Monday, September 7, 2015


On the way back to the camper we ran a few errands, yes even in retirement there will be errands to run, so we dealt with those and then went “home”

Because it is Friday the campground had filled up more, and the air was once again filled with the smell of wood smoke.  Wonderful!

We were also greeted by the smell of chili we had left cooking in the Crockpot that morning.  It went so well with the 60 degree temperatures the evening was bringing.
This is one of the things we plan on doing as we travel, leaving meals cooking in the crockpot on days we go out on an adventure to help cut the amount of eating fast food we do.  Only today we were both so full chili was the last thing we wanted. 

Gary finally ate a bowl of it around 7:30pm.  It’s now nearly 9 pm and I am thinking I’ll skip the chili tonight and go straight to dessert!  Hey, that whipped cream could separate right?

As I type Gary is in the living room watching a dvd we purchased years ago from one of those cheap bins at Wal-Mart.  A Steven Segal movie,”Exit Wounds”.  This goes along with our trial run as well.

We have a large stack of dvds accumulated over the years we have never watched.  We will haul them with us to watch at campgrounds where there is no television service.  Then at the next campground that has a laundromat or club house leave it with a note that it is an RAK (Random Act of Kindness) and it was free for the taking. 
That way we will lighten our load as we go and share the entertainment.

Earlier today as Gary transferred photos to my computer I sorted five packages of five different RAK that I have received from a Cuttlebug group I am on to take photos of all the goodies.

Once the photos were taken then I resorted them to like items for future crafting. Organization will be essential in doing in being able to take my crafting with me.

It was relaxing playing with all the beautiful die cuts, and stamped images I had received. Just knowing I didn't have hundreds of things I should be doing around the house in the already clean and organized camper made the sorting all that more enjoyable.

Just before we left home there was a small herd of cows on one section of our property.  While we don’t own cattle, it is not uncommon for a neighbor’s fence to go down and part of their herd, be it cattle or horses to wander on to our property.

Because we have ponds and unmown fields the animals usually come as far as our place and graze until their owner comes to round them up.  We never have an idea where they come from.  So we just patiently wait on the owner. 

I just spoke to our son and he says it is no longer just four or five cows but a whole herd, including calves.  They are quickly clearing our overgrown areas and leaving us a generous supply of fertilizer. 

He also says our outside animals are NOT amused with these big critters roaming the property. According him, Lizzie Kitty is not happy about those big "dogs" wandering around in her yard and has demanded he remove them.  

Poor old Jolie, the collie mix, is so near blind she hid in the garage while he was at work and didn't come out until he came home and scared the cattle away from the garage. Liz was standing guard over her from the safety of the porch rail. My furbabies are not happy.

 Sooner or later the owner will show up, in the meantime the mowing is getting done the natural way.

Added at a later date: The owner apparently reclaimed his herd in the rain on Sunday, because they were gone by Monday morning.

So far we are truly enjoying this Trial Run outing, even if the pets are not enjoying us being gone.   

Sunday, September 6, 2015

TRIAL RUNS: Part 3, A Spectacular Lunch

Today we dined in Dobyn’s Restaurant in the Keeter Center and to say the lunch was fine dining would be an understatement. 

We arrived a little early for our reservation, it is highly recommend you get a reservation, so we took advantage of the extra time to look around the lobby of the large log cabin that houses the restaurant. 

This unique furniture was in the foyer of the building.

The furniture on in the waiting area was also rustic, but not as nearly ornate as the foyer furniture.  Chances are very good that the furnishings throughout the log cabin were made by various artisans living on campus.

If you don’t know anything about the College of the Ozarks here is a brief synopsis for you.  It is commonly called “Hard Work University” because that is how the students pay for their degrees.  Each student is required to work a minimum of 15 hours per week, with one 40 hour week per semester, on campus.  This is how they pay for their liberal arts degree.  

It is a four year need based Christian college and most students graduate with no student loan debt. If you have a student thinking about college you might really want to see if they meet all the criteria to attend this beautiful campus.

After returning home I learned two of my cousin’s grandchildren had received their degrees from the college.  They both loved the campus and hated to leave.

Back to our meal…

We were seated fairly close to our 12:15 pm reservation.  I was certainly glad we had decided to dress decently instead of shorts and a Disney t-shirt, our normal camping wardrobe.

The greeters were all dressed in nice navy blazers, skirts or slacks with white shirts and our servers were all white jacketed.  

The greeter escorted us into an immense dining room with more rustic furniture, but this furniture had an elegant feel to it.  The long tin tiled ceilinged room was well appointed, immaculate.  If you have ever stayed at the Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World, it reminded us of it in many ways, but more elegant.

The table was set with a complete service of all the proper silverware and a neatly pyramid folded cloth napkin.  Our beverages came in a nice piece of stemware. Each course was delivered in covered serving dishes.

Each course brought out the appropriate additional silverware for that course and all used dishes and silverware were quickly and quietly removed.

Our server was Hannah, if all servers were as attentive as she was we would go broke with the amount of tips we would pay.  We tip based on service, not price.  She deserved the maximum tip for certain.

She was attentive without being cloying.  Made excellent eye contact, never wrote anything down, but our orders came perfect.  She knew the ingredients of everything we and those around us ordered and could answer any allergy queries with no problem.   

She spoke clearly, and in a friendly professional way.  The way you would expect wait staff in a fine dining restaurant to speak.

While we waited on our meals to arrive she brought us a basket that contained two honey wheat rolls, and two cranberry biscuits.  She also brought a small cast iron skillet that contained real butter and some of the best apple butter I have ever eaten.

All these items had been made from products produced there on campus.  The flours were from the grain mill, the butter from their dairy, the apple butter from another part of the campus.  Then of course it was all handmade from scratch there in the restaurant. This was the story behind every item we consumed today.  Oh what a wonderful meal we had.

Dh’s meal was what he declared to be the best chicken and dumplings he had ever had. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a photo of it before he had consumed every drop of it.

I had the Pork Pomodoro. Thin medallions of pork loin resting on some of the finest tasting polenta I have ever eaten, topped with pesto and organic cherry tomatoes.  The taste was out of this world! 

It was also a huge portion.  So huge I took half of it back to the camper with me because I simply had to try their desserts. The photo below is what I took back to the camper.

For dessert Gary ordered their banana cream pie topped with a mountain of whipped cream and drizzled with a salted caramel sauce.

I do believe my dessert was the best I have ever had bar none.  Blueberries and cream bread pudding.  It had a sweetened cream cheese type layer, blueberries and raspberries baked into the bread pudding, then it was topped with a drizzle of lemon curd.  On the side was a mound of sweetened whipped cream in a circle of fresh blueberries and topped with a perfectly pink raspberry.  Truly a fine dining dessert.
This too was way too large a serving for me so half of that returned to the camper with me as well. 

To view their entire menu go here

All my leftovers were carefully packaged up by Hannah.  No trying to put it in a Styrofoam carryout box while juggling a plate awkwardly for me.  No Styrofoam at all in fact.  A very plain brown box was used. Very sturdy and environmental friendly.
Our total meal came to slightly over $50 including a very sizable tip and it was worth every penny of it! This is a statement you won’t hear me make often.

After the meal we located a brochure that had a map of the campus included and headed out the door thinking we would go to the Ralph Foster museum, Lookout Point and other sites on campus.  Instead we found ourselves wandering through a small park there at the log cabin. Taking several photos.

By the time we finished with our photos it was almost 2:30 pm.  The museum is three stories and closes at 4:30pm.  In fact all the various buildings on campus close at 4:30pm.

So instead we drove through the campus getting a lay of the land to go back another day.

The campus is gorgeous, swans and ducks in the lake and everywhere there were students PUSHING lawn mowers, no riding mowers were ever seen, pushing brooms to sweep the streets and sidewalks as well as other maintenance jobs.  Definitely Hardwork U.

We left the campus about 4:00 pm enjoying the fact that thanks to following the Total Money Makeover plan by Dave Ramsey we felt like this was the way we were meant to live.  Fine dining, a relaxing day and moving at our own pace without jumping through anyone’s hoops.

Truly a great middle to our day.  On to the next segment of Trial Runs.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


August 21, 2015

Those of you who follow my blogs on a regular basis know we go to Branson, MO often.  Generally we drive over for a long weekend, go to Silver Dollar City for a couple of days using our annual pass and then go home.

I love SDC, but the shows don’t change that often and those hills can really put a strain on fat old ladies like myself. In fact the last few times we have gone we have either taken our electric scooter, or rented one and then dh and I have tagged teamed using it.  Neither of us is as spry as we use to be. 

This trip we have not been to the city yet.  We may go Sunday, but then again we might not.  Instead we took our time getting to the Indian Point Corps of Engineers campground arriving in the late afternoon on Thursday, yesterday. 

We had reserved a spot that we have stayed in many times before because we knew it to be fairly level, easy in and out and close to the bathroom.  It is the perfect site to practice parking this longer trailer in. Six foot can make a world of difference when maneuvering a fifth wheel. So we want to practice in an easy to access spot a few times and then work on a more difficult spot in preparation for whatever situation we may find ourselves in the future.

The only drawback to this campground is the fact there is no sewer hook-up, which means we either have to be very mindful of how much gray and black water we put in the tanks, tear down camp and go to the dump station (not an option where we are concerned), or learn how to dump at the campsite into our portable honey wagon the dealership gave us as an apology for some of the hassle we had in our purchase due to their employees. 

We are combining the first and possibly the last options.  The second one would just be too much work, as you can see by the photo below. So having the bath room nearby is great. Unfortunately it is a drive to the shower house.  So we will probably HW the grey water, because I like my own shower.
Thursday evening the weather was so wonderful, crisp and fall like.  We opened the windows in lieu of turning on the air conditioners, which we already knew worked and enjoyed the ambiance of the campground.

This also allowed us to see how good the cross ventilation was in the camper, and learn which exhaust fans would best draw in cool air when wanted.

Maybe it is all the years of rendezvous we did, or basic camping as we were growing up, but we love the smell of a campfire.  The still crisp air was filled with the smells of wood smoke, grilling burgers and the laughter of the other campers.  It was a perfect evening. 

Indian Point Campground is a fairly basic campground with large sites, most have water and electric.  They honor the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, which means we are staying Thursday through Sunday night for $42 total.  People without the half price pass would pay roughly $84. 

If you need cable and internet, this is not the campground for you.  Neither are available, but for us simply relaxing and “piddling”, as my dh says for all the little chores he entertains himself with, around the campsite it is wonderful.

As I type this, to post after we return home on Monday or a week later depending on my schedule, He is adjusting the length of our awning lights so they can be better seen by other campers.

Earlier today I worked on re-arranging and better organizing the camper as he put up the flag and the solar lights for it, fixed our new “where have we been so far” USA map and hung it in the kitchen window along with other chores.

About 11:00 am we went to the College of the Ozarks in Hollister, MO, just a short drive away.

Our plan had been to have lunch at their restaurant and then go to the Ralph Foster Museum as well as tour the campus.  We ended up doing part of that today and may do the rest tomorrow. I’ll end this post here and start writing about our DIVINE lunch for post #3.

Monday, August 31, 2015


So far 2015 has been a long series of ups and downs.  Medical emergencies and Murphy hits have alternated with debt payoff, and learning we can start actually living like no one else.  A true roller coaster ride. A ride that has kept me from keeping up with my blogs. That is the past and this is today, time to prepare for tomorrow. Time to finish off the series of blog posts I had started and to move on to the future.

With the demise of our debts we can actually think about retiring and traveling the way we want in 2016.  What does that mean though?  What are the challenges of retirement?  Having done a trial run on it in 2009 and 2010 under completely different circumstances we have a general idea of some of the challenges, and joys of the type of travel we want to do.

The Trial Run series will be about all the steps we will be taking to prepare for what we hope will be a successful retirement.

First of all being debt free this time will be a major plus over our last foray into retirement.  We still have a little debt left.  Hopefully it will be gone by the end of the year or shortly thereafter.  With retirement coming in the spring after we build up our savings some more.

For those of you who are new to my blogs we achieved this miracle by following the Dave Ramsey Total Money Make Over .  It has been a rough road at times, 18 months of unemployment definitely slowed what will end up being a seven year journey down.  Murphy has hit us more times than I care to think about from minor things like a flat tire to emergency runs for life threatening medical conditions to the hospital and the huge hospital bills that followed.  If we can do it, so can you, that is a subject for another post.

Being debt free does not mean not having bills.  Utilities still exist, insurance will still need to be paid, repairs on vehicles will need done and by all means we will want to eat.  So doing a retirement weekly budget is essential.  Again this will be discussed more heavily in future posts as we work through setting ours up.

Today’s post is more about the general preparations for the fun part of our retirement: travel.

We know what we want to do.  We know how we want to do it  Making it happen may be another story. Especially on a budget.

Our travel will be in the fashion we call Penny Hiking.  Some of you already know what I mean by this term.  My first Penny Hikes were as a Brownie in the Girl Scouts.  When my mother wanted to get our group out for some exercise we would go to a destination, be it in our neighborhood or at a nature trail and we would hike by flipping a penny at every spot that required us to decide which trail/street to take.  Letting chance determine our route.

Penny hiking with a fifth wheel is of course slightly different, but still left up to chance and on the spot decisions.  Our goal is to truly SEE the entire USA.  This will be accomplished by looking at travel brochures, websites, facebook groups, and maps before we ever leave home to decide our first destination.

It will be a four to eight hour drive from our home and hopefully a national or state park.  We will set up camp there to be our home base for that area.  With the aid of all our research we will visit all the free and near free sites in the area, along with an occasional major attraction. 

Because we will have and use a National Parks Pass for each of us we can possibly stay as long as we want in each national park by alternating the reservations in each of our names for half price.  Many other government own campgrounds honor this pass at the same rate.  While our budget will be calculated on staying at privately owned campgrounds we hope to cut that budget line item tremendously by staying in the government ran parks.

While many government own campgrounds have full hook-ups others do not This means the first thing we need to look at is are we able to dry camp? 

Our new to us camper will do it for a limited amount of time.  Lights and a few other items will run off the two batteries for a limited time.  Water from our holding tank comes from the battery powered pump.  Waste water can be removed via our portable honey wagon, but total dry camping for any length of time is not a viable option.  So our campsites selection will need to be well researched. 

Since we just purchased this camper, a 2004 Keystone Montana. It’s length, height and 50 amp electrical hook up requirements are some of the things that must be considered when choosing camping sites.

We have a grocery list of preparations to do on the Montana itself.  I will blog about the organization of camper in a future post over on my organizational blog Patterson’s Princess Plan on the organizational part.

One of those preparations is learning how to maneuver it.  It is six foot longer than our old camper and while that doesn’t sound like much it makes a huge difference in how you maneuver it.  Having four slides instead of two, makes a difference.  The location of the utility hook ups make a difference.  It all makes a difference.  So that is where the “trial runs” come in,

Over the next few months we will be traveling to familiar campsites to practice all these items and more with the new camper.

Besides the camper differences we will experimenting with other concepts we currently plan on implementing while traveling full time.

Our next trip out will be to Branson, MO as you who follow my posts know we generally go there and go to Silver Dollar City and that’s it when we go to Branson.  This trip we may or may not visit the park.  Instead we are going to go to area attractions that our lower budget items. While we own Silver Dollar City annual passes that are good through the 2015 season we may not own such passes in the future.  So theme parks are likely to be less attended than in the past.

Life at the camper will be different as well.  Instead of the rush, rush of “gotta go here, there everywhere” because we have a deadline that we must be home by,  we our planning down time at the camper as well.

Besides the usual tablets and or computers we are taking cameras, craft supplies, books, games and other quiet relaxation items.  We will trial run how well these items will work in the camper.  Remember space and weight are always a consideration, so we need to weigh the pros and cons of each item we take.  Thus the trial runs. Better to figure out ahead of time that an activity takes up too much valuable space or weighs more than we want to allow for it now when we can easily leave that item at home in the future than to get three states away and have to ship it home.

Another change will be groceries.  I am a bulk shopper, I buy big, I pre-cook big, I cook scratch for the most part.  That is is not going to work in a camper.  Menu planning, limited pantry space and weight are all items that need to be considered.

With this trip we have planned out our meals for the five days.  Now I am working out the recipes to include using my dried foods to make those meals both tasty and light weight to pack in as little space as possible. 

As time goes on my Patterson’s Pantry blog will include the menus and Patterson’s PantryRecipes will include the recipes for those lightweight but nutritious meals.

While over at the Patterson’s Princess Plan the storage of these foods will be discussed.

Here on this blog campground and sight seeing reviews will return.

Mind Your Pennies, will have more on saving money while traveling, and here at the home base as well.

Yes, the home base.  We will still have the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch, but it will be our son living here.  Our flock of birds is down to six guinea fowl.  Then of course there are the two dogs and five cats. So someone needs to be here on a daily basis. 

Anytime we venture in the area we will come home to regroup, visit with our son and head out again. 

Because this house will basically become Sean’s there is a lot to finish culling out before we head out.  In our nearly 18 years here we have definitely added a lot of junk, despite all we have culled this last few years.

So hang on here we go. 

Jan who can’t wait to hit the road in and away from OK