Posted in: Newbie Tips, YouTube Video Link

Buying A New Car Online: Our Carvana Experience

We bought Ben a car a few weeks after we got back to Ohio. Between school starting soon (with no busing) and him having to go physically into work, we needed two cars. I drove the truck as my vehicle. However, with diesel prices high and the truck not having the greatest fuel mileage for short distances/city driving, we decided to sell it. We were on the lookout for larger sized car that we could still take road trips in comfortably. We were leaning towards an SUV and narrowed it down between a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Subaru Ascent. We looked on Facebook, Autotrader, and Carvana for our new (to us) car. I am sure everyone has heard by now but used car prices are inflated and there is a chip shortage for new cars, so cars were going fast and for higher-than-normal used car prices. However, after spending over $200 in one month for diesel with just local driving, we wanted to get a more fuel efficient car.


  • SEARCHING FOR YOUR CAR: We had never bought a car online, much less sight unseen. Carvana’s site allows you to search for your car by price, make/model, type, year/mileage, and features. Some cars have free delivery, while others have a delivery fee. There are several pictures of the cars, including any chips or “imperfections”. A detailed list of the car’s features and a Carfax report are provided as well. After searching for a while, we finally found a car that we both liked, a blue Subaru Ascent. There were a couple paint chips and a scratch listed, but they didn’t look too bad. We placed the order and were eagerly awaiting our delivery.
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  • PURCHASING: After you find a car you like, you can then start the process of buying the car by clicking the green “Get Started” button. This will hold your car for 30 minutes while you complete the account registration, trade-in options, payment information (cash/Carvana financing/3rd party financing), delivery/pickup (date/time), driver’s license information, and optional items (gap insurance, etc.). After those steps are completed, there are a few more things that need to be done. If you pay with cash, your bank has to verify the funds either through a 3-way call between you/Carvana/bank, or thorough a third-party called PLAID. To use the third-party verification, you need to give them your account information, including password. We picked the 3-way call, as I was not comfortable giving someone my bank log-in information. Your bank funds will be verified, but will not be withdrawn until you accept delivery of the car. There were a few online forms to complete before delivery as well. Buying a car unseen was a little worrisome; however, there is a 7 day return period for a full refund with Carvana, if you decide not to keep the car.
Purchase Example: Click To Enlarge


The day of delivery, we received a phone call that they were finishing detailing the car and should be there by our appointment time. We had to send (via text) a selfie with our driver’s license, the back of the driver’s license, and proof that the car had been added to our insurance. Your insurance information has to say the name/VIN of the new car in order for them to release the car to you! Even though I had always been told that any car we bought was covered as long as our insurance was up to date, I called and let our insurance know to start it on the date of delivery. Because delivery was on a Saturday, my insurance agent also sent a confirmation letter in case there was a delay of any kind with the electronic card updating.

The car ended up being about a half hour late, but the driver did communicate delays through text message. It was fun to watch the car being unloaded. (VIDEO link here) Once the car was unloaded, we had the opportunity to take it for a test drive. We drove down a few exits on the highway and then stopped in a parking lot to look it over. There were a few more paint chips than were disclosed on the listing, as well as scratches to the interior roof material (which were not disclosed at all). The car drove really well and was comfortable, so we decided to accept delivery. The car came with 1 key fob and a Carvana key chain.

Just like buying a car at a dealer, there was some paperwork involved but there were only a few forms that we had to sign. The car came with temporary tags and Carvana will mail you the permanent plates so you do not have to go to the DMV. I have to say, not dealing with a car salesman and the DMV was really nice. Once we accepted the delivery, we were also given the Temporary Tag application, a Limited Power of Attorney for Vehicle Registration, and an Application for Dealer Assessment that needed to be signed, notarized, and mailed back in the provided FedEx envelope. Our driver was not a notary and we had not been told ahead of time that we would need one to finish the car’s paperwork. We hurried over to my bank with 10 minutes to spare. Unfortunately, she would not notarize the paperwork. She claimed it was because she couldn’t notarize something that gave someone else power of attorney to take out a loan in our name. We read it carefully and the paperwork stated clearly that it was for the purpose of “applying for a certificate of title, to register, transfer title”, so I am not sure why the bank teller would not notarize it. We then rushed over to the UPS store near us that had a notary on staff. It only cost $5 for the notary service. I still would have liked to have known about needing a notary ahead of time. We probably would have moved the delivery time up so that we would have been able to contact the bank(s) and make sure they were available and could/would notarize it.


Because the car only came with one key fob, I wanted to buy another one so that we would each have one. Batteries Plus will cut and program car keys for you. When we stopped in to get a new key fob, it was going to be over $200 for the fob and programing if we bought the key through them. It was cheaper to buy the fob on eBay and then take it to Batteries Plus to program it. Some Ace Hardware stores will also program car keys. Your car does have to be present to program the new key fob. It was $85 for the key fob on ebay and $60 for Batteries Plus to cut/program it. (Check for coupons, Batteries Plus runs anywhere from $60-$70 for programming.)

The key fob that came with the car started dying after 3 days. It seems like the battery was just getting low, but it wasn’t something I would necessarily expect after only having the car for 3 days.

I did send some feedback to Carvana about the missed “imperfections”, the key fob, and the lack of knowledge about needing a notary. They were nice and gave back a standard “we’ll pass it on” message and told me we could always return the car if we were unhappy since our 7 day window was not over yet.

My temp tags were set to expire on 11/23/21. On 11/10, we got an email saying processing had been delayed and that new temp tags were available in my online Post Sale Dashboard. I had to print out the new tags, as they were active beginning 11/10/21 and were a different plate number. The reason given was “Covid”. It seems to be a reoccurring theme; as Ben likes to say, “Covid did it”. At this point, I could have made an appointment with our local DMV faster. On 11/16/21, I received a text saying that the registration was complete and the plates were on the way. It also stated that the plates required a signature from FedEx. I contacted Carvana on 11/17, as the app and online post-sale dashboard did not have a tracking number. I’m glad I contacted them, because they were due to arrive on 11/17. Although it stated I needed to sign for them, and I was home, FedEx just rang the doorbell and left the package on the porch.

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CARVANA, The Pluses:

  • No negotiating. The listed price is the price (plus any delivery fees/taxes, which are disclosed pretty clearly during the process). There is no sitting for hours negotiating over the price or if the floor mats are included. Not dealing with a car dealership was great.
  • Getting the car delivered on our time table. Granted, they ran late and we had to change a few things around, but it was still amazing to get it delivered right to us.
  • Not dealing with the DMV/BMV. No long lines for us! Carvana takes care of getting the permanent plates mailed to you.
  • Updates. We got several updates during the process via text messages (from online forms needing to be completed to the status of our plates).

CARVANA, The Negatives:

  • Lack of communication. Some things Carvana was great at with communication: the driver letting us know the schedule changes, online paperwork needing to be signed. However, not knowing that we would have to find and pay for a notary was a big miss in my mind. It would be simple enough to add that to the information given to you during the online buying/closing process. Not being provided a tracking number for the new plates would also be an easy fix. Although customer service told me it should be online, I could not find the tracking number in my account.
  • Accuracy. The car was in good shape, but there were more chips and scratches than advertised. The interior roof scratches are hard to miss if anyone had actually cared to look. We would have potentially looked at another Ascent, but this one was already here and we did need a car.
  • Third Party DMV/BMV delays.
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Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Michigan, YouTube Video Link

Kampvilla RV Park

For our stay in Michigan, we stayed at Kampvilla RV Park in Bear Lake, Michigan. It is an independent campground. For our stay here, we had full hook-ups for most of our stay, but had to switch to electric-only for the last 3 days. We had made our plans a little too late (4 months before) with the 4th of July holiday to get full hook ups for our whole stay. When we checked in, they gave the boys a Kampvilla postcard, sticker, and temporary tattoo.

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The campground had a heated pool, rec room with a washer and dryer, a patio with foosball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, sand volleyball, badminton, a playground, basketball hoops, and a pool. The equipment was left out (instead of having to go up to the office), so it made it very easy to play. There was another shed with a washer and dryer a little bit further into the park. It had a drive/path through the woods to tent sites, so it made a nice walking path.

There was ice ($3) and firewood ($5) were available for sale. You could pay at the office or in the drop box attached to the firewood shed.

Everyone was really nice at the campground. They had a lot of nice amenities and were pretty close to local attractions and grocery stores. It was about 30-33 minutes to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park Visitor Center. We would stay here again.

VIDEO: Campground Tour


Our rating: 3.5 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes (2 washers and 2 dryers)

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in (paved/grass/gravel)

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Yes

Amenities: picnic table/fire pit at site, playground, pool, games

Cabins: No

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook-ups: Yes

            Amps: 30 and 50 amp

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No

Camp Store: Yes

WiFi: Yes

Fishing: Yes

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Exploring Ohio, Maintenance, Newbie Tips, YouTube Video Link

Sands RV

We were finally able to get our bathroom fan repaired. MaxxAir had sent us a computer board and a motor, as either one of those items could have broken. We were able to find a mobile RV Tech who came out and replaced the computer board for us. As we were talking, he recommended a RV shop that he thought we might like: Sands RV.

We stopped in a couple of days later. This store was really neat! It had a little bit of everything: curtains, furniture, toilets, fenders…

The store was owned by Bob, who also worked on the Ungers RVs. The picture below was 1968 and Bob is the one on the far right.

Click to enlarge

As we were leaving, they also gave us a flame color changing stick for the fire. The boys got a big kick out of it at our next camp fire. It did work really well and lasted a long time (much better than the packet we had bought at a campground store).

We had a great time exploring the store. Everyone was very friendly. If you are in the area, I would definitely check out this store. It was like a RV treasure chest with something for everyone! We did a quick video walk through of the store (link here).

Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Riding Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

For Father’s Day we took a train ride through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. We had heard it was a good way to see the park, but the only tickets available when I looked were the Donuts With Dad for Father’s Day.

We had a friend in town visiting, so I booked tickets for all of us. The ride was 2 hours long and everyone got a drink and a donut.

Masks were “required”, but it seemed like most of the passengers took them off as soon as they boarded the train.

The train was neat looking and had a variety of different seating arrangements based on the cars. We were in a table car, but I would have loved to have been in one of the other cars. I think it would have made the train ride more enjoyable. You can purchase an all-day pass to get on and off the train. There is also an app where you can track the train and listen to audio clips. When we tried it, it did track the train pretty well, but we could not get the audio tour to work. However, it was a free app, so we weren’t too disappointed. If you are a runner/biker/kayaker/hiker, you can purchase a one way Explorer Pass ($5/bike/hiker, $10/single kayak) and jump on at a stop.

There were several seat types: Coach (padded seats of 4 looking at each other), Table Top (4-seater table and chairs), and Executive Class (this one looked really nice, padded seats, more room). All seating was assigned.

The train also had a snack car that sold drinks (even some alcoholic drinks, but not on Sundays until after 1:00), bagged snacks, granola bars, candy, popcorn, hot dogs. The snack car also sold some souvenir type of items (key chains, shirts, train hats, train whistles, toys).

We did see some things along the way. We went by a state park, a neighborhood, a farm, parts of the National Park.



  • TICKETS: Prices vary based on ride and seat selection. Tickets start at $15/adult, $10/child. COVID Restrictions: Masks required.
  • HOURS: Vary based on ride schedule and pick-up location.
  • PARKING: Parking on street or nearby lots.
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2-3.5 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Campground Review, Exploring New York, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA: Campground Review

For our stay near Niagara Falls, we stayed on Grand Island at the Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA.

Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA Campground Map
Click to enlarge

The campground had a camp store, laundry room, paddle boat and banana bike rentals, two pools (1 cool, 1 heated), basketball hoop, pickleball, horseshoes, and fishing ponds. Garbage was placed at the end of your site and was collected.

The campground was located on Grand Island New York. There was a grocery store (Tom’s) close by, a dollar store, post office, and several restaurants on the island. It was about a 15 minute drive to Niagara Falls State Park and a 18-20 minute drive to Buffalo. The one thing to know is that every time you leave the island you will be charged a toll. There was a Tim Horton’s and Adrian’s down the street (just about walking distance). There was also a go-kart/arcade/batting cage/putt-putt within walking distance.

Laundry room and book exchange

There was a change machine in the laundry room/arcade area, which were located on the bottom side of the office building. It was a nice laundry room with plenty of machines. There was also a book exchange shelf in the laundry room.

Arcade and change machines in laundry room)

The smaller pool by the office was the “cool” (aka unheated) pool. There was a dog park, bike and boat/kayak rental, and playground located here as well. The larger pool towards the back of the campground was the heated pool. There was also the basketball hoop, pickleball court, jump pads, and rec building/planned activities were back here. The one thing I did not like was that there was no parking for the larger pool. All parking spots were parked “Cabin Parking”. It wasn’t a horrible walk from our campground, but would have been nice to have pool parking spots for guests who have mobility problems.

Top row: Front/cool pool and pond with boat rentals. Bottom Row: Rec building and heated pool.

You could fish in the pond as well, but you were not allowed to swim in it.

Sites were pretty nice. Each had a fire ring and picnic table. There was not a lot of shade though. This campground had two sewer connections per site! Both were on the same side, but were spread out. It made it nice for being able to choose how to place the RV in the site. The campground also backed up to an Amusement Park (Fantasy Island), but it had been closed. It looked like at one point the train ride stopped directly at the campground. There were tent camping spots, as well as several different types of cabins. There were a few geese and lots of killdeer birds around the campground.

The campground also teamed up with a local tour group to allow campers to see Niagara Falls, ride Maid of the Mist, and tour Cave of the Winds. The tour bus picked up at the campground. We found it to be more expensive than just paying for the Maid of the Mist tickets, Cave of the Winds, and parking at the State Park. However, it is a good option if you do not have a separate vehicle and want to tour the area.

VIDEO: Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA Walk Through


Our rating: 3.5/4 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in (grass/gravel)

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Yes

Amenities: picnic table/fire pit/cable at site, playground, banana bike rentals, paddle boat rentals, planned activities, cool pool, heated pool, pickle ball, horseshoes, jump pad, arcade, laundry room

Cabins: Yes

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook-ups: Yes

            Amps: 20/30/50

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No (some grocery items in store)

Camp Store: Yes

WiFi: Yes

Accepts Mail: Yes (will not forward)

Fishing: Yes

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring New York, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Maid Of The Mist

One of the things that had been on Ben’s bucket list, was to ride the Maid of the Mist. He has wanted to ride it since he saw then on a trip to Niagara Falls when he was a kid.

We bought our tickets online the night before and headed over the Niagara Falls State Park when Ben was done with work. The ride lasts about 20 minutes, so even though there was a line, we didn’t have to wait long.

It was a pretty warm out, so we didn’t wear the poncho (per the recommendation of the staff). We did get wet, but it felt nice in the sun. We saw a couple of rainbows in the mist. The American Falls were easy to see from the boat and to get some pictures. The Horseshoe Falls had a lot of mist! If you wear glasses/contacts, I would wear contacts if you go so you can see better. I had my glasses on and they quickly became hard to see out of.

The boat did have speakers, but we couldn’t hear any of the recorded message being played.

Canada still had its borders closed, so we didn’t get to walk over the bridge to see the Falls from their perspective. I bet they are pretty amazing from there, although they were still great from the US side.

After the boat ride, we walked over to Goat Island and and saw the Horseshoe Falls from the top.


  • TICKETS: $25.25/adults, $14.75/child. COVID Restrictions: masks required.
  • HOURS: Depends on the season. (6/19-8/8 9am-8pm, 8/9-8/28 9am-7:30pm, 8/29-9/5 9am-7:15pm, etc. Check here for times.)
  • PARKING: Pay parking on street, nearby lots, or Niagara Falls State Park ($10-15)
  • BATHROOM: Yes in the buildings, not on ship
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 20 minutes+ Reservations are not accepted, so there may be a line. The ride is 20 minutes long.
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Vermont, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Quechee/Pine Valley KOA: Campground Review

We had one goal in Vermont: maple syrup.

This campground wasn’t too far from a working maple syrup farm, a National Historic Park and Site, the Quechee Gorge, and New Hampshire.

The campground had an office camp store, laundry room, playground, a dog park, a fishing pond, and a pool. Trash was placed at the end of your site for pick-up. Recycling could be placed in a separate bag for pickup as well. The office sold ice, firewood, and bait. There were banana bikes for rent. They did a nice job communicating by text!

The KOA was 18 minutes from Sugarbush Farm, 7 minutes from New Hampshire, and from 4 minutes from Quechee Gorge. It took 18 minutes to get to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. There were two Walmarts at 8 and 18 minutes away, and a Hannaford’s 9 minutes (in New Hampshire).

VIDEO: Quechee/Pine Valley KOA Walk Through


Our rating: 3 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in (grass/gravel)

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site:

Amenities: picnic table/fire pit/grill/cable/playground/dog park

Cabins: Yes

Tent Camping: No

Full Hook-ups: Yes

            Amps: 20/30, 20/50

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No (some grocery type items in store)

Camp Store: Yes

WiFi: Yes

Accepts Mail:

Fishing: Yes (catch and release)

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Vermont, Food, School, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Sugarbush Farm: Exploring Cheese and Maple Syrup

We only had a short stay in Vermont and the main goal was to see…MAPLE SYRUP! We found a nearby working farm called Sugarbush Farm. They make maple syrup and cheese and offer free tastings.

We got to try 3 of the 4 types of maple syrup. The farm did not have a lot of the Golden Maple Syrup. The color of the syrup depends on the weather, so the quicker the weather warms up, the less they may have of a certain color/grade of syrup. All of the syrups were tasty. Ben, Nick, and I really enjoyed the Amber. It had a little different taste than the other types. The Dark was the flavor we are used to having (we normally buy the Grade A Dark syrups at the store). Will really liked the Very Dark syrup.

There were also several cheese types we could try. Ben’s favorite was the Extra Sharp Cheddar (aged 4 years), while Nick and I enjoyed the Sage Cheese.

The farm has a walking trail, goats, cows, and horses to see. There are picnic tables in case you brought a picnic. There were also two photo stand opportunities and there were selfie stands set up for those as well.

The maple syrup production area was not running while we were there, but there was an informational video and lots of signs explaining the process.

There was a store located in the tasting building and we went a little crazy buying cheese and syrup. We got to talk to the owner, Betsy. Everyone was incredibly nice at the farm and we really enjoyed our experience there. If you are in the area near Woodstock, Vermont (or Quechee, where our campground was), I would make this a stop on your journey. It’s amazing how much work goes into getting enough sap to make a quart of maple syrup. (Hint: Look at the picture above. It takes 4 1/2 buckets to make 1 quart.) The farm also does mail orders!

VIDEO: Boys Walking Around Sugarbush Farm

Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Maine, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Mt. Desert Narrows Camping Resort, Bar Harbor, Maine: Campground Review

We stayed at the Mt. Desert Narrows Camping Resort near Bar Harbor, Maine so we could visit Acadia National Park. This is part of the Thousand Trails network, but was not included in our membership. It was on the same island as Acadia, so it was conveniently located.

The laundry room was under the backside of the office. Washers and dryers were $2/load (quarter machines, no change machine). Each site had a picnic table and a fire pit. There were some nice views of the water and the campground was large enough to get a nice walk in. The campground had free WiFi (standard campground level), but it was a nice feature for a Thousand Trails campground.

The campground had a pool (not open yet while we were there), an arcade, playground, camp store, and a laundry room. The arcade was only open on the weekends Friday to Sunday 9am-8pm. It was older, but the kids still enjoyed it. The games were $0.25 per game, except for the ball crane machine at $0.50. There was a change machine in the arcade. The laundry room charged $2 per load for both the washers and the dryers and were coin operated, but there was not a change machine in the laundry room. The laundry room was open during office hours. The camp store sold ice for $2.25 and firewood for $5.25.

Bathrooms, Camp Store, Laundry Room with book exchange

Most of the sites had trees for shade. It looked like most of the sites were pretty level, although there were a few that were on part of a hill that could be harder to level a RV. The campground was large and made for some nice afternoon walks, especially since the tent area was empty while we were there. It faces the ocean, so if you get closer spots, you could have some great views.

Our site, playground, pool, ocean view at low tide at campground

Bar Harbor was 15 minutes, Acadia National Park was 10-11 minutes away (to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center entrance). There was a grocery store in Bar Harbor called Hannaford’s that was 15 minutes away, and Walmart was located in Ellsworth and was 15 minutes away.

SIDE NOTE: The campground used well water, so it did have a bit of an odor to it that we were not used to. We just used our awesome Berkey* and filtered all the drinking water. The Bar Harbor area gets its water from Eagle Lake and wells, nearby Seal Harbor from Jordan Pond.

VIDEO: Mt. Desert Narrows Camping Resort

Our rating: 3.5 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile (could be spotty)

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in (grass)

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Yes

Amenities: picnic table and fire pit/grill at site, cable, playground, pool, basketball hoop, swings

Cabins: 1

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook-ups: Yes

            Amps: 20/30 or 30/50 amp

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No

Camp Store: Yes

WiFi: Yes (free)

Accepts Mail: Yes

Fishing: No

*Affiliate Link

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Maine, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Hoist The Sails

We saw a fun looking 4-mast ship in Bar Harbor and booked a ride. Our schooner was called the Margaret Todd. We chose an afternoon booking and while it was a chilly day, it was rain free.

The ship did have a bathroom (aka head), but I would recommend you use one in town or before you board the boat.

Although the schooner had 4 sails, only 3 of them were raised on our sailing. Ben, Will, and Nick got to help hoist the sails. The captain gave some interesting information at the very beginning of the cruise. There are two high and low tides in Bar Harbor and they can vary by 15 feet! No wonder we could walk to Bar Island at low tide.

We were able to see a bald eagle on one of the islands with our binoculars, but no other animal sightings other than a few other birds. The cruise was 90 minutes long. We went out a little bit from the harbor, near Porcupine Island, and sat for a while. It was very quiet during that time, no fun facts or anything like that. We were able to walk around the boat though, so we could see the views on each side.


TIPS: Go go the bathroom before you board. Bring binoculars and a coat.