Live by the Checklist

Where to start?

Hold on let me get out my checklist.

Frist, always use a checklist. When we first started out living in a RV, there were many things we had to remember. It was new to us, so the things that needed to happen before leaving was fairly long. But alas, I am getting ahead of myself.

When getting your first RV, you usually have a quick walk through only 10 or 15 minutes. In that 15 minutes, you are told where the water hook up is. How to turn on the pump. Where the dumps are at. Where the battery hook up is. When all is said and done, only thing that has happened is the delivery guy got his stuff checked off a checklist.

The dealership has everything closed up, ready to hook up, and they move it out to an open parking lot for you to drive off.

Back the truck up and hook up the hitch. Now what?

With our first 5th wheel, it was delivered, and set up. After seeing everything that needed to happen we asked the question, “What if we forget something?” In no way is the answer a good one.

In comes the Checklist.

We borrowed a Checklist from another RVer to get started. Made a few modifications to it. Made it our own so that it worked for our family and our rig.

Every trip we go down this checklist and make sure everything that needs to happen before we hook up is completed. A few things on this list are: Fuel up truck, close slides, make lunch, turn off A/C, wipe under the slides, check tire pressure. A few things you may not thing of: add water to tanks, open blinds, and secure the TV’s.

Everything on the list are things that may create a problem. May be an expensive error. May be a catastrophic mishap. We use this checklist to avoid breaking something unintentionally.

Below you’ll find a file linking to a checklist we have used and lived by. You can borrow our check list and make changes to it for your benefit.

We have also included this check list in the back of Our Travel Planner (click here to check it out) . A paperback book form of our planner that we use on a daily basis while planning our travels.

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The 5 resources we use when planning a trip.

If you are like us, you want to travel all the time. Each location comes with new experiences, new people, new foods, new…you get the point. While we are at one place, we start thinking of the next place to go. Someone may have mentioned a new city to see, a trail to hike, or a waterfall to see.

Sometimes each of these things get scribbled onto a post-it note that may or may not get looked at again. This is NOT the most efficient way to go about planning a trip. But please do tell of any places we should see in the comments.

Lets take a look at the 5 resources we use to make planning a trip easier.

  1. Internet
  2. Google Maps
  3. Phone
  4. Road Atlas
  5. Our Travel Planner

Internet: Once we have figured out where we want to be at next, we start looking at the area. This starts with an internet search of the area. Yes, some of the search is “What to do in ________” and this almost always gets a good starting point of things to do. If the list is short, it may keeps us to a shorter stay. If the list is long, we may stay longer in the area.

We check on the FCC website to make sure we will have cell coverage for work, or at least find out where there is bad coverage in the area we are looking at. This starts narrowing down where we will want to stay at what park or camp ground.

Google Maps: Plotting out the Points Of Interest (POI) we found on the internet search gives a visual layout of the area. Different pins show the stuff we want to do from hiking to eating, maybe even brewery and coffee.

Here we decide about the distance we would be willing to drive to see the POI’s on our things to do list. Normally we like to stay within 30 minutes of driving, but up to an hour is acceptable depending on availability, price, and amenities.

Also in Maps, we start looking for locations to stay. If it is a short amount of time, and cool weather, we don’t need full hook-ups and 50 amp electric. During times like today when I am writing this, we NEED 50 amp electric, along with Sewer hookup. 100° and higher weather means both AC’s and daily showers.

Most places have online booking and a website. Website shows how the campground looks, the lay-out and the amenities there. Booking websites are great, as long as they give you a conformations.

Phone: When the booking site is down, or they don’t have online booking, we use the phone. Yes you can still book a campsite on the phone with the campground directly. This also gets a chan/ce to ask questions like: “Is the pool open?” “How is the water pressure?” “How good is my cell service there?”

Road Atlas: This gets a quicker view of the major roads in and out of the areas we want to be in. Major roads are usually RV safe with a 13’6″ height, we need to be sure we fit. This combined with looking in Google Maps, we have a good idea of the route to take.

Our Travel Planner: This is a hard copy of a book. In this book we put each of the places we want to go. This has a layout per month, along with reservation information. Check in times and reservation information is now in a location to grab and go as soon as we hit the gates. Some places we go intentionally does not have cell service, or is spotty, so we do not have to rely on our internet to see our information. This book has been one of the best additions to our planning. It also helped reduce the amount of resources we use when planning.

Title Page for Our Travel Planner 18 month 2024
Our Travel Planner 18 Month 2024

Here is a link to Our Travel Planner for a description, and a direct link for sale.

We do try to plan more than one trip at a time because we are mobile. Our Travel Planner helps keep us organized and on track not over lapping or skipping days.

What resources do you use for your travels? Let me know in the comments.

When is the best time to visit National Parks in the US?

Yes we have asked this question a time or two. Then we looked at our schedule, and found out that what others think the best time to visit National Parks are. Well, it does not line up with our available times.

Our son asked about going out to see the Grand Canyon. I had never been there, Sonya has passed through once, so we decided that is where the vacation would take us in 2023. We found a time that worked with work schedules and applied for the time off. We started planning.

The list started being compiled from an Atlas, a large book of National Parks, and of course, Google Earth.

We took out Our Travel Planner, blocked off the dates, and started penciling in our intended trip. Our Travel Planner allows us to keep all the information about locations and reservations in one convenient spot.

We packed up our home and hooked it to the truck and started our journey to north Florida to stage for the long drive west. During this slow move time, we made reservations to assure AC for the pup in locations that she was not welcome.

Our list of places to see include Arches, Zion, Petrified Forest, Roswell, and of course, a part of the Grand Canyon. This is a big list to keep track of and knowing the cell phones and cellular internet will be intermittent at best, everything got laid out on a calendar and the reservations and ticking information listed near the times we will use them.

When we set off on this summer adventure, it was before we saw the infographic put out by the National Park Experience. As we are headed west from Florida, and seeing temperatures on the rise from mid 90’s to the low 100’s I really wish I would have seen this sooner.

At the time of this writing, we are 5 stops in, headed west. The real adventure starts soon, and of course, we’ll try to keep some great photos coming for everyone.

Here is the graphic, and the blog it was in is linked below.

Best Times to Visit U.S. National Parks, from

What? You mean you DON’T have this in your car?

I know the saying “Expect to Self Rescue” is something a few of us know, and many have never heard before. So why not be at least somewhat ready for whatever life throws at you?

Most of the time the grey matter between the ears is enough to get through a lot of situations. I assume you think that way too? I know I’m not MacGyver, and I know that I need more than a paper clip and bubble gum to get out of a few situations.

As an RVer, I expect something to go wrong while out in the real world. To simplify the process of getting back on the road, or back to camping, or back to life, I make sure there are certain tools on hand in my truck at all times.

Lets take a look behind the seat:

  • Umbrella
  • Hiking stick
  • Tow Strap
  • BIG Jack
  • Lug Nut Wrench
  • Orange Tire Plugs/Plug Kit
  • Air Pump

Umbrella, well, gentlemen, you keep the umbrella in the vehicle so that the lady in your life doesn’t get her hair wet. Nope, not an emergency, but very important in the “happy wife, happy life” category.

Hiking Stick. This too is useful if you find yourself on the hiking trails. Oops, also not for emergency.

Tow Strap. Here is a piece of kit that you don’t need until you NEED it. RVing puts us sometimes off the beaten path, and hopefully close enough to others that if we need to get UN-stuck, we can use it to tie to another vehicle to get out of a sticky situation.

BIG Jack. I have tried to get a tire up off the ground using a 2 ton jack before, on a 10 ton trailer. It didn’t move, at all. So to a tool store to get a bigger jack. Now I have a 12 ton bottle jack that stays in the truck. I know that I can lift the truck or the trailer now.

Lug Nut Wrench. Bot the truck and the 5er has the same size lug nuts. A breaker bar and the proper size socket is always in the tool box. If you are unsure, or have multiple lug nut sizes, a 4-way wrench may be the way to go. Don’t forget the key if you have security or locking lug nuts on your car.

Orange Tire Plugs/Plug Kit. Orange plugs are heavy duty tire plugs. These are used for truck tires, and tires that are under higher pressure. The Plug Kit is used for plugging holes when they happen in a tire. In my plug kit, I keep a set of wire cutters to use to grab the nail or other object that is in the tire causing the leak.

Air Pump. The High Volume inflation pump can be used to air up tires that have a leak, or change pressures if temperatures have lowered your tire pressure. If you have a flat, add air, find out the ‘why’ your tire went flat, fix the hole, and fill to the tire pressure for your vehicle (see sticker in driver door jam.)

Of course, there is always roadside assistance, but once again…”Expect To Self Rescue.”

This is not the whole kit that I keep, but some of the bare basics that I make sure are close at hand. Let me know in the comments if there is something you MUST have, or something you’d like to learn to use.

What’s with Pump Etiquette?

Gas stations are a thing that we all have been subjected to from birth. At least if you were born some time after Ford made the horseless carriage affordable. When I was old enough to be outside on my own–3 or 4, ok, reality, 8 or 9, I was walking down to the corner store for gum or candy. When I was riding in the car, truck, or jeep, after about the age of 10, my parents allowed me to pump gas. It was always simple enough, insert nozzle, pull lever, click, and hang up.

Fast forward from the late 80’s and early 90’s to the 2020’s..

Cars are automatics, electric, low emissions, etc, etc…

Buc-ees! OH MY GOD! Have you seen a its like the heaven of corner marts! Mega Gas Stations! Best thing they have going is the 50 gas pumps, with diesel and DEF.

But let us take it back to normal gas stations. We were traveling south on 95 from Virginia to Florida. As I watched the fuel gauge getting past a quarter of a tank, it was time to start looking at GasBuddy (not affiliated) and Google Maps (also not affiliated) for the next stop. We were 20 miles from the Florida line in Georgia. For whatever reason I missed the last large truck stop on the interstate.

I pull into the last gas/fuel station before Florida, it is divided, car side on the right, truck pumps on the left, and only 2 diesel pumps on the car side. At the last minute, I avoided the truck side because they were backed up and it usually takes them a bit of time to fill their tanks. I pulled into the car pumps area, pulled behind one of the cars at the combination gas/diesel pumps. Driver was nowhere to be seen, so I ASSUMED the driver was paying, or grabbing snacks, or…who knows? 5 minutes later, I am idling, taking up another pump, and in the way, not being able to do anything.

Few more minutes later, she walks out of the store, with a couple of kids, and then inserts a card in the pump. Annoying, yes, but at least she’ll get done and move…

Nope. The older boy pumps while the driver gets a change of clothes and goes back in the store. ?????

Sonya does some blocking at the next pump, I pull around that car (driver is MIA, we have burned 10 to 15 minutes.) I start pumping our diesel into the truck. I’m 23 gallons into pumping when the driver of the OTHER car finally gets back to her car. She pretty much tied up a pump for 20 minutes.

Moral of this story. If you have business to do inside the store, move your car away from the pumps and get in a parking spot. Our stop that should have taken 10 minutes max now cost us 20 to 30 because of someone that is inattentive, or just plain rude.

Truck side of the pumps, the drivers will pull forward after pumping so that the pump is open for the next driver to get in and get fuel pumped. If I took our F250 over to that side, it would have taken longer to walk in to pay than it would to pump. Truck drivers are much more efficient when fueling than car drivers. Lets take some lessons from them. Pull in, Pump and Pay, Move, Go In and get snacks.

Thanks for coming to my ranting. Check back later, I’ll be in a better mood for the next one.


What is this chat gpt thing?

AI is something us Gen X’ers are a bit skeptical about after watching all our childhood movies. (Terminator, Wargames, even Matrix). But how bad can it be? Will the Machines actually take over the world or try to blow us up? I don’t know. But some of the things are pretty neat.

If you are not a fan of writing copywriting. ChatGPT may be something to look at. To test this out, I gave it a prompt. ‘write me a 1000 word article “why you need a travel planner book”‘ . Yes, I neglected the capitalization while imposing a limitation. Here is what ChatGPT produced for me (including the word counts.) Website is:

Title: Why You Need a Travel Planner Book

Introduction (Word Count: 90)

In today’s fast-paced world, where digital devices dominate every aspect of our lives, it’s easy to assume that traditional travel planner books have become obsolete. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a travel planner book is an invaluable tool for any globetrotter. In this article, we will explore the reasons why having a travel planner book is essential for organizing and enhancing your travel experiences.

1. Tangible and Reliable (Word Count: 140)

One of the primary advantages of using a travel planner book is its tangible nature. Unlike digital tools that rely on battery life and internet connectivity, a physical planner book is always at your disposal, ready to provide you with vital information, no matter the circumstances. You can flip through its pages, highlight important details, and add personal notes. Moreover, there is an unparalleled satisfaction in holding a well-worn planner book filled with memories of past journeys, creating a cherished travel memento.

2. Personalized Itineraries (Word Count: 180)

A travel planner book allows you to create personalized itineraries tailored to your specific preferences. From noting down must-visit attractions and restaurants to keeping track of travel arrangements and reservations, a planner book enables you to curate a travel plan that suits your individual needs. You can include maps, directions, and useful tips that you discover during your research. This level of customization ensures that your trip is precisely what you envisioned, guaranteeing a memorable and seamless experience.

3. Unplugged Travel (Word Count: 140)

While technology has undoubtedly made travel more convenient, there is something magical about unplugging from screens and embracing the adventure with a travel planner book in hand. By reducing your reliance on digital devices, you can fully immerse yourself in your surroundings and engage with the culture and people around you. A planner book enables you to disconnect from the distractions of the online world, allowing you to appreciate the beauty and authenticity of your travel destination.

4. Travel Inspiration (Word Count: 160)

A travel planner book serves as an excellent source of inspiration for future adventures. As you explore new places and record your experiences, you can look back on your planner and relive cherished memories. Additionally, you can jot down recommendations from locals, fellow travelers, or guidebooks, ensuring that you never forget the hidden gems you encountered during your journeys. Your planner book becomes a treasure trove of inspiration, fueling your wanderlust and providing ideas for your next escapade.

5. Reliability in Uncertain Situations (Word Count: 180)

In the face of unexpected events such as flight cancellations or sudden changes in accommodation, a travel planner book becomes an invaluable resource. By having critical information at your fingertips, including reservation details, emergency contact numbers, and alternative arrangements, you can navigate these situations with ease. Furthermore, a planner book allows you to keep track of expenses, ensuring you stay within budget while still making the most of your travel experiences.

Conclusion (Word Count: 110)

While technology undoubtedly offers convenience, a travel planner book offers something more profound—an intimate and reliable companion for your adventures. From personalized itineraries to the joy of unplugging, and the inspiration it provides, a planner book enhances your travel experiences in ways that digital tools cannot replicate. So, before your next journey, consider investing in a travel planner book and unlock the countless benefits it has to offer. Start documenting your travels and embrace the art of travel planning in its most tangible and fulfilling form.

Although I was Impressed by what it produced, I’m not sure it will replace us yet as writers, bloggers, and photographers…

That leads me to a shameless plug, take a look at our travel planner.

Let me know in the comments of what you think our computer overlords may do in the future.

(image made in Photoshop beta using generative fill)

Planning and Family Meetings?

A few weeks ago we started having family meetings where we discuss stuff from working schedules, to video releases. We even put in our dinner menu for the week. This keeps us on track and gets more things done throughout the week.
Here is the format we use.
Feel free to use it, if you need a slightly different one, contact me, and for a donation I can make you one that fits better for you and your family.

If this helps you and your family, please think about donating.


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FL State Parks Tag is taking off!

A couple years ago the state of Florida put out a new vehicle tag. This tag featured a kayak in the mangroves, along with some of our favorite animals in the area.

This tag cost $35 to put one on your car. $25 of that goes directly to the state parks.

Our family loves using the state parks and with the lifestyle we were taking up, we pre-ordered our tag when the option opened up. About a year ago, we were finally able to pick up our new tag at the tag agency near our home town. It looked GREAT on our truck!

March of 2023, the social media for the Florida State Parks posted this on Facebook.

Our choice in getting this tag has helped place over 800 bottle filling stations in the state parks. This will help reduce trash in both the parks and landfills.

You can order your plate from the Florida State Parks Foundation.

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