It’s Bluebonnet Time, Y’all!

Why do we take pictures in bluebonnets one Texas? Cuz we’re Texan, y’all!

It’s true! We really do this with our families during the spring!

There are certainly regions of Texas that don’t have these flowers in the spring, but it’s the state flower. So, it’s iconic everywhere. The Hill Country is probably the most well known for them.

Are there snakes?

Well, maybe, but we don’t care. Make a lot of noise. Snakes will get away from you. We are used to snakes, and we only a few people who’ve ever been bit. Be smart, and you’ll be fine!

Aren’t there red ones too?

Indian Paint Brushes look very similar and often grow in the same areas. We love too. They are incredibly soft but strong. They are both very common in the spring.

Where do you find them?

You can literally pull over off the highway around March-April and just take pictures! This was literally next to a tractor dealership. Doesn’t get more Texan than that!

Buying an RV?: Navigating the Dealership Traps

Hello everyone! We bought our second RV last year, and we wanted to share some tips with you. There will certainly be a variety of opinions on this, but here is our experience.

1. Find a great sales person who is also an RV enthusiast!

Honestly, we worked with two sales people and the difference was clear. One loved camping and RVs and one was a lackluster sales person. You will just get a very different experience from the two. You want someone who will honestly answer your questions and really help you through it all. Then, stick with that person! Please don’t buy on their day off. This means they will likely split the commission with someone else who didn’t help you through the process. The dealership will tell you it is fine because they want to close the deal, but it is not fine. If you loved your sales person, buy with that person!

2. Your truck/vehicle might be too small!

We don’t recommend only hearing from the dealership on this one. They want to sell you an RV. Ask your truck dealer and read more about this before making a decision. Can our F150 technically pull our 32 ft Coleman. Yes, it can. Will it be fine to drive around flat areas in the general region? Yes, it is fine. Should we have driven through the mountains of California, the deserts of Arizona, and the long haul from Texas to NYC. No, we should not have done that. We needed an F250. We recommend that you consider a vehicle that can EASILY pull your unit. Do NOT go with something that can barely make the weight on paper. You will regret it in the long run, especially if you have big trips planned.

3. Prepare for a major sales pitch after you have already picked your RV!

Yep, we were pushed very, very hard to buy an additional warranty, special insurance, and a coating for the RV. Candace is the researcher (she literally has a doctorate, not in RVs, but you get the idea). So, she was not going to be hard sold in the dealership. She collected the materials, went home, researched everything, and then came back the next day to close. Look, there are lots of opinions out there, but we didn’t buy anything they were offering. We decided that we could do the clear coat ourselves, and we didn’t read good reviews about the special insurance or warranty. In the end, we didn’t do the clear coat at all because our RV, Millie Falcon, is parked under a metal structure when we aren’t there.

4. Interest rates are terrible for “luxury” items like an RV.

Just mentally prepare that you aren’t going to get a good rate, and they are probably going to convince you to take a longer term than you should. Please research this yourself. How long have you planned for this? How long will you really keep it? Where are you storing it? If this is a bit of a whim, please don’t do a 15 year note. You will be upside down forever. We got a bargain deal on a brand new 32 foot Coleman for under 20k. You can find others much cheaper. Get into a unit that gets you on the road! Don’t fret over getting the golden unit of your dreams if it is out of your price range. We have our dream unit in mind too, but it is really large and we want to wait until we have a massive truck to pull that thing! Just get out there!

5. You will have to spend extra money to even take the RV home. Plan between $600-$1,000 or so!

Basically, you can’t leave the lot without insurance and a way to tow your unit. Add the insurance and get whatever you need for towing. We strongly recommend a sway system. This will make a dramatic difference in your truck’s towing performance and overall safety. You can buy it at the dealership, but you can “YouTube certify” yourself and buy on Amazon to save money. These are a couple of items that you absolutely must purchase, but stay tuned for another post with more details! Here are two quick items that you basically must have to use your RV!

Here is the sway system we have for our 32 foot Coleman:

Here is the RV septic hose we have:

Long Term Stay… Take 2!

After the cancellation of the beloved the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, we had to change our plans. we are very glad to report that the amazing management team at Lakeview RV resort in Houston willingly prorated our stay at the park. I imagine quite a few other rodeo guests also received refunds at great cost to the company. We deeply appreciate this gesture of goodwill and will be back again next year.

We really enjoyed the resort from ping pong to pool time! Candace ran the crushed granite track a few times, and we used the outdoor kitchen several times. The place is amazing!

Since the schools are closed and everyone is being encouraged to work remotely during the outbreak of this vicious virus, we have brought Millie the TT up to our land in the country! Brian is on week three staying here, and Candace and the boys are starting week two. We think one month counts as a long-term stay. No idea if there is an actual measurement out there!

All of our amazing state parks in Texas are still open, so get out there and enjoy nature while we social distance ourselves! We have enjoyed some great family hikes and runs during our semi-quarantine.

We invested in a few additional items for the RV for this long stay. Stay tuned, and we will let you know what worked and what didn’t!

5 things we learned booking our first long term stay!

With the massive Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo coming up, we decided to take the opportunity to book a place near downtown Houston – for a month! Brian works a lot at the rodeo, and Candace and the boys love to head in for the day to experience the excitement and energy of the space. For those who don’t know, millions of people attend the rodeo. It is HUGE in Texas. Also, there is so much to see and do in Houston! We are planning a ton of activities around town, so stay tuned for updates about our travels. We learned some seriously hard lessons in the booking process!

#1 Read the fine print.

We did some quick research on RV parks in the region, and as you can imagine, there are not a ton of choices near the city center. We did some quick comparisons, and we decided to hold a lot at the one nearest to the rodeo. It wasn’t too expensive, but as soon as they sent over the booking information, we knew it wasn’t going to work! With no amenities other than being close in proximity, we were going to be charged drastically more because it was a special event date range. So, we called back and said “never mind,” and then they insisted that we pay $100 cancellation fee even though it clearly states that the fee is $10. Well, apparently, it is $100 during special events. Key word here: during. The even is a month away!? We were NOT happy. We had spent hours writing emails, calling the credit card company, and trying to speak to the owner. We aren’t posting the name of the park because they did eventually make it right. Needless to say, ask a million questions before booking or even holding a spot.

#2 Reputable chains often also come with professionalism and safety.

After the first debacle, we widened our search and found something really nice only four miles away! They are part of a reputable chain, and we have stayed in their parks before and loved it. They were clean, well-maintained, have laundry, pool, etc. Very, very nice place and CHEAPER than the previously mentioned park. We highly recommend Quality RV Resorts, and they have many locations around Houston.

Here is their main website:

http://www.qualityrvresorts.com

They have just about everything you would want during a long stay. We can expect our unit to be safe and the area to be well-maintained in this highly populated major city location. Quite literally, millions of people will be around the area, so going with a reputable location is worth it.

#3 Week vs Month – we want more amenities!

We don’t care about a ton of amenities at our usual stops as we see ourselves more interested in the outdoors and having an adventure in a park; however, this is a month we are talking about, and Brian will be living there. We decided that these extra amenities would be desirable. We are happier in a state park and will even boondock in parking lot on a long trip. We aren’t bothered by it at all. A month stay is different. Also, Brian will be commuting for work, so we are talking typical laundry and high volume cooking for the family on a full-time basis. We aren’t much for eating out regularly anyway while traveling, but this will be especially true for the month!

This building has laundry services, a gym, very nice showers, and other basic supports where you can receive mail, etc. You can also utilize the grill and outdoor spaces. (They called it a BBQ pit. This is NOT a BBQ pit. This is a grill. Ask a Texan.) This will be perfect for our stay.

Of course, the boys are intensely happy that there is a pool. Someone, PLEASE, explain to the children that it is too cold to swim in a pool during rodeo season. Yes, Houston gets cold. Wind chill was 26F this week. We don’t expect it to be that cold, but you can be sure that the adults will not be testing the pool! Good thing they have a hot tub!

The small lake is catch and release, so Candace will certainly be doing some fishing!

#4 Don’t always trust the quick Google maps search.

This stay has a very high value on location. It is really not worth doing unless we can be near the rodeo. Our first quick Google search had the RV park listed with only one star and showed a weird picture, so we looked more closely at a different location. After the booking debacle, we decided to go back and read more about Lake View RV Resort. Turns out, that quick Google search gave us the right location, but the pictures were not correct at all. We are so glad that we took the time to dig deeper and confirm the details! It is a gorgeous spot!

#5 Even if the website says booked for your dates, you should call!

We first tried to get our dates booked through the website, and there were no vacancies. We decided to call anyway, and we are so glad that we did! They were great on the phone, and they shared lots of good information. Apparently, RV resorts have long-term stays and nightly rates at the same locations. The booking systems are made for the nightly stay people, so also call to see if you can get a spot even when the website says it is full. Again, the rodeo is less than a month away, so we were overjoyed to get a spot! It is an extraordinarily busy season!

We will follow-up with more updates as we get closer! Batch cooking will be up next. And, of course, we needed more gadgets…

Do you have any more tips for our first long-term stay?

4 tips to stay fit on the road!

Look, we all know how impossible it can be to keep your fitness goals while traveling. You can’t have this vague sense that you are going to train and just sort of look for moments to get it done. It is not going to happen like that. However, if you plan ahead, it will make a huge difference. Here are some tips and tricks from Candace!

#1 Find moments to get in something, even something small

Long road trips can be really hard on your legs and back, so you need to be proactive to prevent issues. I learned a runner’s lunge matrix a long time ago, and so these exercises are something I do all the time. It only takes a few minutes, and anyone can do it! In fact, I have the whole family doing these exercises every few hours as we stop. Don’t just roll out of the car and into a restaurant during stops. Stretch, warm your legs, get moving, even if it is just five minutes. If you do this little workout, two or three times on those long road days, then you are really getting in some training and also keeping your body feeling fresh as you cover the miles. Here is the video I used to learn the lunge matrix!

#2 Plan Ahead

Decide exactly what you are going to accomplish (be reasonable!). If I know that I am going to run, then I call the state/national park in advance and ask about the trails near where we are staying. I learned this the hard way… ohhhhh, 1173 feet of elevation in 3 miles… ok, so not running that one. Sorry, I am a flat lands girl. That would be a gorgeous hike, not a run. HA! Also, you have to consider safety. You are in a new place. You don’t know the terrain. You don’t know the wildlife. You don’t know the trail. I don’t recommend just going for it. Some people might, but I wouldn’t! I find a one mile trail that I feel confident about, and then I loop it for as long as I need. When I first discovered my one mile loop trick, it made the commitment so much easier. Finding a perfect 5 miles is going to be really challenging. Don’t spend a ton of time trying to find something like that. One mile loop repeats FTW! I won’t run more than a few miles while traveling because for me it is about maintenance on the road – not serious training. Also, I am willing to shift from a run to a family hike here and there. After all, it is vacation!

#3 Pack the right gear

Part of planning is about packing the right gear! If you bring your favorite running kit, then you are more likely to get it done, even if it is laps around the parking lot – yep, I have done it. These are a few of my favorite running items that I must have on the road!

I just bought these ear pods! No, they are not the Apple ones, too $$. I bought the cheap ones, and I am perfectly happy to report that they are awesome! No complaints here.

Then, I am currently using this very easy and beginner friendly coach on Audible! I had never even considered using an audiobook for running, but it has been amazing. I simply have not missed even one run. Yes, it is definitely more for beginners, but I am not worried. That is fine for me right now. The coach is awesome, and I love hearing her little pieces of advice along the way. There is music in the background that is not distracting, and each run has intervals, tempo, long run or recovery workouts. I LOVE it. It is called Half Marathon Training by Katie Barrett.

#4 Set reasonable expectations

If you are in the height of marathon, triathlon, etc. training, your trip is going to have to at least somewhat revolve around getting in the mileage or the hours you need. You will have to really plan in order to get it done. Everyone on the trip has to be on board with this commitment and willing to support it, or you might actually ruin the vacation! It can be done, but it must be with dedicated planning. I have done this before, but I didn’t love it. So, now, I plan my races and trips separately. I can certainly be in a lower training phase or maintenance phase and travel with no issues at all. But, no, I am not running 18 miles on vacation. I highly value the feeling that it is ok to miss an occasional session when on the road. I recently did a December Running Streak with my local running club. We committed to running at least one mile per day for the month of December. It was hard to keep this up while driving from Texas to NYC, but we got it down. From Target parking lots to laps around an RV park, we made it happen. The kids joined me occasionally. It worked because everyone knew about my commitment before we ever left home. They were cheering me on, and we finished that last mile together with a long walk in Central Park!

Can you guess how many states we have seen this year?!

It has been a whirlwind adventure of travel for us this year. We purchased our first RV in May, and we have already been to see so many incredible places. Before you read any further, put your guess in the comments!

This weekend, we decided to install our new map of the states on the door of Millie! Each person got to go one at a time choosing their favorite states to add onto the door. We did technically drive through Georgia for a few minutes, but we decided that didn’t count.

Candace found this great map on Amazon. Here is a link if you are interested.

RV State Travel Map – United States Camper Map RV Decals for Window, Door, or Wall ~ Includes 50 State Decal Stickers with Scenic Illustrations See Many Places

Be sure to really clean the surface you have chosen for the map. Then, installation can be a little tricky, so line up the edges very carefully before you place each state.

We made a line with painters tape and a level to be sure the map would be level once we stuck it on the door.

Travis’ first pick was Arizona because he loved Saguaro National Park so much! Brian went for California, and Clay loved debating between Arkansas and Tennessee for his favorite. Candace chose New York not because it was her favorite but because it was the most unique out of all the adventures for the year.P

Our travel trailer does not have a lot of flat surfaces on the outside, so the door was an easy choice for us. Traveling so many miles across the United States this year we got to see all kinds of different ways people display their adventures.

What is your guess? We certainly went from sea to shining sea and Deep South nearly to the northern border!

Drum roll please… 16!

Well, how did you do?! Any winners?

Do you know this travel hack?

We get asked a lot how we come up with our action packed trip itineraries with our family. Good planning in advance and flexibility on the road are key. Once we set our key destinations, we really work backwards from there to hit some great spots. However, once the plans are made, we don’t stress if things don’t work out. When you get the flu while in NYC, guess what, you might lose a day of sight seeing. When your truck breaks down dry camping in Big Bend, guess what, you might miss out on that river float. However, there is no reason to let that ruin your adventure! We are planning a family trip for the summer, so we thought this was a great opportunity to share our process!

Step 1 – Chose that big destination!

Once you know where your big moment is going to be, that makes a huge difference. Currently, we are LOVING the national parks. Grand Canyon is on every travelers bucket list, and only Brian has been there. It is time for us all to see it. We have also learned that we ready to slow down the pace and spend more time at top destinations. So, we are starting with two pieces of information: Grand Canyon and more time in top spots.

Step 2 – Check the route for other adventures!

On the way from Houston to Grand Canyon, there are only about 4,209 amazing things to see! Well, we may be a exaggerating a little, but there are certainly lots of great options.

One really cool idea is to take two different routes: one on the way there, and a different one on the way back. The slowest route, which is about an hour longer, takes you right by two other national parks – Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains. It also takes us near two amazing state parks for swimming – Balmorhea, which we have never done, and Bottomless Lakes, which we absolutely love. So, we know that is route is definitely happening either on the way there or the way back!

The fastest route takes us right by Dallas, where Clay’s favorite restaurant, Eatzi’s will certainly force a stop for us. Then, it passes near the US’s second largest canyon in northern Texas at Palo Duro Canyon State Park! It goes so well with a Grand Canyon trip that we will definitely hit this spot.

Ultimately, we make the trip about more than one destination. It is not two days of non-stop driving to hit one big destination. We make lots of stops to see great things. Then, we find those places where we will return again and again!

Step #3 – Eat at great restaurants!

Even though we are traveling with the travel trailer, we find a way to eat at great restaurants on the way. Fast food is guaranteed to leave you feeling sluggish, which is the last thing you need on a long drive! But, how do we find good places and figure out parking?! First, check Trip Advisor! Pick your city, click restaurants, and sort by a metric that is important to you! We like to sort by local cuisine.

Then, you can click the map feature to see which restaurants are on your intended route. We never go more than a few miles off the route.

How do we do this while pulling a travel trailer? Here is your hack!! On your map, you can click the little “i” and switch to satellite view! This is a game changer. You can make sure that their parking lot will work for your rig! This has been amazing for us!

What are your travel hacks?!

4 Best Drinks in Havana

4. Bloody Mary’s, Cuban Style

It may seem surprising, but we loved having these flavorful Bloody Mary’s full of herbs and veggies. The basil was a different variety than we have in the US. It tasted like a cross between basil and celery. Completely new flavor, but it went so well with the Bloody Mary!

3. Mojitos

Just about everywhere we went, Candace had a mojito! You won’t find any premixed drinks here. Every single one, from nice restaurants to beach side stands, served fresh, crisp mojitos.

The cold refreshing mint provided the perfect break from the heat!

2. Cuba Libre

It may sound like a strange combination, but this stellar local drink did not disappoint!

Ice cold rum, Coke, and lime kept us going through the soaring temps in downtown Havana!

1. Cristal, local beer

You must try the local beer Cristal! It’s cheap and refreshing! You won’t find any American imports, but you can also get a Heineken most places; however, we always drink the local favorites!

5 RV Maintenance Tips

After a huge season of traveling across the country, it is time to spend a couple of days taking care of basic maintenance on our 32 foot travel trailer named Millie! This year, we have traveled from coast to coast and as far as south as Big Bend to New York City in the north. We have put a lot of miles on our rig. We had temperatures from well below freezing in the Appalachian mountains to 117 in the desert.

#5 Deep Clean

We encountered everything from sand to snow this year, so absolutely every corner needed to be swept and scrubbed. Luckily, it is a relatively small space. If you plan well, you really can clean every corner in a reasonable amount of time. Our first tip is to get everything off the floor.

Candace loves the smell of this Mrs. Meyers cleaning product in the geranium scent. Also, it’s really important to use natural products. These small spaces will make you feel soaked in chemicals if you use harsh products. We scrub every nook and cranny, which actually only took about one hour. Remember, it is not like cleaning your house. It is a small space. Next, we have tried every vacuum. Every vacuum. We will NEVER buy anything but Dyson. We have one in the kitchen at home, one at our land in the country, and one in the travel trailer. They are expensive, but they last for years!

This one is on sale! It is cordless and holds a charge for a long time. Perfect for those weekend trips or even longer stays!

Dyson V7 Trigger Cord-Free Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

It is worth every penny. Their customer service is simply the best, and the product just works for years and years. Our oldest Dyson vacuum is 11 years old, and still works and looks like new. In fact, this weekend, the battery died on the smaller one in the kitchen, and we called Dyson. They are having a new battery overnight shipped to us for free. Can’t get better than that.

#4 Rotate your tires

Proper tire inflation, good general care, and regular rotation will allow to prolong the life of your tires for years. Every 6,000-8,000 miles you should rotate those tires. This is something you can do yourself if you know how, but of course you can have someone do it. The rear axle tires will wear more easily, so rotate is key to good tires. Move the back forward and criss-cross them.

Be sure to keep your tires properly inflated. Candace is an avid cyclist and will tell you the immense difference it makes to keep your tires inflated properly. Check your tires often.

#3 Repaint any rusted metal

There are several areas on your rig that may be prone to rusting, especially after a season out in the elements. We recommend that you prime and re-paint those each year and do touch ups as needed. It might sound like a big task, but it really doesn’t take much time. Brian repainted our sway system quickly and easily this weekend in about an hour, which included lots of sitting in the sun and beer drinking, so let’s say 30 minutes is plenty of time! Here is the before shot of the bars in the sway system. First, you need to grind off and wire brush all rusted areas. Then, primer and paint!

Just spray on the primer. Let it dry. Then, spray on the final coat.

Quick and easy, but it makes a huge difference on the life of this expensive equipment!

#2 Reseal your seams

Due to weathering and just wear over time, you may find gaps or nearly gaps in your rig. You can easily seal these to prolong usage. If you don’t store your RV in some pristine, climate-controlled place, then you are like most RVers! This means, you should invest a weekend every year in some maintenance.

We like this product from Amazon, and it is on sale! Really cheap but huge improvement to the longevity of your RV investment!

Flex Seal Spray Rubber Sealant Coating

We recommend getting up on your roof – SAFELY – and checking out any gaps around your AC unit, vents, panels, around all slides, etc. The directions for usage are very straightforward and easy to follow.

#1 Clean the outside of your RV

Luckily, we have a power washer, so this task is made quite quick and easy! You can use a variety of products, and it is important to consider the usage, weather, and level of dirtiness of your RV!

We opted for this cleaner from Amazon. After reviewing our travels this year, and let’s be real, the ease of using Amazon, we chose this product, and it worked great!

However, we did learn that you need to go back over your windows with glass cleaner as it will streak. (Also, it is good to note that your tires need different care than your rig. Don’t just spray them down with the same chemicals.) Dare we say, this was actually fun! After about 30 minutes of power washing and cleaning, Millie Falcon was already looking bright sun-shiny, ready for another few thousand miles!

4 Road Trip Survival Tips!

Long road trips can really wear out anyone! After driving coast to coast and North to South across the US in just six months, we are the experts at passing the hours joyfully and skipping the haggard days of hauling. Here are four go-to tricks we use on EVERY road trip.

4. Eat fresh, real foods

It might be very tempting to constantly eat fast food when on a long road trip. However, we guarantee that this will make you feel sluggish and tired on any long road trip. Finding a restaurant for a nice meal or quickly preparing something will make a huge difference in the long run. Honestly, our stops at a fast food style restaurant end up being nearly the same amount of time for a nice meal. And, we always walk away feeling so much better.

This is some frozen chicken soup that we prepare in advance. Whenever we make a large pot for dinner, a family size serving goes in a container in the freezer for our next road trip. You can take this out in the morning, and it will be mostly thawed by lunchtime. Then all you have to do is heat it up for a meal. We have used a microwave at a gas station, but it is obviously more ideal if you can heat it yourself! Of course, we are traveling with our RV, so Candace just heats it up on the stove top without opening the slide. As you can imagine, this also saves major dollars. Food costs can really add up when traveling! Eating at a restaurant is also better to decompress a bit. It’s not too rushed, and everyone gets food they want. Fast food will leave you sluggish and feeling hurried. You’re on vacation, and the drive is part of that!

3. Stretch your legs – not just metaphorically!

You might feel a little silly at first, but we do some leg exercises and stretches really quickly every time we stop! When you travel for long periods, you can really irritate your legs and back especially. We promise this will have you feeling much better as the hours go by. We do a running matrix of lunges, which sounds technical but is extremely easy! This one below is for runners, but you get the idea. It is really just four different leg exercises. It is good for basic conditioning for runners, but it really gets you moving and stretching after a time in the car. Yes, we literally do this in parking lots. I would definitely recommend shortening it if you aren’t accustomed to the exercises. You don’t want to be sore on your road trip!

2. Count away the hours with a game!

We were worried that our boys would lose their Christmas spirit with a long car ride, so Candace decided to make a bit of a game on Christmas morning in the truck. We all opened one present every hour! Everyone really looked forward to ticking away the hours with this game. Some of the gifts were small and meant specifically for the long ride, but others were boots, wool socks, and other travel items for our time in NYC. One popular item was a children’s cookbook. The boys picked recipes, made groceries, and planned to make the items once returning home. This one easily took up the whole hour until the next gift was going to be opened. This gave us the idea to keep the tradition going in the future! We plan to make small little gifts and fun items for the long haul every time. Even the adults will get in on the fun!

1. Listen to an audio book!

Even those who don’t love reading as much as Clay and Candace, an audiobook will really pass the time! We did two great ones on our NYC trip for New Years! After looking into some options, we decided on the free trial that Audible offers. It is an Amazon company, so it is easy to get it set up, and, hey, it is free for a month!

First, it was Call of the Wild by Jack London. Everyone loved this short three hour book. Candace knew everyone would like it, and the film is coming out. It is about a strong and beautiful family dog that is stolen and sold to become a sled dog. He searches for a way to survive his new life. A perfect choice!

Second, we did Deep, Deep Snow! We decided to go for something longer this time, and this 14 hour thriller was just the thing to tick away the hours. It is about a young woman trying to solve the disappearance of a local boy who has gone missing without a trace. The mystery affects the entire town.

If the family doesn’t all want to do the same book, you can try these ear buds on sale on Amazon! They are a similar style as the Apple model, and Candace has had no issues with them! She also uses them for running. After a couple of hours, your ears generally need a break, but they work well and are a great price.

I think our longest day this trip was 800 miles on New Year’s Day through the mountains, and we pretty tired that night! What is your advice for surviving those long road days?

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