Workamping Fun at Rainbow’s End RV Park Livingston, TX

We are wrapping up our Workamping experience at the Escapees RV Club park known as “Rainbow’s End.

This was the first park built in the system back in the late ’70’s.  There were a handful of die-hard full-time RV’ers that donated their time and their talents to build this park.

This is also the home of the clubs National Headquarters and mail service that serves nearly 10,000 members and handles 25,000 pieces of mail daily.

We arrived October 15, 2017 and Kathy has been working in the office 8 hrs/week checking in new arrivals and taking reservations on the phone.  I’ve been working 12 hrs/week outside maintaining the grounds and the buildings.

In exchange for the combined 20 hrs/week we receive a free full hook-up site and utilities.  Laundry allowance is not provided.

Here’s a 6 minute video that I put together showing some of the amenities of the park and what the workampers get involved in during a typical week.

I’m also learning to use a new video editing software, so please bear with me and some of the features I’ve been experimenting with like; titles, transitions, voice-overs, fade-in and fade-out, and music.

Please remember to SUBSCRIBE to our You Tube channel by clicking on the icon in the lower right corner, and if you’d give the video a “thumbs up” too, that’d be wonderful.

Thanks for riding along with us and we look forward to the time we can meet up down the road.

Although we’re currently in Livingston, TX … we’re heading out Jan 14th for Florida for the month of February, then back to TX the last couple weeks of March, then (through Ohio) and up to Baldwin, Michigan for our summer workamping job, and in the fall of ’18 we’ll be in Albuquerque, NM working at the International Balloon Fiesta for a few weeks before we head to our winter home at Casa Grande, Arizona.

Here’s the video

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Foretravel Coach Plant Tour – Nacogdoches, TX

Winnebago, Avion, Jayco, Fleetwood, Airstream, Coachman, Thor, and so many other RV names were familiar to us.  Many have been around for years and years and enjoy a long history of making quality recreational vehicles.

I recently wrote a post on our Airstream factory tour in Jackson Center, Ohio when we were on our way from our Michigan summer workamping gig to our Texas winter workamping gig.

I only recently (within the last year or so) became familiar with the coach building company known as FORETRAVEL.  I realized we were going to be right past the home of Foretravel at Nacogdoches, Texas.  “So let’s go take their factory tour too, eh?”

Like the Airstream factory, Foretravel also offers low cost ($5/nite) camping for it’s customers and visitors.  We pulled in to the parking area in the afternoon and found that the plant tour would be at 10 am the next morning.  We took the opportunity that afternoon to talk to one of their in-house sales reps so we could look at their used inventory and then we also drove up the street a mile or so and met with Brad at Motorhomes of Texas to see what they had in their Foretravel inventory.

The front of the main Foretravel plant and corporate offices at Nacogdoches
Our parking spot for the night at the factory “campground”
The back of the main building showing the service and delivery prep bays

(The following is taken from “The History of Foretravel” on the corporate web site.)

“The business of building motorhomes came about not due to planning by the Fores, but by the traveling they did in their self-built motorhome.

From that modest beginning in 1967 with the 29’ “Speedy Marie” motorhome produced in the backyard of C.M. & Marie Fore, Foretravel continued to set the standard. Weathering the oil embargos of the early 1970’s Foretravel introduced the first diesel-powered motorhome in 1974.

In addition to the numerous conveniences of a Foretravel, i.e., VCR’s, central vacuum cleaners, icemakers, trash compactors, Foretravel was among the first to use fiberglass instead of aluminum, real hardwood, and a full air bag suspension.”

Foretravel continues to be a top-notch motorhome manufacturer.  At present, they make 2 Class “A” coaches – The model IH-45, selling for about $1,000,000 and the “entry level” coach labeled the “Realm” that sells somewhere in the $800,000 range.

Unlike Airstream that makes about 100 units per month and has about 1200 employees, Foretravel has only about 160 employees and manufactures about only 25 units PER YEAR!  Their paint process alone requires about 2000 man hours to complete.

Also unlike Airstream, the Foretravel factory tour allowed us to take pictures!

The “power” end of the new IH-45 coach
One of the “basement” compartments showing electronic wiring.
Two frame assemblies with basement compartments side by side
Aluminum box frame side wall assemblies ready to be mounted on basement frame box
Front end of the coach frame shows (green) Onan diesel 12kw generator
One of the side slide assemblies that will be placed into a sidewall
An entire drivers side sidewall (front end at right end of image)
Now the wall has been lifted into place on the coach basement frame ready to be attached
Basement pass through storage compartments
Aluminum box frame (front end of coach)
The power end of the coach showing one of the slides extended
Workers installing the one piece windshield
Installing one of the large slide units

Some of the features that the Foretravel coaches have that really appeal to me are;

  1. 8 (or 10 if there’s a tag axle) “outboard” air bags.  They place their air bags at the extreme outboard end of where the axle meets the frame just inside the side wall.  Most coach chassis makers have the air bags inside the wheels so the airbags might be 4 or 5 feet apart whereas with the Foretravel coaches the airbags are more like 8 feet apart.  This gives the coach much better stability and far less side-to-side rocking when driving into or out of a driveway.
  2. No slide gaskets or seals that are exposed to the exterior.  No slide trim panels that overlap the sidewall.  Foretravel uses the HWH expanding bladder to seal the slide to the outside wall.  When the slide is retracted or extended, there is a vacuum placed on the bladder.  Once the wall is completely in or out, then the bladder is pressurized to provide an airtight weatherproof seal.  This system not only provides an airtight seal, but when the slides are closed (retracted), the face of the slide is perfectly and completely flush with the sidewall.
  3. Pass-through basement storage drawers (full height from side to side)
  4. Aqua-Hot heating system uses hot water circulated through heat exchangers in the cabin for warm, quiet heat.  This is diesel powered and also provides hot water to the bath and kitchen.
  5. CAT (on older models) and Cummins 450hp and up engines along with Allison Electronic Transmissions (3000 series on older coaches, 4000 series on newer) along with driver-controlled 4-position transmission retarder.  This style retarder gives the operator far superior speed control during steep downhill grades … better than an exhaust retarder or engine brake.
Here’s a cross-section of the HWH slide bladder seal that pressurizes to seal

These next few photos show Kathy getting just a little TOO comfortable inside the new Foretravel REALM that just rolled off the factory floor.  It’s a darn shame it was already sold … aw shucks.

Here’s that REALM on the outside.  I gotta admit – I do like the paint scheme

Oh, take a look at the steps.  These are not your typical RV steps.  Most motorhomes today use electric RV steps known as Kwikee Steps made by Lippert Industries.  These high-end steps are known as “Executive” brand steps made by Braund Industries.

I was really impressed with these steps when we were at the factory.  Our coach steps are well worn and rattle a lot as we’re going down the road.   So I thought, “boy I’d like to get a set of those steps for our coach”  I did some research online when I got home.  Those steps would cost us about $5000 !!!!     Not Happnin’ !

Here’s a few pix of older Foretravel coaches that we looked at in the $125k-$175k range.  We like to look, but we’ll keep our Airstream for now.

2003 Model U-320 38′ w/ tag axle & 2 Slides
2003 Model U-320 36′ w/ 2 slides
2000 Model U-295 40′ w/ 1 Slide

NOTE: We’re doing some interior remodeling and some performance and suspension upgrades to our present Airstream coach and we’ll be publishing posts on those projects soon, once we have all the projects completed.

Oh, I almost forgot …. when we were in Nacogdoches we asked where we should have dinner that night and were referred to the Fredonia Hotel downtown.  We weren’t disappointed.  Kathy had shrimp and I had salmon.  The food was excellent, the presentation beautiful and the service outstanding.  Hats off to our server Brett.  Here’s a few pix of our delectable delights.

The dining room at the Fredonia overlooking the patio and pool
My Atlantic Salmon dinner
Kathy’s Shrimp Dinner w/ Broccoli Cole Slaw
We were good …. we didn’t take anything off the desert tray
Yes, the lounge chairs are IN the pool
The Front Lobby and Registration Desk

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

What Happens When We Can’t Travel Anymore?

Living full-time in an RV can be exciting, getting to travel across this great nation of ours, seeing all sorts of sights and meeting all kinds of great people.

If you’re a “full-timer” as those of us in this group like to call ourselves, there are things to consider when going full-time like;

  • Where will our “home” be?  Where will we go back to (occassionally) ?
  • What do we do about getting our mail?  (Next post will cover this)
  • What state are we going to be domiciled in for medical insurance?
  • What happens if one of us needs recuperation time after a surgery?
  • What happens when this life on the road just gets too hard for us?
  • What happens to us when we can’t travel anymore?????

This is the question we’re going to talk about in this post.    

Some full-time RV’ers might go “back home” and maybe live in their RV for some time at their children’s property, that is, if they are fortunate enough;

  • 1) to have children,
  • 2) that have property large enough to accommodate the RV, and
  • 3) that have the electric, water, and sewer hookups for the RV.

Other full-timers may have the resources available to buy a home or rent an apartment to allow them to move out of the RV (either temporarily or permanently) so they can get the help they need for daily living.

BUT … If you are an Escapee RV Club member you have another option.

The club founders, Kay and Joe Peterson saw the need for another option for full-time RV’ers.  Joe and Kay were full-time RV’ers themselves and started the club in 1978.  As I understand it, Joe was an electrician and they, along with their 5 children traveled the country following Joe’s work while Kay ran the household and raised the children.

Here’s 3 links to just some of Kay’s many books she wrote while on the road.  Kathy and I had the honor of attending a convention where Kay (at 94) spoke and she was truly a remarkable woman and a wonderful story-teller.  You really should give yourself a treat and read at least one of her books.

I apologize … I digress.  Now back to the point of this post.

So Kay and Joe, being full-timers themselves must’ve pondered this same question .. “What happens when we just can’t travel full-time anymore?”

And as a result, and with the help of many club members and volunteers, the C.A.R.E. Center was born adjacent to Rainbow’s End RV Park and the Escapees National Headquarters office in Livingston, Texas.

Let me tell you about it and what a cool concept it is.  I’m told there’s nothing else like it in the country.

The C.A.R.E. (Continued Assistance for Retired Escapees) Center is yes, a building.  But it’s so much more than just a building.

When an Escapee RV Club member finds the need to get off the road, whether because of the need to recuperate from an illness or medical procedure, or maybe they just need a little help to live comfortably, they can move their RV to CARE.

You say “It looks like an RV park to me”.  Yes, it’s an RV park and again … so much more.

When full-time RV’ers decide to come off the road, they really don’t want to move into an apartment or an assisted living facility – instead (just like anyone else) they want to stay in their own home.  And remember, this travel trailer or motor home IS their own home and very often has been for many years.  They’ve seen the sights, made hundreds of new friends and even now want to live in an area where they can still be around like-minded people.

CARE provides their residents with a site that will accommodate the size of their rig, they provide 3 home cooked meals each day along with weekly laundry service and lots of activities in the CARE Center building.

This is not an assisted living facility, but rather a program that assists those who can still live independently.  Residents walk from their rig to the dining hall for meals and to the activity room for; church services, jam sessions, use of the computer WiFi, exercise equipment, and lots more.

Activity Room with seating for church service, comfortable seating for reading or computer work
Lots of seating can be moved to accommodate musical groups
CARE Center dining room where residents can get 3 great home cooked meals every day of the week

There are CARE volunteers who typically (but not always) live in the park and help the residents with some of their chores like; swapping out propane tanks, repairing sewer hoses, sweeping off their deck, or any number of what we feel are small jobs but might be difficult for the CARE resident.

In addition, CARE provides FREE transportation to wherever a resident might want to go (within 30 miles).  That might be a doctor appointment, a trip to the local grocery, beauty shop, attorney or bank.

CARE operates 5 different vehicles to transport residents wherever they need to go within 30 miles of home

So you’re thinking “Wow, this really seems like a great concept – I wonder what they charge?”

C.A.R.E. is a not-for-profit 501c3 tax exempt corporation. They have a small (but professional) staff and the Volunteer Coordinator (Crystal) does a fantastic job recruiting and utilizing volunteers so their abilities and talents are best utilized. As a result, the CARE Center fees (at the time of this writing) are $1000 per month for a single person and $500 additional for a spouse or partner. The only additional costs to the resident are; electricity, cable or wifi, propane gas (for heat or cooking). Water, sewer, and trash removal is included in the rent.

There is no contract, all they ask is the monthly fee up front. If the resident, for any reason, decides that it’s just not for them, they put the key in the ignition the next month and move on down the road.

All in all, CARE is a wonderful “other option” for those full-time RV’ers that have come to the point of needing a little extra help.

AND, it allows those that have come to love the lifestyle now stay with that lifestyle and live among other like-minded wanderers.

You know what they say … “Not all who wander are lost”

Safe travels to you until we meet again ….

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Our Visit to Hot Springs Bath House Row (Scary)

We really had no idea what to expect.  We were headed from Ohio to east Texas (1449 mile trip) where our winter workamping job would be and looked for places to stay along the way.

We had just been to the Branson, MO area where we stayed at the Escapees RV Club Turkey Creek RV Park.  We spent a couple nights there enjoyed a great pizza dinner at “Mr. G’s” and then of course (since you’re in Branson) took in one of the shows on the strip.

Kathy’s personal deep dish Chicago Style pizza (Chicken, spinach, garlic alfredo sauce)
Smaller family pizza and sub joint in downtown Branson, MO

So we looked at the map and decided that Hot Springs, Arkansas is where we should be heading.  I read the reviews online and found that the Lake Catherine State Park was reviewed as being a nicer campground than the National Park, so off went went.  We were not disappointed!

Our site backed up to the lake

Lake Catherine was beautiful.  The day we got there, it was super hot and humid so once we got things hooked up, we changed into our suits and jumped into the lake to cool off … how refreshing!  Later that evening we could sit out and watch the ducks and geese along the edge of the lake along with hearing the screams of joy from the children jumping into the water from the adjacent dock.  We’ll definitely be stopping back at Lake Catherine State Park next time we find ourselves in the Little Rock / Hot Springs area.

We stayed at Lake Catherine SP for two nights because we wanted to spend time in Hot Springs.  We really had no idea what to expect.  I looked online (again) and found the National Park site told us that (depending on how much time we had) what we could see in; an hour or so, a half day, or a whole day.  We headed to downtown Hot Springs to hit the Visitor Center and pick up a map.

“Bathhouse Row” is where you’ll find 8 of the early hot spring bath houses built between 1892 and 1923 still standing and two of them actually still in operation.  The ones that are not still operating have become museums, gift shops, etc.

drawing, map of Bathhouse Row today with park land shown in green, private property in the city as tan, parking lots as yellow, streets as white, bathhouse buildings leased in dark purple and the Maurice Bathhouse which is not yet leased as light purple. It shows hot spring water fountains as red dots.
Map of Bathhouse Row
Lamar Bathhouse, now a gift shop operated by the Parks Department
The Ozark Bathhouse is now an art museum
This is the Arlington Hotel where Al Capone and other famous folks stayed when they visited the bathouses
The Hot Springs NPS Administration Building
Hot Spring water (at 143 degrees) bubbles over at many locations along the streets and promenade of bathouse row
The former Army-Navy Hospital (the 2nd one to be built on this site) which is now the Arkansas Career Training Institute

The spring water comes out of the ground at 143 degrees, (over 700,000 gallons a week!) and is collected at the base of the mountain just above Bathhouse Row into spring collection boxes.  You can see these boxes along side the Promenade that runs just along behind the bathhouses.

At the top of this picture is the Promenade level and if you look closely, you can see the steam rising from the water as it comes to the surface. It then cascades down to a pool, where it looks inviting, but still too hot to submerge your hand
The hot water pool at the bottom of the small waterfall
The Promenade runs the full length behind the bathhouses. The spring collection boxes are to the left (above) and the right (below) the Promenade
Here’s just a few of the many spring water collection boxes

The Fordyce Bathhouse was built between 1914-1916 and is now a museum that provides free guided tours.  Park Ranger Kevin was our tour guide and he showed us all the rooms used along with a lot of the equipment used for treatment of the aches and pains of the patients.  Although some of the standard hot water bathing could be taken in by anyone, there were other treatment regimes that had to be prescribed by a medical doctor.  The Fordyce doctor was on the 3rd floor and patients could see him for an exam and interview after which the doctor could prescribe a treatment program for that patients ailment(s).

Upon entry, patients were assigned an attendant who would be with them throughout their visit.  This was for the safety of the patient to make sure they weren’t “overdoing it” and to make sure all the proper procedures were followed and laws and regulations controlling hot springs baths were (are) followed.

Fordyce Attendant

Kevin told us that the attendants, although paid a very small wage, were often tipped very well by their patients.  If an attendant was good at their job, it was very often the case that the patient would request that attendant by name when they set their appointment.  It was also very common to find that there were families of attendants, generation after generation.  For local folks, although the work was hard (on your feet all day in sweltering heat and humidity), the tips were good and the work was steady.

Some of the equipment was pretty scary looking (electro-therapy, needle showers, heat-lamp boxes, ice block boxes, spring water enema table, etc.)  Yet, people in need flocked to the bathhouses seeking relief from their pain.  Remember, there were not the pharmaceuticals that are out there now and medical technology was still in the dark ages.

The Fordyce Bathhouse front lobby (notice all the marble) where patients came for their appointment
The ladies “first room” after leaving the Dressing Room. This is where the “needle shower”, the hot tubs, the sun-ray box and the ice box are located
The ladies “cooling room” after initial treatment (bath, shower, heat, ice) where they come to relax and cool down
The “Needle” shower. Hundreds of very fine sprays of hot water pummel your skin and joints
This is the SCARY room. From left to right … tub for electro therapy, water enema table, ICE BLOCK box, Sun-Ray Heat Lamp Box, water cannons
The Sun-Ray box on the right gets close to 200 degrees, after that then right into sitting on top of a block of ice in the ICE BOX
The mens private bath rooms (see the needle shower behind Ranger Kevin?). This is quite a bit more ornate than the ladies side of the building (statue in the center)
Stained glass skylight too!
One of the doctors therapy rooms (Run!)
The lounge on the 2nd floor adjacent to the ladies dressing rooms
Rows and rows of dressing rooms. One side of the 2nd floor for men, the other side of the 2nd floor for the ladies.

 

We also took a drive up “Mountain Road” where we were able to take an elevator up to the top of the lookout tower where you could see all over town and for miles beyond.

View from atop the Lookout Tower

We had a great time, learned a lot and would definitely go back again to both the state park campground and the downtown area of Hot Springs.

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Care & Feeding Deep Cycle Lead Acid Batteries

There are many more technical videos on You Tube about lead acid batteries, but this short video just shows how I take care of mine so that they take care of me when the need arises.

I try to check our battery water level every 30 days, but it often runs 60-90 days between watering. We are most often hooked to shore power in a campground or RV park and the Trace Engineering Converter/Inverter does a good job of monitoring the voltage and adjusting the charge accordingly so that the batteries do not “cook” and burn off a lot of the distilled water.

What about you? Do you find it easy to check your batteries regularly? Do you use an automatic watering system? Maybe you’ve switched to AGM batteries so you don’t have to worry about watering? Let me know what you do to maintain your system.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Airstream Factory Tour

Our next workamping gig is at the Livingston, TX headquarters of the Escapees RV Club.

We left Ohio this morning after spending about 10 days visiting family and many of our good friends (we didn’t have time to see everybody), checking in with our doctors, doing a little banking and helping our daughter and son-in-law with some tasks that needed done at their new home, (our former home that they purchased from us a couple months ago.)

We’re taking a leisurely drive to Texas, I mapped it out asking Google Maps to “avoid highways” so that we will stay on the state and county roads and not the interstate.  It’s not that I dislike driving the interstate, but since we have the time (2 weeks to get there), we thought it might prove to be a little more interesting going through some small towns and rural areas along the way.

Our first stop was in Jackson Center, Ohio where the Airstream travel trailers are made.  We have a particular interest in Airstream since our Class A diesel motor home was made by Airstream back in 2002.  Unfortunately they quit making the full size Class A coaches in 2006 when the bottom dropped out of the country’s economy.

Map to Jackson Center, OH

The tour started at 2 p.m. in the front lobby and our tour guide (Don) shared a lot of knowledge with us as he had worked at the factory “forever” as he put it and retired 28 years ago but is still employed as one of the tour guides.  He knows the shop, the folks on the shop floor, and everyone knows him.

The group standing in the lobby listening to the introduction
Kathy in the gift shop – Go figure, eh?
A really cool desk made from the back end of an Airstream trailer
There’s a color TV in the back of that trailer mock-up
The main lobby at the factory and service/parts center

Sadly, they wouldn’t allow any pictures of the production floor, so I was only able to get a few outside pix and one of the service garage.

Wally Byam started building Airstream trailers in 1931 out in California and in 1952 the company was moved to it’s present location at Jackson Center, OH.  Don shared with us that they build about 100 units a week, currently with a backlog of about 2500 trailers.  The folks on the floor work a 40 hour week, 4 nine hour days and a short 4 hour day on Friday.  They’re paid starting at $18/ hour and the plant is clean and bright (but noisy!)  We were all given ear plugs and safety glasses.

They continue to introduce new models, but their most popular units are the 16′ Bambi and the 23′ Classic.  Their newer models include the very popular BaseCamp and the Nest.  Although we saw some new, not yet released models, our tour guide could not talk about them and whisked us along on the tour.

Leaving the front lobby, walking past the 24 bay service garage toward one of the plant buildings
Finishing up the plant tour, walking past a new unit that Don couldn’t talk to us about, not yet introduced
The back side of the service garage with an old Argosy motor home in the distance
Inside the service garage (24 bays). Notice how clean and bright it is. The inside of the plant is likewise bright and clean
That’s Kathy with her bag of goodies from the gift shop (go figure)
Our spot for the night at the Airstream “Terraport” along with about 20 other units. They have two circles for campers.

The tours run Monday through Thursday at 2 p.m. and run about 1-1/2 hours.  I’m sorry I couldn’t share photos from the production floor, but that’s company policy.

Whether or not you own an Airstream (or dream of owning one), this plant tour is interesting and enjoyable.  If you find yourself in Ohio on a weekday, take a drive over.  I think you’ll enjoy seeing how their quality products are made and the pride the employees put into their work.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

What we do about health care

There is a lot of discussion online in the RV world about how different folks handle their healthcare issues while traveling around the country.  On Medicare or private insurance?  In Network or Out of Network?  Prescriptions, routine doctor visits, diagnostics, and more issues to consider and work out.

I thought I’d share how things are working out for us.

Employer-Offered Group Plan

Before we hit the road, we had been “self-pay” for about 10 years.  That is to say, we had no medical insurance and we had to pay our own way.  Kathy had worked for the school system for 25 years where we used the group plan offered there, but the last 5 years or so of her career the school made the decision to terminate all the teacher’s aides and have them re-hired by an outside contractor that did not provide any health benefits.  

I had a heart attack in 2003 and as a result could not find any affordable health insurance plan for the both of us once Kathy’s plan was cancelled because of my pre-existing condition.

Since I owned my own small real estate business (an LLC), I was able to find an insurance broker who was able to form a “group of two” for Kathy and me to get some coverage.  First year it was $750/month, 2nd year it went to $1000/month, and the third year it went to $1250/month and that was in 2008 when the real estate market was collapsing in Ohio and sales were way down and we had to drop the plan.

We were once again on our own, hoping that nothing catastrophic came along.  We continued to pay our own; office visits, prescriptions, diagnostic tests, etc and just prayed that neither of us had a stroke, was diagnosed with cancer, or some other terrible (and costly) disease or ailment.

In 2010 Obamacare was introduced and in due time it became the law of the land and everyone was going to be required to sign up …. or else.

The Obamacare “Silver” plan was going to cost us about $1250/month AND $12,000 out of pocket for a $27,000 annual total cost before they picked up the rest.  No thank you sir ….

And then it happened …

In 2013 Kathy was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  It was detected early, a total radical hysterectomy was performed and to this day she is cancer free and was not required to go through any radiation or chemo-therapy. We were (and are) truly blessed.

But how did we handle the financial burden associated with such a catastrophic illness?

We found, since we were self-pay, that at the time of registration at the hospital they asked for a small down payment ($500) and a commitment to pay monthly some “agreed upon” amount.  At the time I was still working and we agreed to pay $500 every month until the total bill was paid off.  We could have committed to as little as $25 monthly. After her surgery and during recuperation the bill came at just about $35,000 but was discounted to approximately $22,000 because we were self-pay.  We paid more when we could and got the bill paid off in about 3 years.

Click on this image for a larger view that you can read

We’ve since found an alternative to paying our own way and/or group health insurance.  We found Medical Cost Sharing through Christian Healthcare Ministries.  Here’s a quick synopsis of CHM’s programs.  We pay $300/monthly for BOTH of us to receive GOLD coverage.  Because we also subscribe to their Brother’s Keeper Program, our reimbursement per illness is unlimited.  The Brother’s Keeper additional quarterly donation varies, but is usually around $30-$50 per quarter.

With CHM, we are the “Financially Responsible Party” and the bill comes directly to us.  We ask for self-pay discounts up front and we generally get them.  We submit our bills to CHM and in 2-3 months we are reimbursed.  Since it’s a religious based program, this qualifies for an exemption from the requirements of Obamacare.  Here’s a link to a 5 minute YouTube video explaining how CHM works.

Urgent Care

Although our doctors are back in Ohio, when we were in Arizona it was necessary for me to go to urgent care for treatment.  They had a program where you become a “member” almost like a gym membership and pay a monthly fee so you can go anytime without further cost and you can cancel anytime.

The visit would have cost me $650 (there was a small surgical procedure involved), but under the membership program they offered, I only paid $105 that night (for the first 3 months) and then would have continued to pay $35/month after the first 90 days, but we cancelled the program since we were leaving and heading to Michigan for our summer workamping gig.

Here in Michigan, I again needed to visit Urgent Care at the local hospital for what I thought might have been a sprain in my left hand/thumb.  We were greeted and I was served right away (it was an early morning visit), vitals and history were taken by the Physician’s Assistant and then the Doctor met with me and diagnosed Tendonitis.  He prescribed rest and a mild inflamatory, and installed a splint.

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We walked out the door paying nothing at the time of service and were billed later a TOTAL of only $100!  I believe if I were covered by insurance, the bill would very likely have been at least a few hundred dollars.

Prescriptions and Medications

We pay our own way on prescriptions and medications.  We’ve found however, the value in comparison shopping.  Again, when we were in AZ last winter, one of my meds was going to cost $453 at CVS, but we got it at Fry’s (Kroger) for $32.  Here is a clip I just took from GoodRX.com this afternoon just to show you an example of the varying prices.  When you are paying cash for meds, this can make a big difference in the monthly budget.

Kathy uses an insulin pen and has found coupons online for a $100 discount on a 5-pen pack.  Although we still pay over $300 for that med, the $100 discount helps.

Last week I needed to refill my statin and found that Meijer offers a FREE 90 day supply.  I asked when this offer expires and the pharmacy tech told me it has no end date.  Guess I’ll be going to Meijer from now on for that!  Free is good!

All in all, we’re pretty pleased with the “HerbnKathy” medical plan.  So far this year (Jan-Sept) we’ve spent;

Kathy and I both had need for chiropractic when we were in AZ which made up about $700 of the $1567, and we won’t be needing that any longer.

The other large cost is the $1200 for medicine.  We use generics wherever we can, but Kathy’s diabetes pen is brand name, not generic hence the high cost for meds.

Still I feel comfortable with the $800 average monthly costs.  Hopefully we can stay generally healthy, at least until Medicare kicks in at 65, (two more years down the road).

I know there’s a lot of different ways to get the health care we need and this is just the way we do it.  It’s not the least expensive, it’s not perfect, and there’s always the “what if”, but if we lived our lives around the “what ifs” then we’d live a pretty sheltered life … not the one we choose to live.

I hope you found some value in this discussion that will help you as you weigh your health care options in your full time RV life.

Safe travels, good luck, and by all means …. have fun!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Part 2 – N’West Michigan Road Trip – Mushrooms, Tunnels, Bears, and Indians – Oh My!

Part 2 – N’West Michigan Road Trip – Mushrooms, Tunnels, Bears, and Indians – Oh My!

We left Charlevoix the next morning after a comfortable stay at the Maple Leaf Inn and continued north on M-31 toward Petoskey.  We had an opportunity to go along Lake Charlevoix on our way to Urgent Care (that’s another story altogether) when we happened along some of the famous “Mushroom Houses” we had heard about.  You can read more about these famous homes and the self-taught architect that designed and built these beautiful homes by clicking here.

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Heading out of Charlevoix on M-31 along the south edge of Little Traverse Bay, we arrived in Petoskey (famous for Petoskey Stones) and we happened across their Farmer’s Market.  Since we don’t have a lot of room for storage, nor do we have a large refrigerator, the only thing Kathy bought was a bar of hand made soap. Here’s a few pictures from the market, everything was so colorful and attractive!

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Moving on up the road out of Petoskey, some friends of ours here at the park told us about State Route 119 and the “Tunnel of Trees“.  It sounded fascinating and we wanted to stay along the lake shore, so off we went due north on SR 119.  Video below.

The Tunnel of Trees starts at about Harbor Springs and ends at a small hamlet called Cross Village where we found the famous (and out of the way) “Legs Inn” restaurant.  Unfortunately for us, the restaurant doesn’t open until noon and we got there just a little too early, but we did take the opportunity to walk the grounds and check out some of the history of the place.  There are beautiful gardens out back with patio seating and the original designer, Stanley Smolak had an eclectic flair and utilized the local Odawa Indians to help him build the Legs Inn.  See more about the Legs Inn at this link.

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Beyond Cross Village (on M-119) we worked our way east and north on up to The Headlands International Dark Sky Park, McGulpin Point Lighthouse, stopped for ice cream in Mackinaw City and then on over the bridge.  Although the day was clear and sunny in the city, the fog was heavy at the bridge and visibility was poor if not non-existent.

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We ended up the day heading on down I-75, then over to Kalkaska where my folks had lived in their retirement years and are buried at the Garfield Twp Cemetery.  Kathy and I drove around the area reminiscing how we used to come up here to see them when the kids were toddlers (they’re now 39 & 40).

All in all it was a great trip.  Seeing new sites along with revisiting some places we used to frequent and bringing back pleasant memories.  A great way to spend a few days in northern Michigan.

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Workampers Northwest Michigan Road Trip

One of the nice advantages of the workamping lifestyle is that we work (at the RV park) part time in exchange for our site and utilities.  “Part Time” is key for two reasons.  First, we’ve worked full-time for forty years or so and don’t want to do that any longer … after all, we are “retired” in that we quit working full time, started collecting our Social Security and pensions earlier than most (at a reduced rate) so that we could change our lifestyle and explore this great country of ours.

Secondly, working part time allows us a few days a week to hit the road and explore what’s around us.  If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve seen; the beach and state park at Ludington, the Pere Marquette River, the Village of Idlewild, Bitely, and more.

This week we headed out Thursday morning for a three day trip along the “baby finger” of Michigan bordering Lake Michigan where we enjoyed towns and villages like Manistee, Glen Arbor, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Cross Village, Mackinac City and finally back down through Kalkaska and Cadillac.  The map of our three day trip is below.

If you’d like an interactive link to the map so you can zoom and pan on any specific area, here’s the link.

Day 1 – Manistee to Charlevoix

Our first stop was at Manistee.  We didn’t walk the town, but we did head to the beach and on the way back through town, we stopped to admire the Ramsdell Theatre.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside to see, but got a couple of outside pix.  I wouldn’t have stopped there, but was curious about the large brick windowless tower poking up out the back of the building.  Once we stopped and found that it was a theater, the tower to the rear made sense.

Pigs really DO Fly (at the Ramsdell Theatre sidewalk in front of the box office)
Coming attractions at the Ramsdell Theatre
Ramsdell Theater, Manistee, MI – On the National Register of Historic Places
The Ramsdell streetside .. Note the high tower at the rear where they pull up the curtains and backdrops
The public beach along Lake Michigan at Manistee, MI
Our selfie at Manistee Public Beach Park
This is a decommissioned rail car ferry. It’s hard to see, but it has train tracks inside for the cars to ride on
The stern of the ferry opens wide to allow the train cars to be rolled on to the deck
Relaxing along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Orchard Beach State Park just north of Manistee
Historical marker at Onekema on the east side of Portage Lake
The park at Onekema overlooking Portage Lake

We continued north along M-22, often catching glimpses of the mighty Lake Michigan

Selfie at Inspiration Point (Arcadia Dunes Beach at Arcadia)
The Kindness Rocks Project at Arcadia Beach

It was a beautiful drive up M-22 along the lake.  Since it was a weekday, very little traffic and almost nobody else on the beaches we stopped to check out.

We continued up M-22 out of Arcadia, through Watervale and Alberta and on into Frankfort where we were able to pull in to the public park at the marina, break out our cooler and have a light lunch of tuna salad on crackers along with some cottage cheese and washed it all down with a few gulps of ice cold lemonade while watching the boats bobbing in the water and the sea gulls dive for their lunch (in the harbor, not at our picnic table!).

Leaving Frankfort, we headed on up through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore across Glen Lake into and out of Glen Arbor and into Leland where we knew from previous visits we would find the historic “Fishtown“.  It’s mostly just a tourist trap now with lots of shops filled with collectibles and souvenirs, along with a few cafes but also is an active harbor for pleasure vessels and charter fishing operations as well.  You can easily spend a lot of money in Leland.

Years ago we had continued north on M-22 all the way to the Grand Traverse Light adjacent to the Lelanau State Park at the tip of the baby finger.  It’s a nice trip up with a wonderful little museum in the lighthouse and I’d recommend this to anyone visiting the area.

Now, I KNEW that Leland was a tourist spot, but we thought maybe we’d get a room there for the night and be able to walk the sidewalks and rub elbows with those further up the economic ladder from us.  NOT!  We found a motel online and our smartphone said that they had only one room left, so we darted up the street to get there and check in.  The nice young lady behind the desk told us the rate was $391 (per night!) and NO, that did NOT include a few rounds of golf!

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Soooooo, we headed out of Leland, through Sutton’s Bay and on to Charlevoix where we hoped to find a room for the night.

We found the Maple Leaf Motel (only 10 rooms) on the south end of town where our host Cindy welcomed us to the last room available, and as promised we found the room to be clean.  I asked Cindy where we should have dinner tonight and she recommended the new “Cantina” restaurant located in an alley off the beaten track.  She also told us about the 80th annual Venetian Festival going on in downtown this week.  We decided that all sounded like a great night so off we went …

The harbor at Charlevoix, getting ready for the band at the Venetian Festival
The Venetian Festival at Charlevoix
Dinner menu from the Cantina restaurant where we had dinner
Cantina “Street Corn” grilled, rolled in Chipotle Mayo, then rolled in cheese – Yummy!
Kathy’s Chicken and Shrimp Tacos
My beef and bean burrito
Mural on Rexall Drugs downtown Charlevoix
A man and his dog on the paddle board in the harbor
A 2 hour cruise out into Lake Michigan on a catamaran

Some shots of folks enjoying the festival food at the harbor and listening to the live band in the amphitheater

This ferry coming in from Beaver Island (watch the video below)

 

Kathy wanted to go on the Ferris Wheel.  But she also wanted ME to GO ALONG!

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I’m “skeered of heights”.  I can’t even climb up on top of the motor home.  I can handle a six foot ladder, but that’s about all.

It might not look it, but I’m shakin’ in my shoes
A shot from atop the wheel (Skeered)
A street performer downtown Charlevoix during the Venetian Festival

The video below shows a group of kids having a ball on the hill.  It would be a really tough climb with a sled in the snow.

We got the last room in town, $85 / nite. Not a lot of fluff, but a clean room
Resting back in the room after dinner and the festival downtown

That’s it for now, the next post will be from Charlevoix through Petoskey, Cross Village and the Tunnel of Trees and then up across the bridge (and back) and then down to Kalkaska.

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Idlewild & The End of Segregation

Idlewild & The End of Segregation

We’re working at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park just south of Baldwin, MI.  Just a few short miles east of Baldwin is the little Village of Idlewild.

From 1912 through the mid-60’s Idlewild was known as “The Black Eden” where scores of famous black entertainers from around the mid-west (and further) would come to entertain their fellow African-Americans in a classy resort community.  This became a very popular spot for the well-to-do where they could unwind and enjoy their idle time.  Folklore says the name may have originated from “Idle men and wild women”.

The Idlewild development was started in 1912 by four white land developers (2 from this area and 2 from Chicago) who marketed excursion trips from the African-American neighborhoods of Detroit, Chicago and other mid-west cities to this area.  They sold home sites to visitors looking for the peace and serenity that they didn’t have in the big city.

In it’s heyday, Idlewild’s summer population would grow to over 25,000 as folks came from far and wide to enjoy camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, roller skating, and night-time entertainment.

Over the years, the area grew by leaps and bounds because of all the top-end entertainment that was featured at the Dance House and other watering holes that had opened.  This was a resort where black folks could come to where they felt welcome.

However, the end of an era came when the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964 and thereafter the folks who had traveled to Idlewild, could now enjoy leisure entertainment wherever they wished, often closer to home, due to the end of segregation.

Now Idlewild is a sleepy little village that still offers a lake, a post office, a bar/tavern but little else.  Many of the old cottages built in the 30’s and 40’s are now in disrepair although many folks still live here and thankfully there is an effort underway to revive Idlewild to attract new residents.

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I was only a boy of 10 when the Civil Rights Act was passed.  Growing up in Detroit, I really hadn’t a clue about segregation, integration had already begun.  Although I believe in equal rights for every human being, still, it’s a shame to see that the end of segregation, so good and right for everyone, put an end to what was once a thriving economy for those that had the opportunity to travel here.

I hope that their efforts to revitalize the area are successful.  To see a short video about the history of Idlewild and the efforts to bring it back to life, see the Detroit Free Press story (written in 2014) by following this link.

To learn more about Idlewild, follow this link to the Wikipedia page

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
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