. We are having growing pains (or at least, the beginning of them), and it’s a good time for us to move on up…to a bigger travel trailer!

We started out with our first travel trailer being a small T@B, which was good for a couple, but yet we actually quickly outgrew that, even without additional family!

Camping at Little Farm on the River - Rising Sun, Indiana

Just switching the bed back and forth to a dinette, orchestrating who would get dressed first, leave the trailer, so the other person could make the bed back into a dinette and get dressed…

T@B Mini-rally at Summit Lake State Park - Indiana

And not to mention: no bathroom! But we made “do”…

Our "outhouse" with Thetford Porta-Potti

After buying the T@B in September 2009 and camping throughout the fall and winter into 2010, we realized that while we loved camping and the T@B, it was too small to be comfortable (yeah, I know it’s not roughing it compared to tent camping, but in the RVing spectrum, it is!).

After researching options that would suit us (roomy, with a separate bed and dinette, bath/shower, etc.), we settled upon the 2010 Serro Scotty HiLander, which fit all the criteria we wanted and was retro and very unique! It was (and still is) a great little trailer, but there is a certain irony about buying a small camper and within a few weeks discovering that there will be a grandchild coming (our first!). We knew the Scotty would have some room for him or her because of the two dinettes, both converting into beds, so no matter.

Indian Lakes - Batesville, Indiana

Serro Scotty - Camping at Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana

Our Scotty's new custom Route 66 shades

Sure enough, a year later, in June 2011, we took our 4-month old grandson on his first camping trip. Being a happy baby, he loved everything…so of course, we didn’t know whether he’d grow to love camping. We hoped he would, and his enthusiasm for our little Scotty grew as we continued to take him camping (or even sleeping in it at home too – come on, RVers…we know you do too…). As he became mobile throughout 2012 and started getting into everything, we decided to hold off camping with him for a while. Obviously, kids don’t always “settle down” for a while, but he was at an in between time where it was hard to keep him from getting into everything, so he was relegated to driveway camping (subsequently referred to as garage camping when we built a garage suited to house the Scotty).

Fast forward to 2015. Much better weather than 2014 – so far, not as much snow or subzero temps afforded us the ability to get the Scotty out a couple of times. Still a bit chilly to take a young child (he’s almost 4 now), so it was just Pat and me. And as we found out last summer, we are expecting grandson number 2 in March! So our thoughts this trip revolved around envisioning us and two little guys in the trailer. Pat and I were feeling a bit crowded ourselves…not to mention adding my grandson (this is going to be the year he finally gets to resume camping with us!). But now, to add a baby to the tiny trailer too? I just couldn’t imagine how we were all going to fit, plus our stuff…and we don’t even bring that much! But kids and babies just necessitate so much stuff of their own.

As an aside, since becoming RVers, we have also thought much more about our future retirement plans, and whether we would spend them fulltiming or part time/snowbirding / extended traveling. Either way, we want the flexibility to see more of the country than we can now and some sort of RV will be a part of that experience. Most of our visits to RV shows involve looking for the rig of the future, and ironically, we just made several visits to the January RV show looking mainly at rigs for that purpose.

On the way home, I had the idea of updating to a larger travel trailer now…not as large as the one we’d think about in the future, but large enough to comfortably accommodate us, the grandsons, and even my daughter if she’d like to join us. Too bad, we hadn’t looked at too many in that size range at the shows. I didn’t say anything to Pat about it, and then he suddenly posed the very question to me! I laughed and told him I was thinking the same thing!

As we talked about it, we knew that because we’re debt free, and in a fairly frugal mode, we’d not spend alot of money or incur too much debt. Debt makes me really bristle!! So we needed something fairly inexpensive and even more so, that we would sell our Serro Scotty HiLander. We absolutely adore that trailer (and I’m sure many RVers know this feeling of attachment well). We had it customized to suit our imagination, and even built a garage with dimensions that allowed it to fit inside, protected from the elements. But to justify the upsize, I need to sell it to reduce the new loan, and to minimize maintenance, insurance, etc. Just can’t see having two trailers. So here’s hoping that there’s a buyer out there to LOVE our Scotty as much as we do.

So on to the new trailer. We really struggled with the idea of a generic box, but when it comes down to it, it’s going to be the memories and experiences – the family time together – that are most important. We still love the cool factor of our Scotty and always will, but we need to move up and be comfortable. We looked at many brands, dealers, styles, etc. and found a layout that we liked and will work for us.

As to brand, the Shasta is an iconic brand, though the trailer itself is modern in style and design, as well as standard RV materials. We settled upon the Shasta Oasis 25BH model, which we ordered from Mt. Comfort RV – great working with them and negotiating on a good price.

2015 Shasta Oasis 25BH

2015 Shasta Oasis 25BH


2015 Shasta Oasis 25BH

Shasta 25BH Floorplan

2015 Shasta Oasis 25BH

This is the same interior fabric, countertop and floor materials as we selected. The only differences from this model and the one we ordered, are that we added the following options: a full top bunk, instead of the single; oven, exterior shower, and aluminum wheels. 2015 Shasta Oasis 25BH
2015 Shasta Oasis 25BH

2015 Shasta Oasis 25BH

Our new Shasta Oasis should arrive in late March or early April, so for now we’re not camping (yeah, we do camp in winter and enjoy it!). And the irony is that the weather this winter isn’t as bad as last year’s Polar Vortex and constant snow, which scarcely enabled us to camp.

Change can be tough in some ways, but great in others. We’re sad to see the Scotty go, but know its new owners will enjoy her very much. We’ll enjoy fun times with our grandsons in the Shasta Oasis…and it’s always best to enjoy life, no matter what!

Pat & Jennifer

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*SOLD* 2010 Serro Scotty HiLander Travel Trailer

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***WE HAVE NOW SOLD OUR SERRO SCOTTY HILANDER TRAVEL TRAILER***

Due to a growing family tree (one grandson now and his little brother is coming soon), we are selling our beloved Serro Scotty HiLander and upgrading to a larger trailer with a bunkhouse, etc. We just ordered a 2015 Shasta Oasis and are very excited to get it.

That said, if I could keep and maintain two trailers, we’d keep the Scotty…but we’re working toward early retirement, so it makes more financial sense to sell. So, we are looking for a good home for our Scotty.

Indian Lakes - Batesville, Indiana

At the bottom of this post is the standard information from Serro Scotty’s website with regard to the HiLander. Even though this model is currently listed on their site, the Serro Scotty HiLander has not been manufactured since 2012.

We ordered our 2010 Serro Scotty from Kerola Campers in April 2010 and picked it up in June 2010 from the factory, Sierra Interiors in Bristol, Indiana. Here is a link to photos we took that day during a tour with the warranty manager, John. These photos will give you some insight as to the construction.

When we ordered it, we requested a few changes to the interior materials to make it look as retro on the inside as the outside. We selected a neutral fabric for the seat cushions, because we swapped the standard beige curtains for ones we had custom made with a Route 66 theme (fabric called Historic Highway by Alexander Henry). We also had the curtains made with room darkening / blackout fabric to prevent fading from UVs, as well as to allow us to sleep in late if we want to!

We requested black & white checkered floor, as can be seen in the photo of the front dinette below.

Our Scotty's new custom Route 66 shades

Here is a closeup of the fabric, Historic Highway, used for the curtains and pillows.

Historic Highway Fabric - Alexander Henry

We also requested aqua “boomerang” by Formica and aluminum trim for the sink and dinette countertops.

Formica Sample: Aqua Boomerang

Our Serro Scotty is the floor plan on the right, which is the model that has a large U-shaped dinette in the back (rather than a bed). Of course, the dinette converts into a FULL bed, and we have actually primarily kept it in that configuration, rather than switching back and forth. for two of us, we have used the front dinette to eat. Depending upon your needs, you can switch it back and forth, however you want.

Serro Scotty HiLander - Floorplan

Here is the rear dinette configuration (which was taken with the original beige curtains).
2010 Serro Scotty HiLander
And here in bed configuration.

2010 Serro Scotty HiLander

The front dinette also converts into a single bed, and there is storage underneath the booth closest to the door (which is shown in the photo toward the beginning of this post).

There is also a shelf and storage behind the other side of the front dinette, as shown in the photo below, and behind the dinette cushion.

2010 Serro Scotty HiLander

In addition to the custom interior materials, our HiLander differs from other new models, in that we had the factory add a 110 outlet underneath the front dinette – in the photo above, taken when ours was brand new, it’s not there, but we had it installed just to the right of the converter box. Much more convenient for charging devices, using a laptop, a fan, or small appliance – we have cooked using our Griddler (grill/griddle/panini) or a crock pot, or using our Keurig. Nice addition!!

The overhead cabinet (above the rear dinette) also coverts into a single bed, if that works for you. It wasn’t necessary for us, and I used the cabinet space instead. I currently keep my items in “Thirty-one” bags that fit very well inside the cabinets. We will have the mattresses back in the Scotty for its new owner.

2010 Serro Scotty HiLander
Kitchen features a microwave, two burner cooktop and sink. There’s an overhead cabinet and one below the sink, as well as a bank of drawers, and a fold-up counter top on the side. There’s a GFCI outlet, spice rack, and range hood fan which vents to the outside. We also have a cover that fits over the stovetop to use that space better.

2010 Serro Scotty HiLander

The thermostat, hot water heater switch, and tank / battery monitor panel is located here too.

Serro Scotty - Camping at Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana

There is also a drawer underneath the 3.0 cu ft fridge. Speaking of the fridge, I requested that the fridge be a 3-way model, so this one runs on battery, electric and propane. I have not used it in propane mode, only battery and electric. There is a freezer compartment inside. The air conditioner is located there, and below that is an access panel which has a small storage area (I put an RV broom and brush/dustpan there).

2010 Serro Scotty HiLander

It is equipped with a boomerang antenna and cable TV hookup; however, we did not add a TV ourselves – but there is space for one, along with cable input on the inside and a 12 V outlet.

The HiLander features a wet bath (shower & toilet combo). See the specs below for the tank capacities. However, I see that the specs do not reference the hot water heater, which is a standard feature on the HiLander. It’s a standard 6 gallon, DSI gas water heater, and configured to be able to be bypassed during winterization (no antifreeze should ever go into the hot water heater!).

2010 Serro Scotty HiLander

We ordered the deluxe package, which includes 5,000 BTU air conditioner (shown above), Fantastic Fan, and 12,000 BTU furnace. Other than testing it, we actually haven’t used the furnace. Instead, we use a small electric space heater when we winter camp.

In keeping with the aqua/turquoise color scheme, we coordinated our new Keurig Mini in turquoise with the Scotty…someone even commented that we’re “glamping.” LOL I never thought of it that way, but if you think this retro cool Scotty is glamping, go for it! :)

The little model Scotty (balsa wood) will be included with the trailer. The turquoise Keurig is negotiable. :)

Serro Scotty and our matching Keurig Mini

Exterior features a diamond plate rock guard, front window cover, storage (accessible also from the rear dinette). Bumper storage for the sewer hoses.

2010 Serro Scotty HiLander

We purchased the coordinating aqua striped 3-pole awning to go with the trailer as well.

Salamonie Reservoir - Lost Bridge SRA - Campsite 239

 Here is a video we made of the Serro Scotty HiLander:

Here is a slideshow of more photos.
If you are on an iOS device or the slide show isn’t visible, click here to view all of the photos on my Flickr site.

FROM THE SERRO SCOTTY WEBSITE

Here is a link to the Serro Scotty brochure.

HiLander

Legendary style meets everyday life. Stand apart from the crowd with this timeless classic.

All the features of home are found in your HiLander. A shower/toilet combination saves those late night hikes. It is designed to comfortably sleep four with a single front and full sized rear bed with an overhead bunk.

Safety is always first with a full frame underneath, fire extinguisher, escape hatch and a deadbolt door lock.

Perfect for family adventures! Standards include; sink, stove, furnace, refrigerator, hot water heater and spare tire.

Add even more creature comforts with optional A/C, microwave, awning and TV/DVD.

HiLander Specs Interior Plan Choices Appliances
Total Length …………….15’9”
Width ………………………85”
Exterior Height ………….92”
Interior Height ………….73”
Hitch Weight …………….280lbs
Dry Weight ………………2490lbs
GVWR …………………….3500lbs
Option 1:
Standard (u-shaped dinette) (OUR MODEL!)
Option 2:
Rear Bed (inner spring mattress)
  • 3.0 cu ft refrigerator
  • 2 burner stove
  • 2.0 gpm water pump
  • *12,000 btu furnace
    *not standard in basic
Exterior  Interior Options
  • Aluminum Exterior
  • Aluminum sidewall frame
  • Full steel frame
  • 4 stabilizer jacks
  • Baggage door
  • Rock Guard front
  • Electric Brakes w/breakaway switch
  • Exterior 110v receptacle
  • 7-way plug
  • Safety chains
  • 20’ 30amp detachable power cord
  • City water hook up
  • 20lb propane bottle
  • Spare tire
  • 22 gal fresh water
  • 12 gal grey water
  • 8 gal black water
  • Premium Vinyl Flooring
  • Shower & toilet combo
  • Power vent hood
  • 30 Amp fuse panel and converter
  • Window curtains
  • Cable TV connection
  • TV antenna
  • Oak Cabinetry
  • 14” x 14” Exhaust fan
  • Monitor panel
  • Bathroom mirror
  • Spice rack
  • Overhead bunk bed
  • 15” TV-DVD w/swivel mount
  • Window shades (standard w/curtains)
  • Awning 8’ retro type
  • Continental tire cover

Deluxe Pkg Standards (WE HAVE THIS OPTION)

  • 5,000 btu air conditioner
  • Microwave oven
  • Fantastic fan

June 7-9, 2013: Mounds State Park – Anderson, Indiana

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This weekend we *finally* got the trailer out and camped somewhere other than our own yard! We had reservations at Mounds State Park for Friday and Saturday nights. We were going to see Huey Lewis and The News Saturday night at Hoosier Park Casino, and Mounds State Park is a small, but very nice, state park close to the casino.

Here was our spot for the weekend, in a small loop right next to the airport. We saw many small planes taking off and landing throughout the weekend.

Serro Scotty - Camping at Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana

Here are a few photos inside our Serro Scotty, featuring our new turquoise bedding, throw rug, and turquoise storage tubs under the bed.

Serro Scotty - Camping at Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana

Serro Scotty - Camping at Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana

We used our electric grill, the Griddler, to make a reasonably healthy dinner Friday, chipotle lime chicken and grilled veggies.

Grilled chipotle and lime chicken and veggies

On Saturday morning we went for a 3 mile walk around trail 5 that loops the entire park, and also a bit of trail 1, that goes by the mounds.

Hiking on Trail 5, Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana

Hiking on Trail 5, Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana

After our walk, we relaxed around the campsite for a while, then we went out to an early dinner at the nearby Lemon Drop Drive-in and had onion burgers – yummm.

Lemon Drop Drive-in, Anderson, Indiana

Dinner at the Lemon Drop Drive-in, Anderson, Indiana

We went back to the campground to get cleaned up for the reason we were in Anderson – to go see the band, Huey Lewis and The News. They are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their hit album “Sports” with a tour and we thought it would be fun to go see them at the Hoosier Park Casino. I’d seen alot of popular bands back in the 80’s, but not Huey Lewis. I thought about so many of his songs and liked them all, so why not?

Why not indeed…the show was terrific. Huey Lewis sounds excellent, exactly the same as he did back in the 80’s. He puts on a very good, entertaining show and I recommend anyone who likes his music to go see them.

Huey Lewis and The News

The venue… The Outdoor Music Center:

Hoosier Park Racing & Casino - Outdoor Music Center, Anderson, Indiana

The main attraction – Huey Lewis and The News!

Huey Lewis and The News

Huey Lewis and The News

Huey Lewis and The NewsPhotographs

Below is a slideshow of the weekend’s photos.
Click any photo to stop the slideshow and view the photos on my Flickr site.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”roadtripmemories” id=”72157634030508545″ width=”600″]

Video

Here’s a video of “The Power of Love”

My Gadgets: Past and Present

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Most ladies’ shopping addiction is to clothes, jewelry, etc. My addiction is to buying computer stuff, gadgets, electronics, etc.

Here’s the lineup of my gadgets, past and present…

GPS / Mapping / Travel

DeLorme Earthmate BT-20

The first GPS unit I had was actually one I used with my Palm TX (see below). The DeLorme Earthmate BT-20 is a Bluetooth GPS unit that works on any device with Bluetooth capability. My Palm TX had Bluetooth and was capable of running the mobile version of DeLorme Street Atlas. The device worked well in receiving a good GPS signal fast. It would follow the map and show one’s position with speed and accuracy.

What was not so good was basically, everything else! Getting maps onto the device was so cumbersome. One would have to be in the Street Atlas software on the desktop PC and “cut” maps and transfer them to the device. Cutting the maps means to view the maps with gridlines on and select grids and form a map package with them. The problem is, more area = more grids = more data. The transfer was painfully slow and I could only cut small maps at a time. It would have taken forever to get the entire US transferred to my Palm. I was sick for a week and was laid up in bed, so with my mom’s borrowed laptop, I managed to make some progress. But aligning the squares for each map (you can’t overlap, that’s bad) was so frustrating, I gave up. Not only that, but searching for POIs was excruciatingly slow, and if you had the foolishness to even attempt creating a route more than 500 feet long, was impossible for the Palm to calculate. However, this was not the fault of the BT-20 itself. If combined with a laptop running Street Atlas, I am sure the performance would have been fine. You would have all of the maps, and no processing speed problems. My problems were the result of running the mobile version of Street Atlas. I had enough!!

DeLorme PN-40 GPS

DeLorme Earthmate PN-40

The DeLorme PN-40 is my new handheld GPS. With the pathetic performance of the BT-20, I thought about a new GPS, primarily for geocaching, but also for some road navigation, finding points of interest, and “tracking” during a trip, so I could take the “track” file and then geotag the multitude of photos I take during road trips.

A handheld model could fill all of these needs, and I chose the DeLorme PN-40. An added bonus on the PN-40 is the ability to have multiple types of maps (layers) on the device. One can have the map file, topo, USGS, nautical maps, aerial imagery, and custom stuff as well. This GPS comes with DeLorme’s excellent mapping software, Topo 7, but for a $100 upgrade, XMap can be used to import any custom images, maps, satellite photos, etc. I can create a very intricate route, transfer it to the DeLorme, and use it to navigate during my trip.

The cool thing with this device is that I can georeference old maps and transfer them to the device. I can then be out traveling and use the GPS viewing an old map. Why, you ask? This would be very helpful to identify old alignments of US Highways, auto trails, etc. If only I had this when Pat and I assisted Thomas Repp of AMERICAN ROAD magazine with researching an old auto trail in Indiana, the Ben Hur Route.

Garmin Nuvi 200

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Well, even with having the awesome DeLorme GPS, I found that it wasn’t the best for street navigation when I was trying to look for a place “on the fly” and navigate there…fair, but not as responsive as I’d hoped. Wrong turn? Forget it…took too long to recalculate. So, I opted to also procure a Garmin Nuvi 200. Nice little device. It’s a more bare bones model, and doesn’t do multipoint routes (I think I can add one via point), no software to create routes, doesn’t speak street names (but of course, it displays the street name). It’s quite a nice gadget! I still love the capability of the DeLorme to transfer a route that I created on my map software, so there’s good reason to have both devices. Now only if DeLorme could make a street-routing device that functions like the PN-40 (integration with Street Atlas or XMap, waypoints, routes, etc.) but with added features like lightning-fast response for street navigation, spoken turn by turn directions, faster search capability, easier addition of large amounts of points of interest (that would be really sweet!) so I could load POI Factory files in no time, like I can on the Garmin.

Garmin Nuvi 42LM

Garmin Nuvi 42LM

May 2013: During our recent road trip, we realized we were painfully in need of a map update, so we decided to upgrade to the Garmin Nuvi 423LM, with the lifetime map option. I especially like the lane assist feature – for those rare times when we are forced to take the Evil I (Interstate).

August 2015: Currently use the iPhone 6 Plus with a variety of mapping apps. For general navigation, my favorite app is Google Maps. It’s the most user-friendly and easy to use for street navigation. The native Apple Maps has improved since its initial release with more accurate maps and directions, I just tend to favor Google’s accuracy, traffic maps, and abundance of POIs. I also have a newer one called CoPilot. I’m still getting used to the interface, but a few bonus features are that it doesn’t use a lot of data – all of the maps are downloaded to the device (you can choose which areas to download if you’re short on space on your device). The only data use if if you use the traffic feature.  Another bonus is the ability to select a custom height, so that RVers can be routed away from any areas with height restrictions. It does not consider weight or length, however. It also has 3D lane assist and alot of POIs.

However, for trip planning and tracking road trips and marking places where I took photos, I use Trimble Outdoors Navigator. It’s not really a navigator in the same way as the the apps above, which give spoken turn by turn directions. A premium Trimble membership gives access to their website, where you can plan a trip, set a route of your choice, add places you want to stop, etc. The trips sync to the mobile device, and can be used as a guide when traveling. It’s not a bad app, and it works for me because I want to create a GPX track as I travel.

Another nice website and app combo for road trip planning is RoadTrippers. You can create a map from the website and add lodging, restaurants, sightseeing, etc. It makes trip planning easy by tallying up the miles and time between stops so can easily plan each day’s end. Trimble wasn’t designed to do that as easily, though it can be done. RoadTrippers is much simpler, but one thing Trimble can do easier is allow you to more easily create detailed routings of your own choosing, by clicking on the map to follow specific roads. I have done that with various Route 66 alignments. Roadtrippers auto calculates on makor roads, primarily interstates; however, one can change the route by dragging the route to the desired roads.

Roadtripper

I have a few other mapping or travel-related apps – like Geocaching, Roadside America (for finding quirky roadside attractions).  I also use Allstays Camp & RV for RV related POIs, RV Parky, State Lines for state-related info & regulations, like towing, taxes, alcohol laws, and more. Another very cool app while traveling – particularly if you are on the Interstate but even if you’re not, is iExit. As you travel, it shows the location of the Interstate you are on or near and the direction of travel, with the nearest exits and rest areas counting down in distance as you near them. Tapping each exit displays a list of each option available at the exit and direction to turn. Very handy to know that next rest area is too far away and you’ll have to go to a gas station instead! It’s also handy if you’re not on the interstate, it will display “Not on Highway” and display a list of places near you. You can view it in a list or map.

iexitscreens

MP3 Players

Dell DJ 20

I wasn’t an early adopter by any means, but I did dive into the digital music player realm several years ago, probably in 2005 or so. I had a Dell DJ 20 (2nd generation):

 

Not a bad music player by any means, I enjoyed it alot. At that time, I could get audio books from the public library’s Overdrive system, which was not yet available for the iPod. Unfortunately, I ended up with issues with its hard drive and it eventually died.

iPod 80GB Classic

I then moved on to Apple’s then-current offering, the iPod 80GB Classic:

I’ve been very happy with it, but was kind enough to offer it to my daughter when her 30GB model started acting up. I didn’t watch videos that much, and while I loved having all my music with me, I really didn’t listen to most at any given time. So I traded it for her Sony 16 GB NWZ-S545.

Sony 16 GB NWZ-S545

The Sony 16 GB NWZ-S545 is a respectable little music player with an FM radio, plays videos (all mine are in iPod format and I don’t currently have the time or inclination to convert them), and of course, music.

August 2015: Still have this device for backup but I now largely use my iPhone 6 Plus and use iTunes Match to keep most of my music in the cloud, downloading only my most listened to, onto the device. I listen to the music on the cloud using Wifi, but to listen when not connected, I will download to the phone so as not to burn up too much data.

PDAs and SmartPhones

I have been a Palm devotee for some time. First…

Palm IIIxe

Palm IIIxe

Then, I moved up to color…

Palm Z22

Palm Z22

Lastly, color and high resolution!

Palm TX

palm_tx_opening_photo

I was very initially enthused about the Palm TX, and had high hopes: high resolution color screen, more memory, better processor…and wi-fi! Alas, this device wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Frequent resets, wi-fi was a joke, and the worst part…a faulty battery status indicator. At first, I thought the device had trouble holding a charge (well, I think it does, somewhat…because it does drain faster than one would expect, even when not used for several days!). But the real problem is that at any point, the battery indicator shows a full charge, when in fact, the battery is ready to fully discharge. The solution, was probably just to charge it every day, but that device was getting frustrating. It was time to move on, and perhaps look into a Smartphone or something.

This led me to Smartphones. First up…

Samsung Epix

SGH-i907_ 007

3G, phone, Internet, wi-fi, organizer, contacts, etc. So far so good. It has its quirks, to be sure…but it’s pretty good the worst smart phone that ever existed.

December 2010: Since my initial writing, I found the Epix to be an epic failure. It failed so often it was ridiculous. I had multiple occasions that I received phone calls and the ringer didn’t ring and I missed the calls. There was one very important call that I was anxiously awaiting medical test results, and the Epix never rang, nor did it indicate I had a missed call or a voice mail. Only when I called the voice mail, it was there…but the phone lacked all three ways of indicating that the call came in, that I missed it, and that the caller left a voice mail. I feel bad for the poor nurse who had to receive my angry call when I thought she never called me back as she promised. D’oh!!

Still under warranty, I moved on…

HTC Fuze (Windows Mobile)

After 3 horrific warranty swaps of my Samsung Epix (I will spare you the gory details), I was offered a choice of replacement phones. After commiserating with other disillusioned Epix owners, many going through the same thing, several of them chose various models, ranging from Pantech, to Blackberry, and HTC. The replacement needed to be in the same general classification as the Epix and many chose the HTC Fuze and were thrilled. I chose it too, and enjoyed it thoroughly! I promptly managed to successfully flash a new custom ROM and that made the phone even better. iPhone killer? No way…of course, I never had an iPhone at this point, but seeing what the iPhone does, and how it functions, I knew it was no iPhone killer. But it was still a good phone, and I cannot say a bad word about HTC phones. I wasn’t crazy about Windows Mobile (though I never really had too many issues with that either). But the anemic supply of apps for Windows Mobile pales in comparison to the iPhone, and probably the Android now as well. They’re also so expensive! There are some inexpensive apps, but most are $4.99 and upwards…but still, I liked the phone.

Gradually, I started getting some crashes and more often, outright freezeups. I became so adept at pulling the battery I could do it with one hand tied behind my back. Perhaps a hard reset and reinstallation would have done the trick, but that seemed like such a nuisance. Windows Mobile doesn’t make the process easy! I was nearing the end of my contract with AT & T, and debated what to do.

I had a deal-breaker though…I had been a die-hard Quicken user since 1997/1998 and adopted Pocket Quicken for my Palm. I need to have my financial data with me at all times (that’s just me, I track my spending very well). Unfortunately, Pocket Quicken is not available for the iPhone, and Intuit even severed ties with Landware, the makers of PocketQuicken. The only Quicken iPhone app available is Mint. Some swear by it, some will never put their financial data in the cloud, others say its more for tracking money spent, not allocating where it goes and tracking it.

Further, Quicken is a desktop product. It synchronizes directly with Pocket Quicken, and no data is ever “in the cloud.” Quicken is also a very powerful product, which can manage alot of financial info, investments, savings goal planning, etc. I cannot speak to Mint’s pros or cons as I don’t use it, but I have read it is not as robust as Quicken and it is not meant to provide the same detailed planning and tracking as Quicken.

Mint was acquired by Intuit when its own cloud app, Quicken online, failed to kill Mint. So, I guess Intuit figured if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em! Since Mint founder Aaron Patzer created Mint to go up against Quicken, it stands to reason he would inherently dislike Quicken. I admit I’m hesitant to provide my financial info to Intuit, which Mr. Patzer attributes to us cloud-fearing folks as being old and stuck in our ways. At 43, I don’t feel all THAT old, so Aaron better watch out…before he knows it, he’ll be hitting the big 4-0!! He also knocked Quicken users down another peg by saying it’s for “anal retentive types” who want their finances “penny perfect.” I can’t argue with him there, I plead guilty on both counts.

Regardless, or rather, more so than ever, I wanted a different financial software than Quicken. I was tired of Intuit’s forced 3 year upgrades anyway. So, I found a new desktop software called “You Need A Budget.” Wow…great software!! It is actually more simplistic than Quicken, which in my case, is a good thing. For people who track investments, need financial planning tools, etc. I wouldn’t recommend YNAB. I’d recommend looking into the other product I was considering, Moneydance. I haven’t used it or tried it, so I cannot attest to it, but their support forum is active and the folks at Moneydance seem responsive to user’s concerns and suggestions for improvements. I went with YNAB because it did exactly what I needed: as a Dave Ramsey plan follower, I was interested in creating a budget and tracking spending. Simple, and YNAB does it so well! I plan my budget on my computer and can sync it OTA to my iPhone. Oh yeah, that brings me to the convergence of these decisions. I decided to axe Quicken, and upgrade my phone from Windows Mobile. YNAB only has an iPhone app, so that solidified my decision to get one!!

Apple iPhone 3Gs (32GB)

In December 2010, I decided to get an iPhone 3GS, not the newest iPhone 4. My days of gadget acquisition have slowed down considerably, so I consider purchases carefully at this point. I am on a stricter budget, so rather than get the latest and greatest iPhone (and thus more expensive), I opted for the next newest option, an unblemished, refurbished 3GS. At $149 (contract price), I was able to get a 32GB model, and get an extended warranty/insurance plan which would provide 2 years of coverage for not only technical failures, but accidents, spills, theft, etc. All for less than a new iPhone 4, though that looks very cool. But I was looking for cool on a budget, and the iPhone 3GS fits the bill. I am loving it!

In January 2013, my contract was up, and I am awaiting expiration of my daughter’s and husband’s contracts, so we call switch together from AT & T to Verizon (we need more extensive data coverage while we travel). So in June 2013 or so, we’ll all be getting iPhone 5 – which will already be 8 or so months old by then! Till then…

Apple iPhone 5 (64GB)

topic_iphone_5

In June 2013, we all did obtain the iPhone 5. very happy with the new phone, which was far faster and able to handle all of the work I was trying desperately to get the 3GS to do, but it had alot of trouble keeping up with my demands! The iPhone 5 was more than adequate to handle what I needed. Sadly, in late January 2015, I lost it in a snowstorm with just under 6 months to go on my contract. Enter the used phone, a step back…

Apple iPhone 4S (32GB)

201205211435087903

January 2015: After having lost my iPhone 5 in a snowstorm, I went to a used Apple repair/sales shop and bought a 4S. Not a bad phone, but after having gone from a 3GS to a 5 – going back to the smaller screen with less power, was a step back in performance. But it was only for 6 months. #firstworldproblems

Apple iPhone 6 Plus (128GB)

iphone6plus

 

The iPhone 4S compared to the 6 Plus – BIG DIFFERENCE

By May 2015, I started looking into the options for the next phone upgrade. I found out from Verizon that we were eligible for the Early Edge upgrade in May rather than waiting until June. It took a moment to wrap my head around the Early Edge concept – but after a cost comparison, paying full cost for the phone, spread out over 24 months, and the discount on the data plan, pretty much equaled buying at the contract discount and paying the full price for the data plan. And I could upgrade now and not wait another month.

One of the debates I had with myself was whether to stick with Apple or switch to Android. That was an easy debate and Apple won. I’ve been sucked into the Apple ecosystem and am pretty happy there! So the next debate was iPhone 6 or 6 Plus? I held each phone many times over at a couple of stores as I would pass by the Apple display, deciding if the bigger iPhone 6 screen was enough or whether I wanted the 6 Plus. Ultimately, I decided on the 6 Plus, as I liked the larger size to use when I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) use my iPad Mini.

I really like the larger size of the iPhone 6 Plus, and my iPad Mini is clearly feeling neglected. Especially when my next laptop came along, below…

Tablet / e-Reader

I’m combining the headings of tablet / e-reader, since my foray into both realms of these devices is a hybrid: the Kindle Fire.

Kindle Fire

December 2011: Being the gadget hound that I am, I had Kindle envy since the first generation Kindle was released in November 2007. From the first moment, I thought it would be cool to have a color version of the Kindle, and decided that’s what I wanted and wouldn’t get a Kindle until they had them in color. Welcome the Kindle Fire – a cross between a tablet and e-reader.

I had an iPhone and was intrigued of course, with the release of the iPad. I didn’t pay attention until the iPad 2 was released and they were distributed to managers around my office. I still liked the iPhone, but thought the larger iPad would be easier on my eyes and be fun to work with. However, the price range of $499 – $829 was cost prohibitive to me at this time. I still liked the idea of a tablet, and going back to my desire for a Kindle to well, re-kindle my love of reading, I decided to fulfill both desires with the Kindle Fire. I’m an equal opportunity gadget queen – no brand is hated; I’m not going to debate the Kindle vs. the Barnes & Noble Nook vs. the iPad – there’s loads of commentary on that out there. If I’d had the money for an iPad, I would have sprung for that, but I am VERY happy with the Kindle Fire. It does all I want it to do, and I’m enjoying it. I The smaller size to me is a plus, and I have loads of apps from the Amazon Android app store, ranging from games, Internet and social media, to productivity. There’s music, Instant video with my Amazon Prime membership, and magazines through the newsstand. Of course, then there are Kindle books. I always loved reading but space, time, and finance constraints have cut back on that. The Kindle helps in all aspects – save space with e-books! No clutter and no dust collection to flare up my allergies! Finances have been helped too! Kindle books are reasonably priced compared to their paper counterparts, but one can save even more by getting an Amazon Prime membership and using the Kindle Lending Library

I might even consider a Kindle e-ink version for books sometime. I LOVE the color, but it’s backlit and my eyes are 4 years older than they were when the Kindle was first introduced. Color is cool, but backlit screens do strain the eyes. So we’ll see about that.

Kindle Touch

January 2012: OK, have I considered the e-ink version! I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Kindle Fire; however, I am often in the car on road trips or outdoors when camping, and the glass screen of the Kindle Fire has an intense glare that makes it almost impossible to read. I knew the e-ink was going to work, I’d seen e-ink Kindles before and was totally impressed with the readability. So, I was debating which one to get, it had to be inexpensive, as I am very cost conscious now. It was definitely going to be a model with “Special Offers.” The offers / deals they have on the screen saver, and a small bar on the home page, make the devices $40 less expensive than their ad-free counterparts. One can buy the ad-supported version at a $40 price break, but if unhappy with the ads, just pay Amazon that $40, bringing the device back to its full cost, and the ads go away. I think the $40 price difference is worth it. The ads are not intrusive at all; they are displayed in the form of either a screen saver in sleep mode or else a small bar on the device’s “Home” screen. There are NO ads while reading books!

I went to Best Buy and picked up both the Kindle Touch ($99) and the Kindle ($79) and immediately knew that while turning pages with the buttons on the sides would be fine, the virtual keyboard navigated by use of the 4 way arrows on the Kindle would drive me nuts. If I take notes, I would far prefer the Kindle Touch, so that’s what I got!

Anyway, my aging tired eyes are no longer tired and sore…the combination of the e-ink of the Kindle Touch and my new progressive lenses have greatly improved my eyestrain and fatigue! I read most of the books on the Kindle Touch, but periodically will download some to the Fire if I want. On Wi-Fi, both devices keep in sync with my page location perfectly! I now have an iPad Mini instead of the Kindle Fire, but use the Kindle iOS app to also read Kindle books on the iPad. However, for longer sessions of reading, my old eyes appreciate the e-ink.

Apple iPad Minihero

December 2012: The 1st generation Kindle Fire has served me pretty well in the past year, and enjoyed its low price point and smaller size. As soon as the rumors of an iPad Mini were confirmed, I was intrigued. I read that Steve Jobs had said a 7″ tablet wouldn’t sell, that it was a “tweener” and wouldn’t have a market. I think the success of a Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 have disproven that, and obviously Apple now thinks so with the release of the iPad Mini. The higher capacity versions are still a bit cost prohibitive for my limited budget, so I opted for the WiFi only 16GB version. It has double the storage capacity of my Kindle Fire, and with cloud storage, I have plenty of room for my needs. The coordination between my iPhone has been flawless, and it has already helped me feel excited about photography again, because, well…see my new camera, the Sony NEX-6 below. It will also help me to be able to update my blog posts during road trips because I can pretty much do everything on it that I would do with my laptop.   Let’s just strike that last sentence, which rendered itself moot when I found that although I can do a lot with my iPad Mini, it is not a substitute for a laptop, unfortunately.  As much as I tried, and have been very productive with it, I still fell short of the things I wanted to do, but didn’t. That wouldn’t change until I was in need of a new laptop, below.

Cameras

1980’s: I started out in high school with a Nikon EM, an entry level Nikon 35mm SLR, which I have now found was evidently intended to be an easy to use, less intimidating “SLR Camera for Women.” Hilarious! It was actually not a fully manual SLR at all! It was an aperture-priority only camera (huh…so funny in retrospect!!). Rather than being able to manually adjusting both the aperture and shutter, one would only adjust the aperture ring on the lens, allowing the camera to select the correct shutter speed for the correct exposure. But since that was my first and only SLR experience, at the time, I was completely oblivious to this.

Sadly, I no longer have this fine little camera. I sure wish I did, though. It would be nice to play around with it a little, for nostalgic reasons. I really liked it alot! **UPDATE: After reading this paragraph, my husband procured a working Nikon EM for my birthday!! :) So, I will get a chance to play around with one!

Nikon EM

Nikon EM SLR

Concurrently with the Nikon EM, I owned a series of point and shoot 35 mm cameras. Though unremarkable and forgettable, there was one that worked very well. Since it was forgettable overall, I don’t remember what kind it was, but it worked well for a point and shoot. It too, disappeared from my life along with the Nikon EM (but that’s another story!).

Several more point and shoots later, in 2003, I decided to go digital. While not really an early adopter of digital cameras, I certainly am never one to shy away from new technology (unless those pesky finances prohibit…). I knew I didn’t want a point and shoot, but I didn’t go with an SLR either at that point. I opted for a camera with manual adjustments, but without interchangeable lenses, and selected the Sony Mavica CD-500. I liked it a lot. It used relatively inexpensive media, mini CDs. Exposure modes of Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and some scene modes. 5 MP. It made decent movie files, too.

Sony Mavica CD500

In hindsight, here’s what I didn’t like: shutter lag. Unbearable. Useless at the Indy 500! For stationary subjects, all was well, but there were some action shots I would have liked to take! Startup: slooooooow…had to be at least 10 seconds. Maximum 1/1000 shutter speed. Aperture range of 2.0 to 8.0. Maximum ISO of 400. Zoom equivalent of 34-102 mm. It was also painfully slow writing data to the mini-CD’s. However, with this said, at first, the camera suited me quite well. It helped me learn about settings, manual adjustments, and so forth. Of course, the greatest benefit to digital is that I could look at my images immediately, and tweak the settings to get the right exposure, depth of field, subject motion, etc. The Sony Mavica CD500 served me quite well for three years. But I outgrew it, and was tiring of the shutter lag and slow performance. So, I opted for a Digital SLR and chose the Nikon D50.

Nikon D50

May 2006: This camera had 6 MP, ISO ranges from 200 – 1600, the same exposure modes (P, M, A, S + scene selections and auto), the shutter speed went up to 1/4000! Instant startup time, no shutter lag and a host of lens selections. I added a Nikon SB-800 Speedlight to my arsenal, along with a Promaster 18-200 mm lens. I liked having one all-around lens for most purposes without having to switch lenses all the time. Using this camera greatly increased my photography skills, and I am pleased with having owned it.

The Nikon D50 served me very well for just over 3 years. Though nothing was wrong with it, and I swore I wouldn’t upgrade yet, the lure of the latest and greatest Nikon, along with an terrific offer I couldn’t refuse, led me to an upgrade. I thought about the Nikon D90, but that wasn’t enough of an upgrade for me at this rate. I pored over Ken Rockwell’s excellent site, reading all of the details about each one. The Nikon D3 was out of my price range, so I opted for the next best thing. Nikon’s very advanced consumer model, second-from-the top, D700.

Nikon D700

Nikon D700
August 2009: The Nikon D700 camera is just terrific! I can’t and won’t provide a highly technical review (see Ken Rockwell’s site for that), but there are so many great things about this camera. First, it’s a full frame sensor (FX), so it’s not the smaller, DX size. This allows for wider shots, more light sensitivity, larger prints, and probably a ton of other reasons beyond my technical knowledge (or lack thereof). At 12.1 MP, it’s not huge, but short of printing huge billboard size prints, this is more than enough for me and 98% of consumers (in fact, I rather liked the smaller 6 MP files of the D50…). ISO ranges from 100 (LO) to 25,600. This camera is wonderful at higher ISOs, with far less noise than on a DX camera. Makes it so easy to take better photos in low light! 1/8000 shutter speed, and 5 FPS. There is an optional battery pack that can boost this up to 8FPS, but I’m not a sports professional, so not necessary.
There’s some other cool features I like, such as 51 point autofocus, Active-D lighting, face detection, and much more that I’ll be learning as I get better acquainted with the D700.

Sony NEX-6

sony-nex-6-big

December 2012: It might come as a surprise that I decided to switch from the a higher end DSLR like the Nikon D700 to the Sony NEX-6, but I did. Make no mistake…the Nikon D700 is a great camera that has served me well for the past three years. But several factors combined have led to a sharp decrease in my usage and enjoyment of this fine piece of photographic equipment. The considerable size of the camera became a burden for me. I prefer to travel light and simple, and this camera is far from light at 2.5 lbs. – especially when coupled with a 28-300mm zoom lens, a 50mm prime lens, external flash, tripods, etc…also, I enjoy post processing my photos when needed, but lately I have had far less time and no desk space at home to do so.  As sad as it is, I found that I was just opting to take more photos with my iPhone because it was small and immediate. My iPhone (as of January 2013) is still the old 3GS model, so I don’t have the benefit of the newer iPhone’s better camera. No slight on Apple (as I’m counting the days until my upgrade to the next iPhone), but even the best phone camera wouldn’t be sufficient for me; I need better controls and flexibility, but in a smaller, lighter package (save for an additional lens or two).

The Sony NEX-6 is a compact camera system, also known as a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. It has many similarities to a DSLR in terms of manual controls, white balance, ISO, and of course, interchangeable lenses. It takes RAW files, in Sony’s format (only downside is I cannot currently process these in PhotoShop, so if I happen to need to do any RAW image editing, I’ll have to convert them to DNG, which is a painless process with Adobe’s RAW file converter).

ISO ranges from 100-25,600 and the size of Sony’s APS-C sensor at 16.7 MP offers minimal noise at higher ISO (better than the NEX-7, which had more pixels resulting in greater noise and offer me no additional benefit as I don’t print billboards!). The sensor is certainly not as good as the D700’s full frame sensor at 12 MP, but all the reviews I read indicated it does better than most of the others. Nikon’s compact system cameras, the J1 and V1, did not get as good reviews as the Sony NEX – and it’s very small sensor did not lend itself to good performance in low light. I didn’t really consider any other camera than Sony or Nikon – not because they weren’t good equipment, but mostly because many of the sensor sizes were a smaller size called Four Thirds, and they also would be subject to more noise and less range. Since one of my favorite subjects is neon, good low light performance is a must!

The Sony NEX-6 also takes 1080p video, and has some advanced features, like face detection, in-camera HDR, panoramic mode, and my favorite – it has WiFi, creating its own network to which I can connect my iPad Mini, edit, and upload photos more easily while traveling without carrying a laptop around. When I get home, I can transfer the photos to my external drives, but the combination of the NEX-6 and my iPad Mini will make taking and sharing photos fun and more immediate. I have not added any trip photos from the past year to my Flickr page or this blog because of that and am excited to try it out on a road trip!

As to the HDR feature, I am very impressed with that as well. Without getting too in-depth regarding HDR or High Dynamic Range, a subject of which I have only cursory knowledge, it basically involves a wider range of exposures in an image. Our eyes can see varying levels of light, things well illuminated and also some things in shadow and our brains process them well. The camera can expose on level light, and can often underexpose shadows and overexpose brighter areas. Even before digital, photographers would bracket exposures, and use darkroom techniques to dodge and burn images to get the perfect exposure. PhotoShop allows us to do that digitally, and RAW files offer unprocessed images to be able to increase levels in shadow and lessen highlights (overexposed). HDR software combines a photographer’s bracketed images to be provide a wide range of exposure, resulting in an image that more closely resembles what we see in real life. Well, the Sony’s HDR feature works REALLY well. I only took a few throwaway shots, didn’t keep them – just mundane street shot – but I can already see how well it works. It’s impressive!!

Now, for a couple of downsides. The battery life and the electronic viewfinder are definitely things I do NOT prefer over the D700 or any DSLR for that matter. My D700 lasted forever without recharging, and I even had a 2nd battery. I will have to get another battery for the Sony or it won’t last on some trips (a car charger is going to be a necessity). The optical viewfinder is a nuisance, it is kind of laggy (but at least it does have a viewfinder instead of just the screen, some others don’t).

Overall, this camera doesn’t have the speed performance of the D700 of course, but I knew that going into this and readily accepted that as a trade-off for the bulky D700 that I knew I didn’t want to carry around, and couldn’t edit photos until I got home and back on my computer (and sitting at a desk because my laptop screen isn’t conducive to photo editing). The Sony NEX-6 does fare better than some of the other compact system cameras because it has phase detection autofocus like its DSLR big brothers, unlike contrast detection autofocus, like the other CSCs. The phase detection makes the autofocus speed faster, especially in low light. For me, the advantages of the Sony definitely outweighed the Nikon – whose weight was my biggest problem.

I bought the kit containing the 16-50mm pancake lens, because anything that is a smaller, lighter profile is appealing to me. I also bought the 18-200mm zoom lens, since I needed a greater range, rather than 55-200. Lastly, I did pick up a prime lens, a 35mm (49mm full-frame equivalent). It’s a 2.8, so not as a fast as my 1.8 50mm Nikkor lens that I used with the D50 and D700, but it was $300 less expensive than the 1.8, so that was what fit into my budget right now. The NEX-6’s reviews on ISO and low light performance were very good, with low noise at high ISO, so maybe the only sacrifice is bokeh.

I have not had the camera long, and my write-ups are not meant to be full-fledged reviews, just overviews of my various gadgets. But at this point, I’m REALLY pleased and excited about my new Sony NEX-6…oh and I guess I have come full circle, because my first digital camera was a Sony Mavica CD-500.

Computers

Like most people, I’ve had a string of computers, commencing in March 1997 with a largely homemade PC (made by my former neighbor and boasting Windows 3.1!). I bought a Dell Inspiron laptop in 1998, and thereafter mostly stuck with the Compaq line of PCs. Compaq has a nice, consumer price-friendly line of reasonably inexpensive PCs.

By October 2011, I was ready to relinquish the desktop PC in favor of a laptop. A great deal was had on a Dell Inspiron 14R, in Lotus Pink! I caught a VERY good markdown at Walmart, and combined with my daughter’s associate discount, could not have passed on this deal.

  • Intel Core i3-380M processor
    2.53GHz, 3MB Cache
  • 4GB DDR3 system memory
  • 14″ screen

Dell Inspiron 14R

Apple Macbook Air (11″)

357367-apple-macbook-air-13-inch-2014

July 2015: This laptop served me very well for a number of years, but like most PCs, it inevitably got slower and slower, and crashed more and more. I was already not taking it with me anywhere when traveling because I didn’t want to be encumbered with too much bulk and weight.

I knew at this point, a new computer was needed, but debated what to get. I didn’t want the same size and weight laptop as I already had, despite being the most cost effective option. I knew I wouldn’t want to travel with it or take it anywhere, just like my current laptop. My iPad Mini, while more convenient and potable, couldn’t do everything I wanted, and any other tablet, even a full size iPad, would be similarly unproductive. So the first choice was easy, to go with a tablet computer. But again, the debate would be Windows or should I switch to Mac this time? This would be my first Apple computer, but I’d already happily made the switch to an iPhone and I like the iPad Mini as well. So a Mac would certainly complete the ecosystem! I still did some due diligence and researched various Windows-based tablet PCs and there were definitely some good options and recommendations made. I am sure I would have been happy with any of them, but I opted to streamline and complete my Apple family with the 11″ Macbook Air. I went with only 128GB model as cost was a factor, and I have an iCloud Drive account with 200GB and some of my files are on there and I also have my own personal cloud (Netgear ReadyNAS) that I was able to set up on the Macbook and can access anytime with an internet connection.

So far, so good. It’s very light and I can easily carry it with me for meetings, and have taken it on a couple of trips. It’s a bit larger than a typical “mobile device” but at least at the Apple store, I was told to consider it a mobile device. And so it is!

August 9-12, 2012: Kerola Campers Big Little Rally, Transfer, Pennsylvania

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Photographs

Below is a slideshow of all Pat’s photos from Kerola Campers 2012 Big Little Rally.
Click any photo to stop the slideshow and view the photos on my Flickr site.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”11019355@N03″ id=”72157631042938200″ width=”600″]

November 12-13, 2011: Lieber State Recreation Area

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Slideshow of Pat’s Photos

For more details about a particular photo, click on it in the slideshow and it will open in my Flickr site.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”11019355@N03″ id=”72157628118576548″ width=”600″]

November 5-6, 2011: Little Farm on the River

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Slideshow of Pat’s Photos

For more details about a particular photo, click on it in the slideshow and it will open in my Flickr site.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”11019355@N03″ id=”72157627946086653″ width=”600″]

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