Our Little Teardrop Camper – T@B

Here it is the big reveal!

We found this great 2014 T@B camper/travel trailer.  We totally fell in love with its cuteness and versatility.  It is lightweight (about 1600 lbs) to tow but still has all of the amenities of a full-size RV. We have a kitchen, hot water, propane stove, air conditioning, and even a commode/shower combo.

Check out the latest video of our little teardrop being delivered….did I mention that it is the coolest shade of blue?

-Mara

Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park KY

After a failed attempt work camping at Amazon in Campbellsville, KY in August 2016. (I hurt my foot and decided to leave – longish story but not that interesting)  We moved to the closest Thousand Trails campground and that happened to be this one to regroup and decide where our RVing adventures would lead us next.

The thousand trails campground is located right inside of Mammoth Cave National Park.  So after my foot was mostly healed, I could not leave the area without some exploration of Mammoth Cave.  The area is full of rolling hills and known for their underground passageways that have been explored and mined for hundreds if not thousands of years.

This was a really really hot and humid August summer day in central Kentucky.  The kind of day that is really meant for sitting in a pool or drinking some ice tea on a front porch somewhere.  What was the most remarkable thing I remember about the tour?  Standing outside on that hot day and having a cold breeze taking over the air. It was a dose of mother nature’s air conditioning.  It seemed to just pour out of the entrance.

The tours vary in length and activity level.  I chose a moderate cave tour with stooping and and a ton of steps (at the end over 155 steps to reach back to the outside trail)  I was able to complete the hike within the cave even with a swollen foot from my short stint at my work camping job.  They give you plenty of warnings at the pre – hike lecture and if you need to change your choice at that point you definitely can.  Just be honest with yourself on your level of comfort in the dark and what you can handle physically.  It is a long way up and a crew to come down and get you out of the cave can take hours!

Here is the link for more information:  Mammoth Cave National Park Tours

Take a look at the video I attached.  Please subscribe on YouTube Subscribe here! for more updates and companion to the blog here at firesidetraveler.com!

-Mara

Our 11 RV Essentials – Fireside Traveler

We just passed our 4 month anniversary of full timing in our Motorhome. woo hoo!  I thought it might be time to share some our essential items for living full-time on the road in an RV.  This is by no way a comprehensive list and your mileage may certainly vary depending on your needs.

Thousand Trails near Hershey PA
Thousand Trails near Hershey PA

 

  1. Water Filters – We tend to be water snobs.  Water quality really varies from place to place.  So we try to make sure we can depend on the taste or lack of taste to the H2O.  We have gone back and forth with buying water, using the refill stations at Walmart and using filters. We have settled on and use a three filter system. At the water spigot we start with the cheapo Camco blue filter Camco Blue water filter two pack  to make our expensive internal filter last as long as possible.  Then in our water bay we have a Watts Flo Pur water filter
    Water Filters and internal surge protector
    Water Filters and internal surge protector

    which is also a whole RV / House filter. When we bought Franklin, we received a gift card from the dealership to spend on parts in their parts store, so…we loaded up on filters. Lastly, inside we filter again through a Brita Pitcher. The dual filter coming in is also great for our ice maker

  2. GPSspecific to RVing.  We plug-in our height, weight, how much propane we are carrying, our length etc. and it will route around any restrictions.  It has become really valuable recently when I-84 was closed in New York for a horrible accident.  We were off of the highway and onto a lot of back roads where there weren’t detours set up. We use redundant GPS systems from time to time, and the RV specific one has saved us a few times. Rand-McNally RV GPS
  3. 3M Dual Lock – This stuff is sort of like Velcro on steroids. It is super strong and holds more weight than command strips. The little bristles lock together and hold art or thermometers or whatever on the wall.   We usually find ours at Home Depot. Stick with the heaviest duty kind you can find, you will not be sorry. David used some to stick down his studio monitors to our desk and they have not budged in several thousand miles on the road. Dual Lock
  4. Surge Protector – This is really a must have. Power can be super unpredictable at campgrounds.  There are a lot of different models out there and it is really how much you want to spend depends on the quality.  However, we do have one built into our motor home.  20160721_103543So we have kind of a low to mid-range external to double up. We scout our campsites in our tow car and leave the RV parked somewhere in the campground while deciding on a site.  So, we take the surge protector and plug it in to a site we are looking at before we ever bring the RV over to check for correct wiring.  (we check the water too…making sure it works)
  5. Dog Bones – I know what you’re thinking… but not those kind.
    Dog Bone Storage
    Dog Bone Storage (held on with rivets)

    Get a full set from Amazon and be prepared for any level from 50 amp to 20 amp.

  6. Water Pressure Regulator – We like the kind where we can dial in the pressure.  No matter what kind you choose…don’t go without it.  We have been at a park that had a sign up at the check in desk because their pressure was at 70 psi and you had to sign a waiver that you were using a regulator.
    Valterra Water Regulator
    Valterra Water Regulator

    That could certainly blow out your RV pipes! Here is the one we use Valterra Water Pressure Regulator

  7. Rivets – What we don’t hang with 3M Dual Lock, we hang with rivets.  Small holes and with thin RV walls… it just works.  If the hole is bigger than the rivet just add a washer to the item you are hanging. poof done! (see above Dog Bone Photo)
  8.  Basic Set of Tools – Things happen in RVs all the time.  A basic set of tools is definitely an essential.  Doesn’t have to be super fancy.  We use this one from harbor freight tools: 130 piece tool set . You will probably need to add a few pieces specific to your situation along the way, but this is a good start. OK, full disclosure, we also still carry many tools from our sticks & bricks days..hmm…still need to pair some of the tools down. Put it on the to-do list.
  9. Walkie Talkies – We use these all of the time! So there are places that still have no cell service. We use them mostly when backing the RV into a campsite.  Certainly use hand signals too but these are worth it…trust me on this one. Also great when one person is driving the toad separate for some reason, or if you are caravaning with friends.
  10. Tire Pressure Monitoring – We do not have ones for the Motorhome and are thinking this might be an upgrade in the near future and any suggestions are welcome.  However, we do use them for our tow car which happens to be a Smart Car. The Smart Car is super lightweight at 1800 pounds.  If we blew a tire 36 feet behind us, we would not hear or see it.  This gives us peace of mind to monitor the situation from the cockpit.
  11. Comfortable Seating – our last RV just had a U-shaped dinette.  It had bench seating which consisted of cushions on top of plywood…not even a little bit comfy.  So when we got Franklin, we made sure it had a sofa that we could lounge in or lie in when we needed it.  Oh yeah, our outdoor chairs are the bomb and are really comfy and great on the back too!

    Comfy outdoor chairs
    Comfy outdoor chairs

These are for sure our top RV essentials at this point.  Thank for all of the support so far and keep an eye out of a YouTube channel coming soon!

Mara

CF Martin Guitars – Pennsylvania

Martin Nazareth PA
Martin Nazareth PA
CF Martin
CF Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are big fans of free factory tours…so when we had the opportunity to take a side trip to Pennsylvania to see how Martin Guitars were made,  we jumped at the idea. (Besides we got to stay in the beauty of the Poconos)  We decided to stay  at the thousand trails campground in Scotrun about thirty miles from Nazareth, PA where the Martin Factory resides.

The factory tour lasts about 1 hour from start to finish. I really appreciated how you get up close and personal with the guitar makers…seeing every detail of what goes into making a Martin Guitar.  When you walk through that door into the factory it is sparkly clean!  They have a super effective system to remove all of the dust that normally floats through the air when wood working.  Our tour guide is a second generation in her family to work at the factory.  (Since they have been the finest guitars here for 175 years, I am sure she is not the only one) This is the definitely the kind of place I would love to work as a wood worker.  But as they said…woodworking skills are not required.  All are trained on the job…can you believe that is amazing!  Only about 11% of the staff play guitar at all.

Each and every guitar that we saw in process was already sold ….had an order for it.  They actually have a backlog right now…which is a great place to be in manufacturing. The picture below shows how the guitar is laid out on the wood…then they check to see if they can cut around imperfections to optimize the use of the wood.

Martin Guitars are known to be the instrument of choice for a lot of musicians and I can see why.  Make sure to check out their tour from the Martin Guitar website.

The different stages of finishing are shown here.  I loved the desk of the man who is known for his inlay skills. My personal favorite!

20160613_134340

What impressed us most about the tour?  I think it is how many hands it takes to create a Martin Guitar! In this age, there are skilled artisans hand-working each and every CF Martin Guitar!  There is still so much skill.. from hand sanding, to finishing, to inlaying the edge banding and much more.  There are real people behind these guitars! From what I have seen, sure shows one way that this company is supporting the community that same way it has for over 100 years.  Each and every hand that touches your Martin guitar gives that distinctive sound!

Martin Guitar tours

-Mara

 

Jersey Shore

IMG_0159

I must admit I did not know what to expect from New Jersey.  I had only been in the Newark airport a few times.  My perception of this area was very industrial almost rust belt.  I know it is named the garden state, but my preconceived ideas were totally off.  It is green with views of the ocean and little lakes everywhere and of course a ton of history!

We camped in a little town called Port Republic, New Jersey.  The area surrounding the campground is filled with homes on large lots deep in the woods.  What surprised me the most about the area is the combination of rural property so close to a large draw like Atlantic City.

If you decide to venture into Atlantic City, the tollway really takes you right into the tourist area of Atlantic City near the casinos and the boardwalk.  However, there are ways to avoid the toll roads to enter the city off of Hwy 30. For those with RV’s, there is a tunnel that does not allow propane in the area.  Typically parking is not free in this part of town, but some is validated and for us we parked in the parking lot of the Bass Pro Shop and made a purchase and parked for 4 hours for free.  This was really walk-able to most of the casinos, the ocean, and boardwalk areas.

We typically eat most of our meals at the RV and reserve our money for other experiences, but we had to try a Philly Cheese-steak on the Boardwalk with an amazing view of the ocean! I am really not sure if this is normal in this area… but the fog was super interesting and localized right over the beach.

Atlantic City Fog
Atlantic City Fog

If you happen to be in the area, make sure to check out the historic town of Smithville, NJ!  Super cute lots of baked goods, restaurants, and shops! http://historicsmithvillenj.com/  Even though some of Smithville has been around since the revolutionary war, in the 1960’s many buildings were brought in from around New Jersey to create this cute little town.  I guess I would describe it as quaint.

IMG_2448

I have been really active on Instagram.  Here is the link to check it out and please follow me!  https://www.instagram.com/firesidetraveler/?hl=en

-Mara

 

 

 

 

Artisans and Adventures – Williamsburg, VA

My last post was all about the settlement of Jamestown, VA in 1607. The City of Williamsburg was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699. At the time Colonial leaders requested to relocate the capital from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, five miles inland between the James and the York Rivers. The new city was renamed Williamsburg in honor of England’s reigning monarch, King William III.

Why did they move the capital?  There are three main reasons for the move: 1. the drinking water was contaminated by seepage of saltwater, 2. the living conditions became dirty caused diseases, and 3. Williamsburg  was situated at a higher elevation than Jamestown.

will and james

Some kids go to Disney as a kid…I got to go to Colonial Williamsburg.  It was one of the most memorable trips for me.  I was a really shy kid so I told myself one day that I would be able to make stuff like the artists at Williamsburg.

Slowly over the last forty years or so,  I have kept that silent promise to myself.  I make yarn out of fiber on my spinning wheel. I have a loom and can weave.  I have successfully created all kinds of wearable art and sell my own jewelry. I sell silver jewelry and know how to be a silversmith.  We have sold more wood turned items than I can count. We have even had our own wood shop. I even have a letterpress machine so I can make prints or business cards. However, I can’t leather work or blacksmith…yet!

Williamsburg is  was one of those places for me that made an lasting impression throughout my life.  So, this was my second time coming here to Williamsburg. I come to it from a much different perspective.

There are two ways to see Colonial Williamsburg…the first way is totally free.  You can park on the outskirts of the area like Merchants Square and walk in. You experience what it felt like to be in Colonial Williamsburg in the 1600s. Walk the street, see the architecture, and talk to towns people.  Parking for two hours is free or you can park in a garage for about $1 per hour.

The second way is all inclusive.  Make your way to the visitor center where you park for free. The visitor center has two gift shops: one British themed and one Colonial themed.  Buy a ticket which is about $41 per ticket(adults) for one day or a multi day ticket for $51 (adults).  Check the Colonial Williamsburg, VA website for more ticket prices and specials. With the ticket you get to see the tours of places like the governors palace etc. and seeing the artisans at work.

Spinning at Colonial Williamsburg VA
Spinning at Colonial Williamsburg VA
Silversmith Shop
Silversmith Shop
Silversmith Shop
Silversmith Shop
Blacksmith Shop Williamsburg, VA
Blacksmith Shop Williamsburg, VA

I was a little afraid Williamsburg would not live up to my expectation.  It held a really high regard in my mind. I can say it was equally inspirational the second time around.

You can check them out on their Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/ColonialWilliamsburg

-Mara

PS – Don’t forget to subscribe 🙂

No one lives here right? – Jamestown, VA

Original lines of the Jamestown Fort Virginia

Original lines of the Jamestown Fort Virginia

Nestled on a small island on the James river near the Chesapeake Bay… lies the original English Settlement of Jamestown, Virginia.  Why was this spot chosen?  Well, they thought it was a pretty secure location.  It was mostly an island separated by just an isthmus made of a sand bar from the mainland. This spot was far enough inland from the coast to discourage the settlement as an easy target from potential Spanish explorers. The river was actually deep enough to get their large ships to the spot! The location was empty from other inhabitants…or so they thought.  As we know, this land was not actually empty… and many of those new settlers lost their lives due to their naivety in those first years. NPS History of Jamestown VA

We have known about this site historically for a really long time. It was first inhabited in 1607, after all.  I find it fascinating that we are still digging here and rethinking the way the boundaries of this site looked.  We thought the fort was a triangle…but in reality it was the first pentagon.  We are still finding artifacts here on a daily basis. The resident archaeologist showed us the take from yesterday in a brown paper bag…broken bottles, buttons, an arrowhead, and more.  Amazing! Historic Jamestown

I always thought of Jamestown as this bustling port…and it was just not at the scale I thought it was.  My impression was way off that way.  The views along from this site are worth the price of admission (which was $14 per person for Jamestown and Yorktown which is a seven-day pass).  https://www.facebook.com/historicjamestowne/

This is one of the reasons we wanted to travel.  You can read or watch videos/movies about all of this stuff.  However once you see this in person,  you can somehow feel a sense of what they felt over 400 years ago.  From both sides…what the settlers may have seen and experienced and on the other hand… how land was being invaded by the settlers.  Super interesting experience.

For me…it was a really moving and fulfilling experience.

-Mara

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Costco and a Smart Car

Smart Car Costco
Smart Car Costco

Who says you can’t shop at Costco when you have a Smart Car?

As an RVer, we get questions about living in a small space and why on earth would we shop at Costco?  We are not often in an area to get groceries reliably.  We like Costco for the consistency of a budget (price) and reliability of what you can buy (quality of goods).  We shop at Costco about once per month and stock up our freezer and prepare meals for weeks. I guess it makes sense to us. Let us know what you think?

Costco Smart Car Shopping
Costco Smart Car Shopping

 

Oh by the way… I am working on a video testing Costco TP and if it is safe for Motorhome / RV/ Fifth Wheel black tanks… stay tuned…This picture may give you the answer!

-Mara

A little bit of History … ooo ice cream – North Carolina

I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days. – Daniel Boone

In 1750, Daniel Boone moved from Pennsylvania to the Yakdin River Valley of North Carolina with his family at age 15.  He was well known for his outdoor hunting talents.  Daniel even created a business based on his hunting skills. Though he moved to Kentucky, and was one of the first settlers in that state, his family (mother and father stayed in North Carolina).  Here is a link to more  Daniel Boone History

We visited the final resting place of his mother and father smack dab in the middle of Mocksville, NC.  It was really interesting seeing the old grave markers and how as you walk further back in the cemetery you walk further back in time. We ended up in the area as if we were walking through 1777… just after this country was founded in 1776.

Joppra Cemetery

 

We happened upon Mocksville, NC on the day of the Daniel Boone Family Festival.  Live bands, arts and crafts, and festival food all in the downtown area of this small town. Super cute and a great way to get a feel of the community.

On the lighter side, we stayed at the Thousand Trails Campground near there and found one of my absolutely favorite ice cream.  One of the best treats I have ever put in my mouth! Try the red velvet ice cream and the sea salt caramel… I mean it! It is locally made  http://enjoyfrontporch.com/

This was just a taste of our journey through history as we travel up the east coast of the USA.  We can’t wait to see more…onto Virginia and Williamsburg.

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Thanks for all of the support…

-Mara

The Waterfall – Greenville, SC

Falls Park Sign
Falls Park Sign

For most of Greenville, South Carolina’s history the waterfall on the Reedy River has been the centerpiece of downtown.  A great piece of beauty and can be considered a center of social activity.  While we were here on a Sunday in May, the park was alive with picnics and dog walking. Absolutely everything  from dining to coffee to shopping is within walking distance of Falls Park.

We stopped to enjoy a snack (yes, we are craving Mexican Food after leaving Albuquerque) at Papi’s Tacos and sat outside to eat at a little table near river. Check them out here:  Papi’s Tacos

Of course, my favorite part is the sounds of the rushing river over the falls!  I could listen to the beauty of that sounds all day!

Make sure to take a stroll over the Liberty Bridge…the bridge is  345 ft long, 12 ft wide and with a concrete reinforced deck supported by a single suspension cable- is like nothing else in the US. Spanning the Reedy River in Greenville, this structure overlooks the local waterfall and the gardens at Falls Park.

Falls Park SC
Falls Park SC

 

Definitely, a peaceful day and wonderful centerpiece to the town of Greenville, SC.

There are a ton of waterfalls in this area and what we enjoyed  most of this stretch  off I-85 in South Carolina! Check them out here : Waterfalls in Upstate South Carolina

-Mara

Kuma in Falls Park
Kuma in Falls Park