Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Hiking, Sightseeing

Caesar’s Creek State Park

Caesar’s Creek State Park is located in Ohio. We didn’t stay in the Caesar’s Creek campgrounds as the full hookups were completely booked. We do know several people who have enjoyed camping there though. Our campground was about a 15 minute drive to the hiking areas, so we ended up making several day trips. Most of the trails are really well maintained, some with gravel paths.

NOTE: Some of the trails had a No Pets and No Bicycles restriction.

Our first time venturing out into new hiking trails, we were trying to find the waterfall, but ended up taking the wrong trail. However, we did end up seeing a mom and two baby raccoons!

We stopped at the damn and saw a few boaters and a kayaker on the lake. It was a beautiful day. The boys loved the hike and we only saw a few other people out. (It was great for social distancing!) We walked through the fossil area and all of the boys added a rock to the tower that had been started.

We have tried four of the Caesar’s Creek trails:

Caesar’s Trace: This one was our first trail. No pets or bikes. It had a few spots where the trail went close to a creek. The boys had lots of fun climbing around the banks and over tree roots. It was on this path that we saw the raccoons. We were both minding our own business and ended up startling each other. They ran up a tree to watch us, while we stood on the trail and watched them.

Horseshoe Falls: We started on part of this trail and must have crossed over to another one. I want to go back to finish as it looks like there are several cool features. We ran into the fossil collection area as well. When I actually used Maps from the All Trails app (we just use the free version for now), it got me to the right parking lot! We loved this trail. In fact, it was just the boys and I since Ben had a meeting. I think this one is one to go back to so Ben can hike it too. The path was nicely compacted dirt, just a few muddy spots that were easily dodged (it rained a few days ago), and wide enough that I didn’t feel like I had to turn sideways to make it down the path. There was plenty to see along the trail; a glimpse of the lake, a creek, tiny waterfalls, a cool rock wall, then finally the falls (now granted, they are not like Niagara Falls, but still pretty darn cool and beautiful). You can stop there, or if you walk up the trail a little bit more, there is a rope bridge and a path that you can take to cross to the other side of the falls. Nick found out the hard way (probably the 100th time) that wet rocks are slippery. Luckily he only scraped the side of his leg a little bit, and may have some bruises.

Gorge Trail: We liked this trail a lot. If you take the path one way, you go up a somewhat steep set of wooden stairs. If you go the other direction to begin the hike, you will end up walking down the stairs. There was a pond, several bridges, and the water runoff area was pretty cool to see. To help wear the boys out, they ran up the steep hill that makes up the side of the dam (this is by the water runoff area).

The hill from the dam and them stopping halfway up for a break

Fifty Springs Loop Trail: I would skip this one. This was not as well maintained or marked. It was supposed to be an orange marked trail, but because of organic pigments in the sun, had faded in many places to yellow. It crossed an actual yellow marked trail, so it was easy to get on a wrong path and not end up where you wanted to go. Much muddier after the rain than the other trails.

~Sarah

Just another average Thursday… Buying an RV (June 4th, 2020)

It just slid past midnight as I write this, so I guess it’s technically Friday. I am exhausted. “Of course you are”, you may be thinking, “it’s late, go to bed.” I am actually laying in bed writing this on my phone. It’s been a day; I can’t shut off yet.

Thursday started out with more clearing out of the house. The oldest still had school stuff in his backpack (wrappers, old assignments, etc.), toys were out in the basement, etc. We cleaned it up and made some progress on the house. I patched and painted, filled and spackled all the natural wear you don’t notice normally when living in a home, but will stick out when you go to sell it. Like all those pictures we took down or changed positions over the years.

After having a late lunch, we bought an RV.

What?! Wait! Go back.

Yup, we bought an RV today. Well, officially a travel trailer. We had a 2:30 pm walk-through.

We went through a dealer. I will go through why we picked this RV in a different post. I loved our sales guy Eddie. Now, I know sales guys are supposed to be friendly, but he answered texts and emails and didn’t seem to get frustrated with our thousand newbie questions. I’ve had sales people who just didn’t care. But, this was actually a pleasant experience.

We had looked at this RV a few times and had already negotiated the price. We ordered a few extra things and were waiting for them to come in before the walk-through/paper signing was scheduled.

The walk-through itself was interesting. Our sales guy was onsite, but the walk-through itself was done by the service department. At first the service guys seemed friendly. We had Nate and Tom. Tom, the trainee, had recently retired and was doing this as a post-retirement job. Nate was younger than us, but had lots of experience since he had been doing this since he was a kid. We also had John there as our inspector, who we had hired through the NRVIA (National Recreational Vehicle Inspector Association). We are going to be living in this full time for a year, so we wanted to make sure to catch anything obviously wrong with it before we signed the papers. The dealership did not seem happy that we brought in an inspector. They made a few little comments along the way. We went over the outside, we went over the inside, we opened drawers, we checked doors. We checked the second A/C unit we had installed, as well as the MaxxAir Fan in the bathroom we had upgraded. We asked questions and John taught us along the way. Tom also added a few things he had learned in his years of RVing. Nate was pretty quiet.

The walk-through is also called a PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection), which is a checklist the manufacturers want the dealers to go over before a sale. John informed us it is generally 1 piece of paper the manufacturers create.

We were there about 2 hours. Nate and Tom were getting antsy and tried to hurry us along, especially Nate. He was impatient and if he had been our salesperson, I may not have gone back for a second look at this dealership. He said things like “PDI’s normally only take 20 minutes” (we did tell the person who scheduled it that we were bringing an inspector), “You get a $50 voucher but it’s good for today only and the [dealer owned] store closes soon”, and finally “I want to get home…”.

We were almost done anyway, but it felt like they were really rushing us along.

One of the last items to be looked at was the roof. I was so glad John climbed up there. I am not looking forward to having to do that to check the seals. There were several spots that had bubbles, which when he pointed this out to the dealership guys, was told it was normal. We did get pictures of it thanks to John, and asked that it be noted on the dealer paperwork for the walk-through.

We finally met up with Eddie, our sales guy, when the walk-through was over. A friend of ours and my father-in-law drove over to be the lead and follow car for our caravan home. It was my first time driving anything being towed, so the extra help was extremely useful and appreciated. They also installed the back up camera while we were waiting on the finance part of things. (Thanks Dad and Doug!)

We mentioned the roof to Eddie and he called the local Keystone rep, who also said with the new roofs, that was normal. While Eddie dealt with a car sale and we waited for the finance department, I walked over to the store to spend my $50 credit and pick up the WeBoost we had ordered with the RV. John walked over with me and we talked a little bit there as well.

I had plenty of time before the store closed and picked up a couple of things that were on our list that we hadn’t bought yet.

The finance part of it was surprisingly easy. There was the normal GAP insurance sales pitch, but otherwise it was easier than when we bought the truck. Maybe it was because we had already negotiated the price of the RV before the walk-through and paper signing. Whatever the reason, it went pretty fast, and we were on our way home.

Now, Ben will tell you I did a great job. I think I did ok, but man you could hear my hands letting go of the steering wheel when I finally pulled it into our driveway and turned the truck off.

Our friend Doug stayed to help us level it in our driveway, which was an enormous help because the drive slants downward at the end.

Dad stayed to help install the new microwave in the house. When the house heard we were selling, the microwave and the garbage disposal quit out of defiance within weeks of each other.

After everything was done, I remembered to call John. He was going to send a report, but mentioned I could call him as well. He thought it was going to be a fine RV. He and his wife gave me lots of knowledge and advice they’ve learned through their journey. They were a very friendly and helpful couple.

What a day! It took 6 hours to get it inspected, purchased and parked in the driveway, but it felt like it flew by. I guess the nerves, stress and fear of messing up really accelerates time. Happy to be done…for now.

~Sarah

Shout out to Eddie Holmberg and John Addington (jaddin1953@gmail.com): Thank you for making this such a great start to our journey!

I Made My 1st YouTube Video

We have a YouTube channel! As of 6/23/2020 at 11:30pm, there is 1 whole video! It may not seem like much. And honestly it isn’t, but it is my first video to be published on YouTube. Not a huge deal in the scheme of things (especially once you see the video!).

I videoed the unboxing of our Furrion Backup camera. Of course, we had already started boxing up the house and storing items, so I had no idea where my tripod went. The video would have been much better with that simple tool. However, I was able to edit out the sections where someone was snoring in the family room! In case you were curious (like just how bad a first time video attempt is), here is the link to the video: Unboxing My New Furrion Back Up Camera

~Sarah

Trading in the Minivan for a Truck

I have always had a not so favorable impression of truck ownership.

In retrospect, I profiled.

Those huge, fuel guzzling, polluting, road hogs, just showing off, was what I thought of truck owners. Although I made exceptions with my narrow mindedness to respect those that had working trucks (i.e.-farmers, horse trailers, mechanics,…). As long as they did not have a shiny new paint job, fancy aftermarket rims, lifted suspension or truck nuts, I was okay….

Well, humility is a funny thing to gain at any time in your life. For me, I was today years old when I realized what all the buzz is about trucks.

I was a reluctant purchaser. I didn’t want (nor could I afford) to buy a Class A motor home. Although I looked hard, I couldn’t find anything that could pull a 10,000 lb trailer that wasn’t a truck.

Side note: I really don’t want to start a debate with those that have modified their Honda Civics to pull 12,000 lbs across country and have scaled the Himalayas pulling a 38′ travel trailer with the fresh water tank full. Modifications can and are done to make Tahoes, Escalades, Yukons and other SUVs capable of hauling big weight. I allow for that. I just know our experience level did not allow for us to do it. If you have, you are amazing. I respect and honor you. You’re better than us. I digress.

So, after much fretting and gnashing of teeth, I jumped into the truck market. Well, I dabbled and played on the internet to try to just kind of get into the truck market. It didn’t work. We ended up full in on the truck with a Ram 2500, Cummins Diesel, Mega Cab with an integrated towing package. The dealer said it is the first time he has ever traded in a Mini van for a diesel truck. Our truck is a monster and I love it. There are a million practical reasons why my logic got us into this unicorn of a truck (most of them around safety, legroom and towing capacity), but in the end, I think it is going to be very hard to go back to a regular car.

The only shortcoming I can see so far is every time I get into the driver seat I hear Krusty the Clown singing in my head. Canyonero…..

~Ben

Truck nut free since at least 2003. (If it rhymes it has to be good.)

Hello!

Hi! We’re happy to see you!

We are the Tepe family. We are originally from Ohio. Our family consists of my husband (Ben), myself (Sarah), our two boys, and a retired greyhound.

My husband and I are both in our early 40’s, with our boys in middle and junior high. We currently live in a 2, 369 square foot house. Ben has been wanting to downsize for awhile (he hates the yard work and all the trees that we have to keep cutting down).

We also had a few people close to us suddenly and unexpectedly pass away over the last several years. It made us want to grab this opportunity to give lasting memories to the kids while we still could. I certainly don’t feel old, but I have to stretch before I get out of bed and sometimes I snap, crackle, and pop walking up the stairs!

There is so much of this country that we haven’t seen. When we started talking about this idea last year, everyone wrote down where they wanted to go and we made our route using everyone’s ideas. We decided to head North and West first to try to get to the National Parks early in the season and then travel to stay in warm weather, while also missing some of the hurricane season down south.

We made a timeline of what needed to happen to make this work and also when we wanted to go to the places on our list.

Phase 1: We used a large laminated map (yay for Costco!) and a dry erase marker to plan our route.

Phase 2: The first big/expensive/integral part of our plan was to find a truck that could handle almost anything. However, it also needed to have good leg room in the backseat for the boys. We ended up getting a diesel Ram to make sure we had enough oomph in the mountains while towing. A few months later we added a cap to the truck to make the bed space more usable.

Phase 3: We then got the kids signed up for public online school. That has been a whole experience in and of itself.

Phase 4: We began cleaning out the extra stuff from the house and started getting it ready to list with a realtor. We rented a storage locker to store any items that we might want when we come back.

Phase 5: We spoke to a realtor about listing the house.

Phase 6: Planned to sell the house and leave in June for the trip! Everything is going pretty smoothly and more or less on time!

…Wait a minute…

Unexpected delay: COVID-19 hit and our plans got delayed. Out of all the possibilities we thought of (not finding the right truck or trailer, school, work not letting Ben go remote, money, etc.), a “once in a hundred years” global pandemic was not even close to being on our list. We have been lucky and have been able to social distance and work from home. We have managed to reroute to stay on course for most of our trip, but will be missing Washington, Oregon, Yosemite, and northern/middle California. I was really disappointed about all the sites we would miss: rail cars through the Redwoods, Alcatraz (this one was on everyone’s list to see), San Francisco… But I guess it will give us something to look forward to for another trip.

Although we are still social distancing as much as possible and wearing our masks when out, we were finally able to find our travel trailer. Our trip is on again, modified and delayed, but on again. We are now scrambling to finish getting the house up for sale and to reschedule the earlier parks.

This is going to be our trip’s story. I hope you enjoy it.

~Sarah

P.S. We will probably both be writing blog posts. We will try to sign them so you know who is writing them. There will probably also be a delay, at least in the beginning, on when things happen in real life and when the post goes out. We are juggling downsizing to a tiny home, getting our house ready to sell, and setting up the RV. I will try to write these as they happen, or at least jot notes down and finish later, but they probably won’t go up right way.

Posted in: Newbie Tips

Sleeping In The Trailer For The First Time (June 6)

It’s home! The travel trailer is in the driveway for now. We are making adjustments to the kids’ bunk room to make it more usable for when school starts. Beginning Tuesday we have reservations at a campground for a month before we start this whole traveling journey. The month is to give us time to get the house ready for listing and to also give us practice with all things RV before we actually begin our trip.

It’s been a busy couple of days. We got a desk installed on one wall and made some storage modifications under the dinette seats. I got the TPMS sensors placed on the trailer (the truck has it’s own tire pressure gauge) and the monitors for the trailer back up camera and the TPMS set up.

ANYWAY, back to the title of the post. The boys were so excited about the new camper (we have had it for a whole 2 days at this point) and that their room was close to being ready. They wanted to sleep in there tonight, even though it was almost 90 today (it’s supposed to get down to 60 tonight)! So armed with a flashlight, Ben’s cell phone, and some fans, they are sleeping in their new room tonight. I am sleeping in the house where it is air conditioned.

The Next Day

I checked on the boys before I went to sleep last night and they were still up around midnight. They slept in this morning and I went in to find two curled up blanket lumps in their beds. And an apple juice bottle on the floor. Except…we don’t have any apple juice. Yup, you may have guessed it. Nick had drank so much water that he had to pee during the night and the RV was not hooked up to water. He used his empty water bottle. Not a horrible solution, but it was laying on it’s side when I found it. Luckily the cap was on well and no leaks were had. (Note: I did correct the bottle position before taking the picture because I didn’t want pee all over my new RV floor!)

NOTE: The water bottle trick actually came in handy again when we had to boondock. When all the slides are in, the boys can’t get to the bathroom without exiting the RV and going through the master bedroom. You know, when I was younger and pre-kids, I don’t think I would ever have thought “Hey, do you have an empty water bottle for the night?”

~Sarah

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