Wow…it’s been WEEKS! and WEEKS!! Well, my only excuse is that things have been busy around here. During year-end and tax season, a fair amount of my time is spent doing that terrible thing. You know, the word we don’t like to speak out loud now that MW is retired. Yes….work! I still have bookkeeping and tax clients, run a volunteer income tax site three days a week during tax season, and throw in the occasional Junior Achievement class (currently fifth graders at Jefferson Elementary in Greensboro). Luckily, we built in a couple of long weekends up front this year, so that we can take a break and get away for a little bit.

Our most recent trip was to Panther Creek State Park, in Morristown, Tennessee. The plan was to hang out a bit, do a few chores at the farm, and meet with our builder (more on that in a later post). We’ve been to this park a couple of times before, and it has always been nice. In addition to the campground, this very large park with disc golf, soccer fields, a swimming pool, an overlook to the river, picnic pavilions and tables, and a LOT of hiking trails. It is right in Morristown and close to shopping, entertainment, restaurants, etc., which is a plus for some. Thankfully, there isn’t a lot of noise from traffic, though. This time there was evidence of a LOT of water flowing out of the woods and through the campground in some areas. We looked it up and there was some pretty heavy rain on the 7th, which caused localized flooding. With several more days of rain projected for the week after our visit, the maintenance folks certainly had their hands full with cleanup before the regular season. It was glorious when we arrived, though, despite the mess. We sat outside in the afternoon and enjoyed the view in the 77 degree (yes, you read that right) February sunshine. Our campsite faced the woods, and with the exception of a couple of talkative neighbors, it was pure perfection. (I still need to do a psychological study on why campers will park right next to another camper in a relatively empty campground. Strange!) Thankfully the break also helped MW knock out a case of creeping crud he had been dealing with for several days prior to the trip.

As I mentioned in the last post, we made a few modifications to Petunia before the Christmas trip. First, we changed out the faucet in the bathroom for a high-arched one that swivels. This is something we also did in Penelope and is a very simple fix to make the tiny bathroom sink actually useable. In the bathroom we also added a soft-close toilet. I never would have thought this was needed until we replaced the toilet in Penelope and it had this type of lid. This saves MW a lot of bolting awake because my half-comatose self dropped the toilet lid at 2 AM. Definitely worth it! Next we tackled the lack of drawers specifically for silverware and utensils. I couldn’t find a ready-made divider, so I just drew a pattern into the bottom of the drawer and MW cut boards to fit. Another easy fix for usability. Looking towards the future and living in her full-time, I installed spice rack (which I may add to later) and a backsplash to protect the wall behind the cooktop. MW also removed the glass top on the stove so that I could add a cutting board.

Having lots of time in January with no travel, MW continued with our Petunia upgrades. First on the list was an Electrical Management System (EMS). In our research and subsequent purchase of Penelope, we ran across a LOT of blog information about electrical issues at campgrounds (too much voltage, too little voltage, power surges, open grounds, etc.) Of the many possible solutions, we chose an EMS from Progressive Industries. Our main reasons were that it covered all of the potential problems and is installed in the RV instead of attached to the outside electric cable where it would be an easy target for theft. Upon arriving at a site, before setting up anything else, we plugged in to make sure there were no issues with power pole. The display was easy to read and showed us exactly what was going on. Flash forward to the choice for Petunia, and we went right back to Progressive Industries. They make a 50 amp version (EMS-HW50C) of the one we had on Penelope ( EMS-HW30C). The hardest part of the installation was figuring out where to put it. MW was able to install the main unit behind a drawer in the kitchen area opposite the electrical plug on the outside of the RV. Once the box was in, we just had to figure out where to put the display so it could be seen from the door and run the wire to it. Bing, bang, boom…new EMS. Now all of the electricity coming into the RV must first run through the EMS box. Should there be a power surge or other issue the EMS shuts off the electricity at the box and prevents it from damaging our appliances, tv, lights, etc.

Next on our list was water filtration. Penelope had a system for filtering all of the water that came into the RV, and we like that idea as opposed to filtering at the sink. MW did a bit of research and found one at the RV Water Filter Store to install in the same cabinet as the RV’s water management system, which makes it very convenient. He would have preferred a system with two separate filters, one for sediment and another for bacteria and taste-related stuff. However, the area we had to use limited us to a single-filter system with a combination filter. The installation process didn’t take long, and now we feel comfortable drinking and cooking with the tap water.

Excess moisture and heat loss in winter are always issues in an RV, especially for full-time living. With that in mind, I purchased vent covers for both the bathroom and living room vent fans. These are easily removable, although the one in the living room requires me to stand on a chair…LOL. To help with humidity, any time we shower we remove the one in the bathroom and run the vent fan. Yes, I know, that is cold in winter, but you don’t want all that extra water vapor hanging out in your RV. We also bought a dehumidifier to further help.

A few more kitchen changes will make things easier, too. First MW installed vertical slats in the cavernous storage area under the sink making it much more efficient for storing pans and bakeware. Magnetic hooks were attached to the back of the vent hood to hold utensils and pot holders. We also installed a holder inside one of the cabinets for recycling cans, plastic, and glass and added a plastic bag holder so that we can recycle those, too. I found sets of inexpensive, plastic baskets that were only about 2 inches tall at Target and put them on the lower cabinet shelves across the rear of the RV. These will keep the cabinet contents from shifting around during travel. I also lined the upper shelves and the dish cabinet with non-slip shelf liner that I found at Dollar Tree. Finally, I added a thermometer to the oven, because I’m just not certain about the gas oven temperature setting, and an oven liner to keep me from having to scrub too much.

We still have a few modifications in mind and some problems that we are working on solutions for, but by and large she is getting to the point where we can live in her comfortably. More updates to come.

I mentioned the water issues at the campground, and things were much worse as we headed over to the farm. The Clinch River has both upper and lower banks, and the latter were already under quite a bit of water when we were there. At the farm a bunch of flood debris blocked the tile running under the driveway and caused quite a bit of washout. MW and Nick worked at trying to clear the blockage to no avail. There was a creek where there had not previously been one in the field and evidence that the water had been flowing much further out, too. We spoke with Nick (the builder) last night, and it has been raining a lot since these pictures were taken. A rock slide in the past couple of days took out TN-70 near Kyles Ford going towards Rogersville. Sadly a man in his truck was washed 200′ off the road and killed. Another slide on CR-66 didn’t take out the road, but came right up to it. The weather is calling for rain there for the next two days. We told Nick he better quit worrying about building barns and houses and start working on an Ark!

The weather from Sneedville comes our direction, and it feels like it has been raining since before Christmas. It is raining now, and will be until Sunday night in Browns Summit. The ground is so saturated that it feels like a sponge when you walk across the yard, the water runoff is creating huge swaths of bald, red clay, and there are trees coming down everywhere because the saturation goes beyond the root systems. Then, in the middle of all that, I’m driving home on Wednesday night and see this moon. This isn’t the best pic, but it was spectacular. As you can see, it was so bright it almost looked like the sun! This world can be crazy, dangerous, and sometimes dark, but it is and always will be God’s beautiful, amazing creation.

See you on the path.