The Great Equalizer (aka tank dumping 101)

Ha!  The featured pic above of the “poop key” is the key Bill uses to open the dog poop bag dispenser – I thought it an appropriate pic to use for this post!  

Possibly stating the obvious, this chore is called the great equalizer because every single RV, be it a $20,000 travel trailer, $75,000 Class C, $120,000 5th Wheel or $500,000 Class A bus – we ALL have grey and black tanks and they all need to be emptied.  

I’ll start by telling you this, in case there are any newbies out here that haven’t heard it before:  You should always leave your tank valves closed until they are full. (at least 2/3 full anyway)  I’ve told people this and I’ve been met with many confused faces.  Here’s the reason in one word – velocity.  This is especially important in your black tank.  Think about it – I know – it’s a dirty nasty thing – but seriously.  If you were to leave your black tank valve open all the time, you are begging for a pyramid of poo.  Linda (of RV-Dreams) calls it the pyramid of doom – and it would be exactly that – doom!  If the liquid was always emptying out – and the solids weren’t – well – I think you get the idea, right?  If your grey tanks are always left open you can get a build up of soap scum and food particles that can accumulate and possibly get caught in your valve seat causing it to leak and not hold back the tank water. There is also the possibility of getting sewer flies in your grey tanks if you always leave your valve(s) open. On the other hand we know of more than one person who has overflowed their grey tank when using their on board washing machine.  

Related to this is the forever complained about non-working monitor lights in your control panel.  So – assuming they don’t work (trust me – they don’t!) how do you know when it’s time to dump?   I know – sounds like a potentially stupid question – but how do you know?  On your grey tank (some of us have 2 – one for kitchen and one for bath) you may find out by having water not go down – that’s the sure fire, always accurate way to tell.  That’s almost too easy – but can be inconvenient too.  Imagine this – you are washing a sink and counter full of dishes and dirty wash water won’t go down.  UGH!  But – now further imagine that it is pouring down rain – double UGH!  How do we avoid that when the lights in our control box don’t work?  

When we attended the RV-Dreams rally back in spring 2014, Linda and Howard said (during one of the seminars) “you will get to know your tanks” and I – for one – thought “WHAT?”  Three years later I’m here to tell you for myself – you WILL get to know your tanks.  Briefly, here’s how that happened: we timed it – many times.  We would count how many days in between dumping the tanks – after water wouldn’t go down.  We did it with regular use and then again when we were on boondocking use.  Considering we have 2-45 gallon grey tanks and a 45 gallon blank tank – here’s what we’ve learned: we can go 5 days on grey tanks on regular use and about double that, 10 days, on boondocking use.  These are grey tank limits only.  Strictly for black tank – we can easily go 2 weeks.  

Regular use?  Boondocking use?  What’s the difference?  I know you are asking!  Regular use is exactly how it sounds – no conserving – taking regular showers, washing dishes as I usually do.  (Having said that we are not 10 minute shower takers, nor do I leave water just running while I wash dishes)  When boondocking, we take “navy” showers – get in, water on for getting wet then shut off, shampoo, water on to rinse, add conditioner and soap up, water on to rinse.  I know – doesn’t sound like fun – but it works and allows us to stay out longer – fresh tank and bathroom grey lasts longer.  In the kitchen – we will use paper products more so most washing is pots/pans, silverwear and our coffee mugs.  We will also buy bottled water for drinking.  

So, for the black tank – how do you know when it’s full?  Again, quoting Linda of RV-Dreams – it will “sound” different when approaching full.  We have never actually had the black water not go down – but based on sound, we knew it was getting full.  Think about filling a bottle at the kitchen sink, the sound changes as it fills -same principal applies here. Some tanks have a straight pipe down and you can actually hold the flap open and shine a flashlight down and see (I know – nasty right?) but our pipe is curved, so we go on sound.  Two weeks is our number.  We may have been able to push it another day or two, but we felt that was long enough. 

Using these timelines – we are pretty spot on for dumping our tanks.  

With all this in mind, when we are on full hookups, Bill usually dumps every 5 or 6 days, or sooner if needed.  No point in only dumping grey tanks, may as well do them all at the same time.  And, yes, there is a method we follow each time.  

First is hooking up the hose for the tank rinse. Bill installed quick releases to the connections

Turn on water so tank rinses

Pull black tank value and let it empty then close and allow tank to rinse for 10 minutes (we timed various water pressure and flow rates and know that we will not overfill the tank with rinse water, even at 100 psi)

Sometimes when we’ve been boondocking and using water conservatively, we will fill the toilet and do a few flushes to help break up any possible beginnings of a pyramid of doom

Next, our kitchen tank valve gets pulled, which, while dumping, provides a first rinse to the sewer hose

Clear elbows, while unpleasant to watch, provide a window to let you know what’s going on

Last tank to get dumped is the bathroom sink/shower tank – it acts as a final rinse for the hose

After dumping the bathroom tank, Bill likes to add about 3 minutes (roughly how long it takes to drain both grey tanks) of water to the black tank, enough to have an inch or so of water on the bottom of the tank, which he believes, helps prevent “stuff” from starting to build up on the bottom.  We don’t add this extra water if we will be biombicking.  We also sometimes then add the GEO method to our tank – see below.  

Disconnect the rinse hose, leaving everything ready for next time

All done!

A few notes: 

Some people use a sort of “tank treatment” (there are literally hundreds of options) in their black tank.  While I understand the desire to do this, we never used a purchased tank treatment. You aren’t carrying around a septic system, where enzymes are going to help break down what’s in your tank.  What’s in your tank isn’t going to be in there long enough for them to work (even if we were going to be away from the rig – we wouldn’t leave tanks with anything in them – we would empty before leaving)  Other types are just to mask odors.  I think if you are having an odor issue, you may have a vent issue.  We have had odor issues, and Bill replaced both undersink vents. You can buy them at Lowes or HD.  Also, you should not flush your toilet while your bathroom fan is on (unless you have plenty of other windows open) as you may suck air from your black tank via your roof vent. 

Above and below – 2 options we sell right here in our camp store

What we (ok – Bill) has discovered is our valve for the black tank sticks (hard to open and close), the other 2 do not – so he’s decided to try using the GEO method for the black tank, which is putting 1 cup each of Calgon and Dawn into the black tank after dumping.  Some people claim it keeps the sensors working, but I’ve heard just as many say it doesn’t help that at all.   It does seem to keep the valves well lubricated, so it’s doing what we want it to do.  

Same stuff I use on my dishes

I believe the liquid is preferred over the powder

We have found that using plenty of water, using quickly dissolving toilet paper (we use the purple package Scotts) and thorough rinsing works well for us.  If you’re not sure your TP dissolves well try this test. Take one sheet of TP and place in a clear jar (empty Peanut Butter jar or similar) and fill half way with water and shake well for a few seconds.  The TP should break up into tiny pieces. 

Some of you may have only one grey tank, so one less valve to pull.  I believe all have separate black and grey though.  

There you have it!  The least glamorous side of RVing.  If anyone has any different methods that work well for them, please feel free to comment below.  If there are any questions, please feel free to ask.  As I stated at the beginning of this post – we ALL have this chore to deal with – let’s help each other with advice and/or suggestions and/or by answering questions if we can!  

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New Jersey 4th of July 

Hello!  How is everyone today?  I am starting this post on July 1!  It is the 4th of July weekend and that is a BIG deal, especially here on the Jersey Shore!  Nothing says summer has arrived and is in full swing like celebrating the birth of our nation!  

I had briefly talked before about family picnics when I was a child, with the hamburgers, hot dogs, BBQ chicken, sausage sandwiches, potato salad, my Grandma’s crab macaroni salad, cole slaw, and most importantly – corn on the cob!  If there had been a lot of overtime recently there may have been steaks!  Wow – a feast – that is now causing me to salivate as I remember each plate and bowl full of the homemade creations – there wasn’t any store bought anything on the table!  Each family member contributed their specialty!  Let’s not forget the desserts: ice cream, rice krispy treats, ambrosia salad (my Nana called it “one cup salad” because it was made with one cup of each ingredient!), brownies, etc. Yes – we would eat our way through the day!  

And then later – standing on Nana’s back deck – FIREWORKS!  We could see several towns from all around the bay – our heads jerking back and forth – ohhh!  Ahhh!  Look at that one!  Did you see THAT?!?

Someone would get us kids sparklers – I LOVED sparklers! I loved how bright they were against the dark sky and the sizzly sound they made!  My brother preferred the firecrackers – the ones that were twisted together and when you lit them you threw it on the ground and the whole pack would go off.  POP POP POP!  When he got older he liked the M80’s – one of the neighborhood boys put an M80 in someone’s mailbox and blew it up one year – that was LOUD!  Sent parents running outside to she what had happened!  Bill stepped on a sparkler once – OUCH!  You may be wondering so I will say – no he wasn’t wearing shoes – no one wore shoes back then – probably between the last day of school and first day back – no shoes!  The sparkler stuck to his foot and caused quite the burn!  

The campground started filling up on Wednesday before the weekend, and when we went in on Thursday there was a small traffic jam of campers coming to check in for their extended weekend.  

By Friday, sites were almost at full capacity. Lynn had opened up the few unoccupied seasonal sites so we turned away fewer people, same as for Memorial Day.  Checking AccuWeather, we learned that an awesome weekend, weather wise, was expected.  YAY!  We spent a bit of time in the pool, 

Our work schedule was switched around a bit due to the holiday – as it was for Memorial Day.  We didn’t work our usual day shift on Sunday, but instead covered 5pm – 10pm. 

Saturday, friends from Reading, Lisa & Matt, stopped by for lunch here at Country Oaks.  We were so busy chatting and catching up on news that we forgot a pic!  Thanks guys for the subs!  

We were invited for ribs by new CG friend, Tina and WOW!  they were yummy!  

Sunday, the weather was perfect for hanging out at the pool, so that’s what we did until our 5pm start time.  

We worked our day shift hours on Monday and looked forward to our days off!  Tuesday, on the 4th, we headed to see Batsto Historic Village.  Bill had been wanting to see it, as we’ve passed signs for it many times.   

According to their website:

“Batsto Village, is a New Jersey historic site located in the South Central Pinelands, which is administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks & Forestry. This site is nationally recognized for its historical significance and beauty. The roots of Batsto Village can be traced back to 1766. Two centuries of American history are available to visitors, with the Pinelands environment as a scenic backdrop.”

Miniature Batsto Village

Wharton Mansion

Inside of the barn roof

Farm implements


We had been planning to go to Ocean City to watch fireworks from the boards, but a text from our friends, Tony & Ulrica, squashed that idea.  While excited at the prospect of seeing fireworks, we also knew that parking would probably be a nightmare and I was ambivalent at the prospect of standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers.  So, after a 30 second chat, we happily took Tony up on his invite to join them for dinner!  Since Batsto was already on the way toward their house, we went straight there when we finished up our tour.

Wednesday, Bill loaded the bikes on the back of the car.  Since we’ve arrived here in NJ, we’ve been talking about a ride with my brother and today was that day!  Another perfect weather day, thankfully!  Jay rides it all the time, but I had never rode on the Henry Hudson Trail, which is part of the NJ Rails to Trails system.  I added 12 miles on the odometer Bill installed for me and I even got to use my new bell!  Boardwalk fries – complete with vinegar – was a delish snack choice when we hopped off the trail on a side-trip stop at Keansburg Boardwalk.  

View of Verrazano Bridge and Lower Manhattan

Water park

Jays favorite – the go-carts

Vinegar fries!

The “boardwalk”

Keansburg doesn’t really have boards, which makes it a unique “boardwalk”.  It’s just blacktop.  What makes it special is it’s where we visited as kids with our family’s.  It was a special treat, back in the day, to go spend a few hours going on the rides and having a Zeppole.  Most of the rides are for the younger kids, in fact, when my kids were small we brought them to Keansburg a few times when visiting my family.  

So, that about wraps up our 4th of July week.  We enjoyed great sunny weather and time spent with family and friends.  

Meeting a Blog Reader…

We sure have been doing our share of visiting!  It’s part of the reason for being here this summer – to catch up with friends and family in this general vicinity.  With being away for as long as we were, it is nice to reconnect with those we love!  

Time in NJ wouldn’t be complete without seeing long time friends, the Infosino’s.  Sadly, Ulrica had to work, so our visit was mostly with Tony.   Their crew of 5 kids, now ranging in age from 16 to 22, were in and out.  We always enjoy time with Tony – reminiscing about our shared high school years and bringing each other up to date on the latest “gossip”.  

A day visit with our son was very productive!  All his wedding attire, from his shoes up to the bow tie, has now been purchased and fits properly!  It made my heart smile to see how well he cleans up!  Another wedding item checked off my to-do list!  He is settled nicely into his new digs, complete with some hand-me-down artwork from his Grandmother, hanging on the walls!  We finished off the day with a stop for Chinese food – which was not as tasty TripAdvisor reviews led us to believe, but wasn’t bad either.  

Our final visit was different from the previous two.  Instead of reconnecting old ties, we made new friends.  Long time blog reader Chris and her husband, Frank, drove up from Maryland to see us!  It is their dream to join us in living and traveling full-time in an RV.  They are currently in the planning stage, and mine is one of several Chris reads as part of her research.   

Chris has been one of my most loyal readers, always making supportive and encouraging comments.  For those of you that don’t blog yourselves, I’m not sure if you can fully appreciate what it means to hit the publish button and wonder if you’ve said anything that anyone will want to read.   The only way we (bloggers) know that what we are typing, the words we pour out onto virtual paper, is being well received is by getting feedback.  That feedback usually comes in the form of a comment.  Comments are like icing on a bloggers cake!  

This isn’t the first time we’ve met a blog reader.   While traveling out of Alaska last year, we were invited to stay with Helen & Pat, on their driveway near Calgary.   Meeting them was such a great experience, I was hoping to have that again.  

Of course, even though Chris and I have corresponded through blog comments and later in emails, and I had gotten a good “vibe”, I had a bit of anxiety about meeting in person.  Why?

First, there is the husbands issue – will they get along?  Bill is fairly easy going, can make most people feel at ease, but you just never know, not everyone likes everyone, right?  

Second, I was feeling a bit of “will meeting in person solidify a friendship”, contrasted with a fear that she would feel “wow – in person didn’t meet up to the hype”.  I seriously do not mean to toot my own horn with that statement, I really don’t, but it’s very humbling to have someone who only knows you through your written word (especially when you aren’t always confident on those writing abilities) want to drive, on their one of two days off, 2 1/2 to 3 hours EACH WAY, to meet you.   No pressure though!  If getting a nice comment on my blog is icing on the cake – this was going to be the caramel, whip cream, cherry, and cookie crumbles on the sundae!  

Further down the list of possibilities was a teeny tiny thought – what if they were just weirdos?  Ha – no I didn’t really think that at all!  If that had even been a teeny tiny possibility – I would never have invited them to my home – which is also my place of work right now. 

Well – all that fretting for nothing!  Husbands got along like guys who’ve know each other for years and for me – I’d say Chris and I leaned much closer to the solidify a friendship side of the above equation – and I hope I’m right when I say I think the feeling is mutual.  

We had an amazing visit!  Wait! Before I say one more word!  Chris brought us presents!  As if driving all that way wasn’t enough!  Presents!  We were so speechless – and it takes a lot for that to happen to me! 😁

6 pack of beer for Bill, homemade Snickerdoodles, Carrot Cake cupcakes, a wall hanging and a mouse for Callie!

To say Bill and I were thankful is a huge understatement!  Each gift was so thoughtful, so “us”!  We were truly overwhelmed!   Thank you didn’t seem like nearly enough!  

In between bursts of rain, Chris and Frank got the nickel tour.  We talked about what we do and they got to see first hand what it looks like to be a Workamper.  

We snacked on queso and guacamole, while deciding what we wanted to do next.   In spite of the raining on and off throughout the morning, but sun was trying real hard to come out, so we took a chance and headed for Ocean City.   They were familiar with OC MD, but had not been to the NJ boardwalk.  

While the snacks had been enough to keep the hungrys at bay a for a little while, after the decision was made to walk the Ocean City boards, I really wanted a slice of pizza from Manco & Manco.  The weather was warm and humid, and a bit hazy.  There was a perfect ocean breeze blowing our hair back as we walked.   Curley Fries and Kohrs Bros were also stopped at before we headed back.  

Chris and Frank were impressed with Ocean City NJ, and Bill and I were happy to bring them.  I, once again, felt proud of my home state.   

Sadly, Bill and I needed to start work at 5, so Chris and Franks started their journey back to MD.  It was truly awesome meeting them and (hopefully) we were able to help them by talking with them and answering questions about the full-time RV lifestyle.  I’ve said it before, the #1 reason I do my blog is for me, second is for family and friends, and third is to pay it forward – there are plenty of others who’ve gone before us, and who continue to teach us things.  It’s only fair to give back what little I can.  It is very rewarding when I get to hear first hand in person that I’ve helped someone.   

It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that! 

A Day in the Life…

It occurred to me today, we’ve been here 2 months already!  How is that possible?!?  I decided it’s about time to give you a glimpse of a typical work day.  

What day shall we talk about?  How about today – in real time?  Let’s check it out!

For whatever reason, today I was awake very early – probably 6am!  Yes – for me that  is VERY early, especially considering we don’t have to work until 5pm!  Like most of us – I suffer with insomnia – thankfully it isn’t all that often – usually 2 or 3 days in a row then not again for awhile.  That “awhile” could be anywhere from a few weeks, or a few months.   With no warning, I’m just wide awake and unable to fall back asleep.  UGH!  

Since we didn’t have to be in a hurry to get anywhere, I read my current book for about an hour and a half or so til Bill started stirring.  Normally, he is up before me and he will bring me coffee, but today I brought him his.  It’s good to keep things mixed up, don’t you think?

We talked about what the day might look like, up til our scheduled work time.  He wanted to work on getting his boat trailer lights working; he had noticed they weren’t coming on when we brought the boat to Country Oaks from his brothers a couple weeks ago.  Since there wasn’t anything I needed to get done, I decided to go sit at the pool.  Yesterday, we relaxed at the beach for a little while, but today is Saturday and heading that way could prove time consuming, if there was traffic getting over the causeway and/or parking.  The pool here is wonderful – crystal clean clear water and not too much chlorine like some pools.  There are very nice lounge chairs lined around the pool for guests to use.  

The pool area comes complete with a smaller kiddie pool, at a depth of only 12″, it is perfect for our tiniest guests. 

Another great feature offered is a Snack Shack.  There are lots of snack choices available, including beverages, pretzel nuggets with cheese, etc.  The most popular is the hand dipped ice cream, in a cup or cone.  

I arrived at the pool after a brunch of strawberries and yogurt, and a bit of granola for crunch.  I wanted to have a full tummy, to better say no to the Snack Shack temptations.   

I knew that new friends, Tina and Monique would be there, but when I first arrived, I didn’t see them.  I choose a chair and slathered sun block all over my Irish white skinned self.  Can’t be too careful with a UV index of 8!  I then dug back into my book, which was getting good.  I didn’t have too much left of it and I was getting anxious to see how it ended.  

The sun felt amazing!  It was warm, but not hot and the humidity was fairly low.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky – a slight breeze made this the PERFECT weather day to be sitting my a pool!  

At some point I thought I heard Tina, and I walked over to say hello to her and Monique.  They were sitting on the edge of the pool with their feet in the water.  They invited me to bring my chair over near them, and I accepted.  There weren’t any open chairs near them, so I just dragged mine over.  

About an hour had gone by and Tina wanted to take a quick dip to cool off.  I was feeling a bit hot also, not quite sweaty, but almost.  I left my glasses on my chair.  The 3 of us lined up at the deep end of the pool (it isn’t that deep – only 6′ – no diving) and 3, 2, 1 – JUMP!  Considering the air temperature was about 84 – the 71 degree water felt refreshing, not too shocking like I was expecting.  We didn’t stay in too long, maybe 5 minutes, then retreated back to chairs.  

All too soon, it was time for me to head back and start getting ready for work.  During our morning chat, Bill and I decided dinner would be salads and BBQ chicken – one of my favs!  

I took a quick shower and finished my book.  I did enjoy the ending.  There were twists and turns I didn’t see coming, and that always makes for an interesting, satisfying read.  

We devoured the chicken and salad and embarked on our commute – ha!  Debbie and Joe, who had been on since 8:30am were ready to go home.  The sun was still warm, despite having started its descent for the night.   Part 2 of our day was about to begin! 

Debbie & Joe said their goodnights and headed home.  They were extra excited to go, as Joe put it “OFF is the best word I’ve heard all day!”  Bill and I will work the “day shift” the next two days while they enjoy their free time.  Yes – tonight/tomorrow morning is our “clopen” (close one day/open the next). 

The store has been, as it’s been more and more, fairly busy.  The kids come in with the dollars they get from a variety of sources, Mom or Dad, Grandma or Grandpa, maybe an Aunt or Uncle.  They line up next to the counter to pick their favorite of the moment candy.  I can see the excitement on their faces as they try to pick from Baby Bottle Pops, Cow Tails, Airheads, Push Pops, Tootsie Roll Pops, Fun Dips and lets not forget the Krabby Patties!  Ring Pops, Bottle Caps and Peanut Chews – oh my!   

I remember being that kid – somewhere somehow I’d come into a dime – a whole dime! or a nickel or even a lowly penny, and I’d walk my way to Anne’s – where I’d take an excessive amount of time trying to choose what I wanted to spoil myself with. Back then, even the lowly penny could get you something – be it a tootsie roll or peppermint patty or the like.  The least expense candy we have is $.25!  That man behind the counter had an immeasurable amount of patience!  For a penny!  

In case you are dying to know – we have 3 stand-outs in the which candy is most popular contest.  It’s probably a 3 way tie between Baby Bottle Pops, Krabby Patties and Fun Dip with blue and red being equally popular.  

Another reason the store is becoming increasingly busy is the weather outside is getting hotter.  The variety of floaties we sell for the pool is more than should be expected of a simple camp store.  Kids and adults alike have a difficult time choosing.  

There are twice this many – I think you can see why it can take awhile to choose!  I picked one for myself a couple of weeks ago – there was only one like to and I didn’t want it to get sold!  

We’ve been supplying a lot of people with ice today!  With temps well into the 80’s – and most people with the smaller 3 way RV type refrigerators, coolers with ice are popular to keep overflow items cold.  

Needless to say, ice cream has been a huge hit on this 80+ degree day!  Here in the office we sell the packaged kind – Hershey’s brand goodies that everyone loves!  

Over in the Snack Shack, Samantha or Jennifer will serve up a hand-dipped cone or cup, and all the usual fixings are set up for self serve.  

I’ve also rung up plenty of RV supplies – the usual electrical adapters, sewer connections, toilet tablets, etc. I can tell you which sites are having bacon and eggs for breakfast and who’s having pork roll and pancakes.  

Bill has been busy as well.  There are propane tanks to fill, hayrides to drive for, and let’s not forget about bingo to call for!  As our weekend sites empty out – he makes sure the pedestal is turned off and the sites are neat and tidy for the next guest.  He also goes around to collect bags of garbage left out at the “curb”.  Now that the pool is open, he helps keep it clean, using a bottom skimmer.  Delivering carts full of firewood is also on his to-do list.  

It is so sad that some people think the fire ring is a garbage can and someone else’s job to clean up

There’s never a dull moment here at Country Oaks!  

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look into our day today.  Bill and I both are enjoying our time here – we’ve already been asked if we plan to return next year – so far only by the campers – but it’s nice to hear that they will miss us!  We love being a part of such a great community – we have been welcomed with open arms and that’s never a bad thing!  The summer is really just getting started, can’t wait to see how it unfolds!  

A/C Fiasco and Getting Rid of the Mouse…

I left off last time having enjoyed an awesome week with Steven & Linda (YES – this is how long ago this post was started!) Play time was over and getting some chores/projects was called for.  

One of the larger projects Bill was wanting to get done, especially with hot and humid NJ summer temps right around the corner, was replacing our dead living room air conditioner.  He got on the phone with PPL, explained what we needed.  The guy, Ryan, who answered the call seemed to know what he was talking about, confirmed that yes, we’d get free shipping, and placed the order.  A Dometic Brisk II unit was on the way. 

Notice above I said SEEMED like he knew.  Fast forward a few days and our very large box arrives via UPS.  Bill used the tractor to bring it over to our site.  

The next order of business was how to get the very heavy box up on the roof.  Bill built a wood ramp using wood pieces he got from Bob, our boss.  His plan was to strap and rope the box and slide it up the ramp, onto the roof.  I was, not surprisingly, very nervous about him doing it himself.  The box was very heavy.  When I expressed my concern, he asked Bob for help, which made me feel a lot better.  

So – the box went up fairly smoothly and Bill started opening the box and then disconnecting the old unit.  He quickly realized there wasn’t any instructions in the box.  He wasn’t initially concerned because it was supposed to be an exact unit – easy switch one out for the other.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. 

Apparently, Dometic isn’t making our exact unit anymore – and yes – our unit is only 3 1/2 years old!  The unit they sent is a “direct replacement” but not, as Bill was told, an easy switch one for the other.   I was right there when Bill placed the order and the term he used was “exact replacement plug and play” to which Ryan replied “yes Sir”.  Ryan (possibly unknowingly but this is his job to know this stuff right?) After numerous calls with PPL and Dometic, it was determined that we needed another part, a control box, which would allow Bill to properly hook up the new unit.  All that for an additional $110!  The control box was needed because the Brisk II unit is normally installed with a central return system.  Also of note: the mounting positions have also changed so Bill is going to have to drill new holes in our roof!  Not very happy about that!  Looking on the bright side (I’m always on the lookout for the positive spin) – Bill doesn’t have to repackage the unit back into its box and send it back – instead Dometic is shipping the part to PPL and PPL will be shipping it to us ASAP.   When asked why can’t Dometic can’t ship to us directly – we were told “We (Dometic) aren’t customer direct” – whatever.  

Here is a before and after pics of the area that needed to have the excess sealant removed so the new gasket would seal properly. 

Look at the difference in how the new unit is built. Much more insulation and plastic. Should make the unit more efficient and quieter. 

While waiting for the part to arrive, another issue came up – isn’t it always something?  We were watching some TV – our latest is binge watching Breaking Bad – and we notice Callie on high-alert.  We initially didn’t see anything – when she acts that way we generally will see a moth or other flying bug buzzing around – but this time we didn’t, so we were like “what’s up with her?”  Then, very faintly we hear a strange scratching noise – “What could THAT be?”  It was coming from the bedroom.  When Bill turned down the TV, we could hear it louder.   I go into the bedroom and it becomes louder and I realize the scratching is in the CEILING!  I am not kidding!  A MOUSE!  IN THE CEILING!  

You may remember, we had mice once before, in Alaska.  They got in the basement and one got into a kitchen drawer and into the main cabin once – Callie chased it all over with it screeching – in the middle of the night – but some well placed traps took care of the uninvited guests quickly.  

Well swell!  How do we get it out of the ceiling?  I assumed it was in the vent – but Bill didn’t agree.  He thought it was in the ceiling itself – there are small cut-outs for wires in the otherwise solid laminated ceiling/roof.  Either way – the little f@&$er wasn’t wanted!  We pounded on the ceiling and that seemed to chase it off for a little while, but it came back.  Great!

I sent out an SOS on Dreamers FB page and Heartland Owners forum, asking the experts for their tried and true remedies for mice and the response was overwhelming!  Consistently the #1 suggestion is using peppermint as one of the best ways to not only rid your rig of mice but also keep them out!  Also, traps with peanut butter, ultrasonic plug-ins and even poisons were suggested. 

 I personally do not want to use the poisons – and here’s why:  first, I can imagine it being pretty painful.  I don’t want them to suffer – just leave, and sometimes that means die but I’d prefer that to be quick.  Also I don’t want them to die inside a wall or part of the basement where we can’t get to it and have it stink – gross!  Also, if one dies inside and Callie gets it – well – I don’t even want to think about that!  

When we had them in AK, Bill was sensitive to my not wanting them to suffer (he doesn’t want that either but he isn’t as worried about it as me) and bought these traps that are quick and can’t miss.  Another benefit is you don’t actually see the mouse – it goes in the little house looking thing and stays in and it just gets emptied – don’t have to look at it or touch it.   

Sorry if any of that was TMI, but based on the responses we got from friends and strangers alike, we are not the first to deal with this.  

So, peppermint oil is on our purchase list and I will be putting it all over.  

In the meantime, Bill came up with the idea to put the a/c fan on to hopefully make it leave and that seems to have done the trick, although probably temporarily.  He also caught one in that same drawer and set up traps in the basement.  I’m seriously hoping the peppermint will do the job and the death traps can be packed away permanently!  

It’s been awhile!  Whew! 

We have not heard anything from mice since Bill caught the one!  We still have traps set where we’ve seen poop but no more for now!  Awesome! 

Unfortunately the A/C debacle isn’t going as smoothly!  Here’s the update on that:

The control board arrived and Bill hooked it up.  He turned it on and it worked!  Don’t get too excited though b/c it isn’t over yet!  Bill still wasn’t “feeing it” – it just didn’t seem right.  The control board had no official place to live and would have to be put into the space between A/C unit and ceiling – in the return plenum – which Bill felt would seriously impede air flow.  

So – more phone calls!  The new mission was to determine how this is supposed to be installed (no – we did not receive ANY instructions with anything!) This time he called Heartland, wanting to know how exactly they suggest he attach the unit to the roof.   As I mentioned above, the new unit isn’t the same size as the old one and none of the attachment points lined up.  He also wanted to ask about the control board, since that didn’t seem right either.  After hanging up with them, he was more convinced than ever he was sold the wrong unit.  UGH!

Next call was to Dometic.  The first person he talked to said he had the correct A/C.  After insisting on speaking to a manager, waiting for a call back (which didn’t take as long as initially predicted – a nice surprise), he FINALLY got them to tell us what Bill KNEW – we had the wrong unit!  OMG!  Evidently some Landmarks and Newmar builds had roof mounted fully ducted systems. This is evidently pretty uncommon as Dometic had not updated their internal cross reference compatibility to reflect the proper unit, let alone their vendors.   It was also mentioned that a piece of foam could be removed on the Brisk II unit that would allow the control box to be installed under the cover and not in the return plenum. Wow, that would be great information for the instructions.   However he learned that the Brisk II unit had 30 less CFMs of air flow and would not be a recommended replacement for our old unit. WOW!  Evidently what we neede was a Dometic NXT!  Of course that unit is almost $300 more. 

So – back on the phone with PPL.  Waiting for another manager.   Telling them what Dometic said, gave them the correct part number – then we hear “That’s not what our list shows” but after a lengthy chat about what the exact issue is – Bill finally heard “ok – I understand”.  Next issue is what happens next?  We have the wrong unit (up on our roof along side of the broken unit) and an unneeded control board.  AND – the cherry on top: it isn’t in stock!  Are you kidding me?  

So – PPL has to get it from Dometic – no idea how long that will take – then they will forward it to us.  Since we already disposed of the HUGE box the wrong one came in, Bill will pack the wrong one in the new box, with the control panel, and PPL will send UPS or FedEx back to get it.   Can’t make this up!  

So now we have a hole in our roof and no way to properly attach the A/C and we know that it will rain before the new unit arrives. Bill cut a small piece of plywood and used Dicor to seal it to the roof. He placed the A/C on top of the plywood to create a good seal. He also placed a gob over the bolt holes ( going to be fun digging that out later). 

Ok – final chapter on the A/C saga:

The correct unit finally arrived!  We had the guys on the truck bring it into the rec room behind the store.  Bill borrowed Bob’s hand truck to bring it over to our site later that day.  Weather was not cooperative for several days, there was also work days in the mix, and we were spending time with friends, so this was not taken care of immediately.  This past Saturday was THE day!  The weather was partly sunny and warm and we hadn’t made other plans.  

Bill used the ramp he had built, as well as help from Joe, to get the new one up on the roof and get the wrong one, which needed to be packed up for return shipping, down.  He started by calling Dometic, so they could email him instructions, because as I mentioned above, they do not send any in the package.  I guess they expect it to be intuitive, and to be fair, if Bill had received the correct one the first time, he may have been able to more easily figure it out, but WEEKS have gone by!  At this point, actually at any point, having instructions before starting was a good idea.  After the second phone call, the email arrived (don’t have a clue why the guy who answered the first call didn’t send it like he said he would), and Bill got to work. 

The foam had to be removed from the evaporator section to gain access to the control box. No mention how to do this in the instructions!  This is so you can set the dip switches to the proper setting for set up. 

Once all the wires, and there were a lot of them, were hooked up, he came in and turned it on, wanting to make sure it worked before attaching it to the roof.   Thank goodness – it came on!  First thing we both noticed – it is so quiet!  The older one was much louder!  Bonus!  I have to admit here, I was tempted to ask Bill to switch it with our bedroom one, as it is the noisy type, but I quickly put a lid on that – he’s been through enough with this whole situation!  

Once he was assured it was properly wired and working correctly, he needed to permanently attach it to the roof.  He had been warned that only 3 of the 4 holes would line up, and that’s exactly how it is.  The next glitch came when he realized the bolts he had weren’t long enough for the new unit, and new bolts weren’t provided (just lag screws). So a quick trip to Lowes solved that, and the rest of the install went smoothly.  The unit is only attached with the 3 bolts, and some Dicor sealant over the bolt hole. He may go back and drill a hole through the frame to attach the 4th bolt in the future.  The Dometic person that seemed to know what they were talking about said it was not necessary if the gasket compressed evenly (which it did). He measured the space between the roof and the bottom of the frame on the 4 corners. 

So – we now have 2 working A/C’s!  How awesome is that?  

The final step to this crazy story is Bill had to pack up the wrong unit in the box so FedEx can come take it away!  Oh – and the unneeded control box!  We still had that box since it was much smaller.   

It’s a lot more streamline than the old one. 

Bill removed some parts from the old A/C as it is identical to our bedroom A/C. We now will have a spare control board and capacitors to carry with us. He will put the shroud and blower motor in our storage container (both to big to lug around).

We hate to think what would have happened if this was a warranty issue. Or if we paid to have it fixed. They would have received the same bad information as we did. Pretty sure they would have gone the easy route and installed the Brisk II unit with the control box in the return plenum and used lag screws to attach it to the roof. This would have resulted in poor airflow and 4 hopefully properly patched holes. RV techs are paid using a flat rate and the time paid on the job is one hour. Confirmed by an RV tech  Bill spoke to working at the campground on another rig. He had over 30 years experience and knew nothing about the situation Bill ran into. 

So – what should you take away from this long, drawn out situation? Do your research – when something doesn’t feel right or you are hesitating for any reason, trust your instincts – you may be right!  Believe me when I tell you – I am grateful every single day for my husband, who is mechanically inclined and understands these issues.  If he doesn’t KNOW – he will research until he does.  

If typing all this out helps even just one person, it was worth every keystroke.  

Memorial Day and Friend Time…

So, here I sit, in my recliner chair in my “salon” aka living room.  It is a beautiful sunny day outside, but I’m still in my jammies, so no getting my Vitamin D just yet.  After a shower, I’ll move out into my zero-gravity chair and catch a few rays before starting work at 5.  

It’s Memorial Day weekend here on the Jersey Shore, the kick-off for the summer season!  The campground is full – no open spots at all!  Bill and Joe have been needing to do 2 hayrides due to the number of people!  The store has been very busy – people needing everything from wood for a fire, ingredients for s’mores, ice cream, to an extension cord to reach the pedestal.  Pizza pretzel nuggets and fleece jackets have been hot items also!  The weather, which didn’t start out so well, has cleared and everyone is enjoying the warm sunshine and cooler evenings – perfect for campfires!  The pool is open and water toys are flying off the shelves!  Last night Lynn brought in a DJ, and he kept everyone dancing, with a great mix of oldies, classics and more recent favs, from 8 to 11pm!  

This was taken just a few days before the weekend

First hayride of the holiday weekend!

Kiddie pool – open for business!

Very inviting! Can’t wait to grab a chair and relax!

What a difference power washing makes!

 I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog.  I love my blog, but I sometimes feel like it is “forced”, and that isn’t what blogging is supposed to be about.  Usually I get excited to type out what’s happening.  More recently, I have been struggling.  Not sure why.  Perhaps it’s because last year at this time we were on our way, and arriving in AK, that was so exciting!  Now, while I love being in NJ, it’s just not quite as awe inspiring. (I didn’t mean to imply my blog was/is awe inspiring, just the AK part!)  I don’t want to lose readers because I’m not “feeling it” in my writing.  

I chatted a bit with my daughter about this.  With a Bachelors in English and MFA in English, Creative Writing, she is uniquely qualified to help me sort this out.   (Just as a proud Mom showing off: check out her new biz website: Maeve Stoltz Creative Coaching)   After some coaching from my creative daughter, I’m going to be trying a different approach to my writing.  Not any major changes, just small adjustments, a tweak here and there.  I don’t want to give it all away, but I’m counting on you, my faithful readers, to offer feedback on what, if anything, different you notice.  My hope is reading my blog will be a more enjoyable experience.  

Before I forget to tell you – one of my readers asked for the Manhattan Clam Chowder and Shrimp and Grits recipes from my last post.  I posted the Manhattan Clam Chowder under the Soup section of Foodies Welcome, you can find it here: Manhattan Clam Chowder or by clicking the “hamburger” in the above right, Foodies Welcome, Eating In then Soups.   The Shrimp and Grits isn’t my recipe but here’s the link to it: Shrimp and Grits.  Enjoy!

As I mentioned above, it is Memorial Day weekend!  When we lived in NJ, we lived for this weekend – starting, just a little bit, right after New Years; by Easter the countdown was in full swing!  Keep in mind that in the northeast schools don’t generally let out as early as other areas in the country, when I was in school we were lucky to be done by mid-June.  The exact end date would depend largely on how many snow days we enjoyed.   (And we did enjoy them!  Back when we were cheering for the snow day – our young minds didn’t correlate that with an extra day being added at the end!)   Memorial Day weekend was a small teaser taste of what was to come – family BBQ’s, swimming in the pool, being allowed to stay out late, if we got lucky – chasing fireflies!  

As locals, we rarely, if ever, went down the shore to the beach on a holiday weekend.  Well – I guess some people did, but we (my family) would stay closer to home and spread our towels out on Sandy Hook vs heading all the way to Belmar, Pt Pleasant or Manasqan.  First of all, traffic was bad enough going only as far as Sandy Hook, and BONUS – if we were “good” Mom would stop and get us soft-serve ice cream on the way home.  I sure wish I could remember the name of the place on the west bound side of Hwy 36 in (I think) Atlantic Highlands that she’d swing the huge Ford station wagon into.  The building was shaped like a massive ice cream cone – I can still picture it – vanilla!   

Summers were (I’m sure still are) such a great time in Jersey.  My grandparents lived in the same town as us, but right on the water.  A red raised ranch house, with a deck on the back with million dollar views of the Raritan Bay; to the right was Keyport, Union Beach and Keansburg.  To the left you could easily see Perth Amboy.  Straight out, seeming so far away, was Staten Island, then Manhattan and on really clear days we could see shadows of Coney Island. They would have family picnics quite often, at least it seems so now.  Nana would invite everyone so there was lots of people.  I had a huge extended family back then.  

Bill grew up in the same town and when we started dating, we would split our time between mine and his families homes.  Picnics for Memorial Day meant hamburgers and hot dogs, sausage sandwiches, BBQ chicken, potato salad, and cole slaw.  Grandma Gorman would make crab salad with macaroni – it was so GOOD! (later in the season – my fav – CORN!) My Dad would be in charge of the cooking.  I can picture the black round grill and huge bag of charcoal; back then there weren’t any propane gas grills like today.  You had to be patient (not my strongest virtue) waiting for the coals to get the right temp, just starting to turn white, only then could the food go on.  

I guess being back here, and looking forward to this summer, has me feeling a bit nostalgic!  Summer was always my fav part of the year!  

Back to the present!

Guy & Sue, fellow Class of 2014 RV Dreamers, came to NJ and stayed not too far from us at Turkey Swamp Park, in Freehold.  Bill and I drove up to see them, the plan: enjoy lunch while catching up.

The CG had been fairly recently redone.  It is very wooded with dirt roads.  Sites are all pull-thru and quite a few are large enough for their 45′ Class A coach.  I had camped there once, years ago, and back then you could not have fit their bus, but the upgrade made it possible.  Sue loved how it was near everything, yet felt like you were far removed from the hustle and bustle of Freehold Township and Borough.  

After a short discussion, we quickly decided on thin crust pizza!  Ok Jersey friends – where, in/near Freehold, would one go for the BEST thin crust pizza!?!  Federici’s of course!  Sue and Guy added sausage, pepperoni, roasted red peppers to their pizza, while Bill and I ordered sausage, mushroom and roasted red pepper.  Can I get a delish!?

Just looking at the pic makes me want to get more!

Sadly, we didn’t really have enough time to hang out for long after lunch because we were scheduled to work at 5, but we had another date with them on Tuesday!  

The weekend at Country Oaks was BUSY!  People having fun!  Monday arrived and the mass exodus of RV’s began before I opened the store at 8:30am.  There were people staying longer than the minimum 3 night stay, until Tuesday, but we had about 40 RV’s leave out by the noon check out time.   We offer late check out for an additional $25, and some took advantage of that.  

Sue & Guy texted that they were on their way about 10am Tuesday, with an ETA of 11:30, but we know sometimes it doesnt take as long as the GPS says.  I suggested to them they take the scenic route through the Pine Barrens (locally known as “the pineys”), and avoid the GSP (Garden State Parkway). 

We had a break in the rain right after they pulled in, so they asked for the nickel tour and we were happy to oblige.  We are proud of our summer home; Bob, Bill, and Joe have all worked hard to get the last remnants of winter all cleaned up.   

I sure do wish the weathermen/women could get their acts together and accurately predict the weather.   I get it when, on Monday, they say it’s going to be gorgeous on Friday and they are wrong, however, then they say on Thursday it’s going to be nice on Friday and that’s wrong – well – it’s really REALLY annoying.  

We headed to Cape May anyway.  Took the tour in the truck vs walking, but it was all good.  We had a really yummy lunch at McGlades on the Pier.  We couldn’t walk on the beach, but we could get a look at it!  3 of the 4 of us opted for the grouper special.  Guy broke ranks and tried their Manhattan (red) Clam Chowder, followed by crab cakes.  There wasn’t a single bit of food left when the waitress came for our plates.  

I REALLY wanted to show them our fav boardwalk – I’m sure you all know very well by now – Ocean City.   I navigated from the back seat, sending us through Sea Isle City, Strathmere and over the bridge into Corson Inlet State Park.  Rain continued to spit on us as we walked the boards from 9th street 2 blocks north to Kohrs Bros.  This time it was Bills turn to be different, getting himself a peanut butter/chocolate twist, while the rest of us were more traditional with the orange/vanilla twist.  We ate while looking out over the Atlantic, keeping dry in the Music Pier.  

We headed back over the mid-island causeway, admiring the huge multi-level condo’s, with their “For Rent” signs out front.  Ocean City also has many, many B&B’s to stay in, as well as your run of the mill hotels/motels.  As I’ve said before, the unique thing, one of the things we love best, is it’s a dry town.  No alcohol sold or served.  Once you cross the bridge or causeway, you will find liquor stores ready to sell you whatever you need or want.   

Upon returning to Country Oaks, LaciLu got a quick walk and we said our “see ya later’s”.  It was sad to watch them drive off, especially since we don’t know for sure when we will see them again.  Possibly January but that’s a long way off.  

Well, that’s all for today, blog readers.  Lets chat again soon!

 Living Like Locals on Jersey Shore

Ok – so it’s been a while.  Sorry about that!  We’ve settled in here at Country Oaks, we’ve got ourselves a routine and it’s mostly good!

I’ve gotten well acquainted with Campground Master, that will be an awesome addition to my resume!  The office has been getting busier as we get closer to Memorial Day weekend – the summer season kick-off!  We are completely filled up and Lynn even opened up some seasonal sites that are currently not in use, and they are getting snatched up!  Other weekends are filling up, such as 4th of July and their infamous Water Wars weekend!  Lynn has been ordering stuff to stock up the store, new t-shirts, sweatshirts and fleece jackets, as well as snack items, pool toys and RV essentials.  

Bob, Joe and Bill built and painted new shelving for the store – looks nice!  As guests come into the store, they are all commenting how nice the update looks!  Plus there’s a lot more room for goodies!

The pool cover has been removed and chemicals added.  The state inspection guy said it’s good to go for the Memorial Day weekend grand opening!  

The highlight since my last post had been Gene & Eileen visiting with us for a few days!  For our welcome dinner, I did a fairly good job at making Linda’s Shrimp & Grits.  Came out pretty good, if I do say so myself!  

I don’t have the fancy pasta type bowls, but my crocks worked just fine

We had a great time showing them around the Jersey Shore.  They had 3 days here, so stops in Cape May, Ocean City and Colts Neck was what there was time for, oh – and a quick lunch stop in Pt Pleasant!  

That’s Cape May Lighthouse and a Martin house behind us

I’m sure you can see the two frogs – at the visitor center at the Lighthouse

Horseshoe crabs getting busy

Monarch butterfly larvae

Lunch at Delaneys

The original 1956 Jersey Mikes location in Pt Pleasant Beach NJ. They now have over 1,500 locations!

Teasing our friend, Lee, who is in love with all things pie!

Ocean City, NJ Wonderland Ferris wheel at sunset

Jersey Girls down the shore

It was sad saying seeing them move on, but I’m sure we will see them in FL in 2018!

Another highlight was a visit with my brother.  He lives in Keyport (about 1 1/2 hours from here), which is a town over from where we grew up.  Sadly, my sister-in-law, Caroline, was working – we will have to plan another date when they are both off!  Bill also spent a day with his brother, John, while I stayed home cleaning and cooking!  

Got to start with a clean grill!

Homemade Manhattan Clam Chowder – YUM! and – not nearly as many calories as the white kind!

Other than that, we’ve just been doing some chores (the A/C issue still isn’t done!), hanging out walking and biking the boards.  Life is good.  

On someone’s site in the campground

Beautiful Impatiens

Bill enjoying a mint/chocolate twist from Kohrs Bros

Amazing Iris

Gorgeous Rhododendron – in many colors all over – these on our site

Walking the boards one day in Ocean City

Sharing a campfire and hot dogs with neighbors one evening after work

Out for dinner at Anthonys (formally known as Bruno’s) – good food at great prices!


Today, as I am getting ready to post, it’s a rainy yucky day outside. It’s amazing to me to realize we’ve been here just shy of 6 weeks!  Tomorrow is the official summer kick-off of Memorial Day weekend!  Not sure how it is where you are but here on the Jersey Shore – it’s a mixed blessing – a love/hate relationship.  Business owners down the shore have basically 14 weeks to make their $$$.  Locals prefer the spring/summer but it’s hard to hang out on the beach before the temps warm up, or after they’ve cooled off.  Locals generally avoid the beaches on weekends, or if we do go – we go early and leave by lunchtime. Our work schedule has us off Tuesdays and Wednesdays, another good/bad thing – better for beach days, but the downside is most of our family and friends are off weekends.  First world problems I’m sure we will figure out!  

Day in PA…

I’ve been working on a post about a few things we’ve (ok – mostly Bill) been dealing with – specifically MICE and replacing our living room A/C.  Since I’m trying to have that be a complete post – start to finish not broken into multiple posts, I’ll post this in the meantime.  

We’ve been settling into our work schedule.  We work Sundays and Monday’s 8:30am – 5pm, Tuesday and Wednesday – off, Thursday 5-8, Friday and Saturday 5 – 10.  I like it ok – the only small thing I’m not a huge fan of is we have a “clopen” situation.  For those unfamiliar – that is when you close one day and then open the next – clopen- and yes it’s a thing.  

For us it means on Saturdays we finish up at 10pm and then have to report at 8:30am Sunday.   It is really not a big deal, since it is only one time per week.  We are handling it just fine.  

One other small “issue” with our schedule is we would have preferred a full weekend day off for visiting with family and friends, who mostly still work the weekdays and are off weekends, but we do have Saturday days, and we will make that work.  Lynn also said they will be flexible for special occasions, which is awesome!

What we like is that we really only have 2 days that are not possible beach days.  We are plenty close enough to the beach that even on days we start at 5 there is plenty of time to go spend a few hours, get home and shower, and be ready on time.  HUGE bonus!

So, about that day in PA…

We woke early and were on our way by 9am!  Yes – out the door and pulling out the driveway by 9am!  We had places to be!

We headed west toward the NJ/PA border – Lancaster County was our destination!  The Chouters (aka Steven & Linda) were spending time at our home lodge in Ephrata and we were spending the day with them!

Hugs all around were exchanged. Linda had parked Scoopy (their Travel Supreme home on wheels) differently than we parked when we stayed there.  I always forget they have a different deal than we do with parking.  She called the area the primordial forest, as there are lots of trees and they are all bursting with leaves right now.  It actually looked much nicer than it did for our two deep winter stays.  

So – first order of business was COFFEE!  Dunkin Donut coffee that is!  Steven & Linda are total Starbucks fans (even did stints as Starbucks barista’s!) and I wanted to have them try the east coast coffee king!  Bonus – Billy works at one!  The one he works at wasn’t necessarily the closest (ok – we actually probably passed 3 or 4 to get to his location) but part of the reason for going was to say hello and reconfirm our plan for dinner later that day.  

I had enjoyed my fill of coffee and opted for a Chai Tea instead, while Bill, Linda and Steven all decided to wait for a fresh brewed dark roast.  We all picked a donut and we chatted about where we would go next.  After a very tiring week in NYC, Steven & Linda wanted something more low-key, can’t say I blame them!

I entered Bird-In-Hand Farmers Market into the GPS and away we went!  I had been  there years ago and of the farmers markets open that day, it would be the nicest.  See – there are TONS of farmers markets in the area, but they are all open different days.  Our fav (where we totally would have headed if it were open) is Fairgrounds Market in Reading, which I blogged about in Back Home in Ephrata.  Another option was Lancaster Central Market but it was also closed.  

Bird-In-Hand (yes, that’s the name of the town) Farmers Market is smaller than the others I mentioned but has that small town feel to it.  We walked around, seeing all the choices.  We picked up some tea for Billy and a pair of slipper socks for Michelle.  

There was an assortment of t-shirts using the name of the local towns to their advantage for tourists

We originally talked about seeing the town of Lititz next, but on our way we found ourselves passing Kitchen Kettle Village and decided to stop there instead.  It’s a bit more “touristy” than Lititz, but very cute.  The views all around were really beautiful – blue skies mixed with white puffy clouds – the makings of some great pics of the surrounding farm land.  


Gorgeous day!

Great stores!

Bill making a couple new friends

LOVE the Wisteria!

We were all getting hungry so we headed back to the Elks.  It was time for HAPPY HOUR!  We texted Billy for him to come meet us.  We enjoyed some wine and when Billy arrived, he preferred the Jamison that Steven offered.  

The five of us piled into the CRV and about 15 minutes later Bill was parking at Shady Maple.  I’ve blogged about Shady Maple before – it’s so huge they call it a Smorgasbord not a buffet!  All freshly made delicious foods – soup to nuts as they say!  Since we were there on a Wednesday, it was prime rib night!  We were seated quickly and dinner officially began!  I think Steven & Linda were initially a bit overwhelmed, but soon we were all seated with full plates!  

Many cleaned plates later, we finally cried “Uncle” and decided a walk was needed!  We took a small tour and landed downstairs in the gift shop area.  

Next stop was their market, which is right next door.  Fresh produce, baked goods and butcher shop with good prices!  You may remember, when Bill and I were moving into our rig and getting ready to close on our house, I shopped at Shady Maple Market for my groceries, as it was close to our then CG home.  

The clock ticked and tocked and soon it was time to start ending our wonderful day.  The 5 of us hung out a little while, not wanting the evening to end.  

Thankfully it won’t be that long til we can spend time with them again.  We are hoping Billy can get a few days off together and come spend time going to the beach and boardwalk with us; we will see Steven & Linda in October when the 4 of us will be working at Amazon!  

Boardwalk Tours

I was originally going to have only one post highlighting our visit with Steven & Linda, but since I got so long-winded last time (imagine that! – ha!) I figured it best to divide and conquer our time together.  

After our whirlwind day in Central Jersey, up around exit 117 off the GSP, we traveled south the following day, to Cape May County.   Cape May was our first destination.  It’s such a cute little town with great shops and restaurants, and surrounding neighborhoods have some unique architecture.  

Real old-fashioned pin ball machine – Bill and I each took a turn!

Old-fashioned soda counter.

Lots of neat things and good bargains at the 5 & Dime!

No shortage of gift shops

I purchased a few garden flags – couldn’t resist – they were $3.99 each!  We each got a gadget to use to reclose wine bottles – I know it’s rare that wine will be left over – but it’s good to be prepared just in case!  

Bill looked up an address so we could go see the Cape May gingerbread houses.  There is a street lined with Victorian Gingerbread homes – and one has been turned into a B&B.  

Pics were snapped and we moved on starting our trek toward Wildwood Boardwalk.  As we drove across the causeway the outer island of The Wildwoods came larger into view.   Bill and I have been to Wildwood many times, our most recent visit back in the summer of 2015, when we brought Jo, Craig and their cousin from Spain, Alberto.  You can check out that visit here:  Down the REAL Jersey Shore 2015   What an awesome time we had!  This visit would be much different in that it is still very early, as opposed to the height of the season.  Our last visit was also at night, which is a much different experience than walking the boards in the middle of the day.  

We were getting hungry, so first order of business was lunch!  I think it was Linda that spotted Doo Wop Diner and a quick TripAdvisor check revealed good reviews.  Sounds good!  Let’s eat!

As expected, Doo Wop Diner had a 50’s theme, complete with black and white tile floor and red accents.  50’s music playing, just loud enough to enjoy.  Steven ordered the strawberry shake he had been wanting for several days; 3 of us ordered hamburgers; Bill broke the 4 way tie by getting porkroll, egg and cheese sandwich.  It was all yummy!

We walked some more, taking in the sights. Sadly, there were lots of clouds – but the rain held out.  

S & L were a bit skeptical but we talked them into trying SkeeBall, one of the arcade games we’ve always liked to do.  Bill and I put in our $1 for 3 games and they, thinking it was $1 per each game, put in $3 each – that’s a lot of SkeeBall!  We had fun rolling the little balls – trying to top each other’s score!  Best part of that game is giving the little tickets to the nearest child and having them get all excited – adding to their loot!  Those tickets can be turned in for prizes at the counter!  

Delish lunch spot!

Steven racking up those prize tickets!

Before heading back (Bill and I had to work at 5) we just happened to walk by the Brittany Motel.  This is where Bill and I spent 2 nights way back when right after we were married.  We had a few days in between the wedding and leaving for our dream Hawaiian trip!  Our wedding party chipped in for us to have 2 nights in Wildwood!  

The Newlyweds – almost 32 years later!

The following day, we conquered another boardwalk – this time our fav Ocean City.  The weatherman completely got the weather wrong – we had clouds instead of mostly sunny but we didn’t let that hold us back!  

Starting out at Shrivers Salt Water Taffy, we each picked a few pieces to sample.  Unfortunately, they weren’t making any candies that day, so we didn’t get to see any of their equipment in action behind the glass wall.  I remember my kids, especially my son, back in the day, eyes glued to that glass, watching the taffy pulling machine with their eyes HUGE!  

Next stop was pizza at Manco & Manco.  I still can’t get used to saying that!  I typed out Mac & Manco and had to backspace to correct!  Our half cheese/half sausage arrived piping hot and delicious as usual!  We each scarfed down our 2 slices, loving every bite!  BEST boardwalk pizza EVER!  Simple, fresh ingredients – thin (but not too thin) crust, homemade sauce and fresh whole milk mozzarella – that’s all that’s needed!  

Next up on our food coma inducing tour was Curleys French Fries.  They were just right – little crunch on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside.  

Walking further down, I decided I wanted an orange twist cone from Kohrs Bros – just a kiddie size – the small just seemed too big at this point!  

We almost crashed the art show happening at the music pier, but the on-alert ticket collector shooed us away when we didn’t want to hand over $3 a piece.  It wasn’t a total loss looking around the music pier, however, as Bill continued the food coma tour with a hot pretzel, being served with a bunch of different types of mustard.  

Eventually, it was time to move on and we unanimously voted to go north to Margate, to a Roadside America attraction, Lucy the Elephant.  I actually only learned she was listed with Roadside America because I looked it up for this post;  I first saw Lucy way back as either a teen or young adult.  We opted not to take the tour, instead just taking our pics from outside.  Lucy was first built in 1881, and has served as many things including a hotel and real estate office.  She is HUGE at 6 stories tall and weighing 90 tons.   

Wanting one last peak at Ocean City, we drove back through the residential section on the north side of the island, back past the boardwalk and then further south, all the way to 58th St, which is where Bill and I normally park when going to the beach.  We walk down about half a mile or so to Corson Inlet State Park and plant our chairs in the sand.  We took the southern bridge into Strathmere, which led us into Sea Isle City.   Right hand turn onto John F Kennedy Blvd pointed us back toward Country Oaks.  

What an awesome couple of days!  

Our last couple of days, we had Happy Hours and dinners together after Bill and I were done with work.  The first of those two evenings, we gathered at our place and shared left-overs from the week.  Love dinners like that!  Our last evening (boo!) Steven & Linda treated us to a fabulous dinner of Shrimp & Grits.  Neither Bill nor I had ever had this before, but expectations were high!  Let me tell you – it was delicious!  Like I have to learn to make it delicious!  Creamy, cheesy grits and crisp, perfectly cooked shrimp, sautéed with bacon, mushrooms and scallions.   OMG – perfection in a bowl!  And, as if that wasn’t enough, they followed it up with this wonderful lemony cream cheese whip cream sorta pudding like creation served with crispy gingerbread cookies.  What a meal!  Thanks so much guys for ending our week together in such a memorable way!  Get ready to drool – here’s some pics:

It was sad to watch them pull away the following morning, but our time together was awesome!  We did make plans to see each other again next week in Lancaster, after they finish up in NYC.  After that we will be seeing them when we both work Amazon for the fall.  

Showing Off My Home State…

Our first days of work complete, we were very excited to be welcoming some company!  My Mom, who drove down for the day (she’s staying with a friend while visiting from FL) and our dear friends, Steven & Linda!  You may recall, we spent 3 weeks with Steven & Linda traveling up to AK, and then more time when they visited Seward.  That was a glorious trip and we hadn’t seen them since they left the Kenai Penninsula in July 2016 – seems like a lifetime ago!

My Mom arrived about 11am.  Bill and I had already started preparing our yummy lunch of AK salmon and a sauté of root veggies Bill had been wanting to try.   Yummy! 

We enjoyed catching up with Mom while we ate outside and soaked in the spring sun!  I caught her up on some wedding plans and she brought us a bunch of mail that she carried up from FL.  Sadly, none of us got a pic!  Except the food one above!  

Steven & Linda pulled in around 2 pm, after a short travel day from Lewes, DE.  They had started their year back in TX, leaving there at the end of February, and have been making their way across and up the east coast.  They’ve included some awesome stops along the way, as well as some varied travel methods, utilizing the ferry system in OBX NC, Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnels in VA, and most recently the Lewes DE to Cape May NJ ferry.  You can check out their blog – and Stevens awesome photos here:  The Chouters.  

After a quick set-up, I was happy to have them meet Mom.  I know my Mom also likes meeting our friends.  As a Mom of adult children now – I always like meeting my kids friends.   

Mom took off about 3:30pm after a quick taste of a ginger/lime/tonic water drink Bill made and then Happy Hour officially began!  I know – it was early, but we don’t get crazy with a lot of drinking.  It’s more a state of mind.  

Bill and I had planned baby back ribs, Mac & Cheese and salad for dinner, but somehow the salad got forgotten about!  We weren’t lacking for food – no excuse to come away from dinner hungry!  Check this out:

I used my Goddaughter, Jessilynn’s, spice rub (rubbed them the night before), then cooked them in the Instant Pot before finishing them on the grill with Sweet Baby Rays – falling off the bone delish!

We chatted into the evening and firmed up our plans for the next day.  

10am we were loaded into the CRV and headed north!  The weather could have been a bit more cooperative, there were lots of heavy clouds, but we were determined to make the best of it!  

We got off the Garden State Parkway at exit 105 and turned east toward Long Branch on Rt 36.  We turned north again, onto Rt 35, when the ocean was in front of us.  We passed through shore towns along the way with the Atlantic on our right.  Bill and I love that drive, and each scene that we passed invoked happy memories, notably Long Branch pier, where I was scared witless at the Haunted Mansion, and McCloons Rum Runner restaurant, where we celebrated many occasions.   We took turnes telling stories of our growing up NJ style – hopefully not boring Steven & Linda too badly with our reminiscing.  

The first stop of the day was Twin Lights Lighthouse, with its unique double lighthouse.  The museum was open, as was one of the towers, which we easily climbed.  Twin Lights were built atop the bluff, and there are sweeping views of the Atlantic, the mouth of the Raritan Bay, and beyond.  While we could see some of it through the cloudiness, on a clear day, Manhattan, including the new Freedom Tower, and even Coney Island are visible.  We could see the Tappan Zee Bridge, but it was somewhat hidden in the clouds.  

When we were in Homer AK, the Homer Spit kind of reminded me of Sandy Hook, without the mountains of course!

Next stop was my fav lighthouse, Sandy Hook.  We opted not to climb it – even before we realized it wasn’t open to climb anyway.   We drove around Fort Hancock, imaging what it might have been like to live out on the “hook” back in the day.  The views of Highlands and Twin Lightes are amazing from out on the end.  

After a quick drive by of Bill and I’s first house and historic Keansburg boardwalk, Linda wanted to stop in Union Beach to see her Aunts former home.  Linda spent time each summer there for years and wanted to see if the house survived Super Storm Sandy and if so get a pic.  Well – the house looked just as she remembered; pics were taken and forwarded to her Mom.  

This was our first house! It was blue when we lived there but I do like the red!

Linda got back in the car after getting the house pics and we were all starving – so next stop was another fav – Keyport Fishery.   We parked the car and crossed Front Street to the take-out only restaurant.  The Keyport Fishery has been in business since 1936, before that it was known as Wilsons; many older locals still call it that. They still take and keep track of orders the old fashioned way – writing orders on the paper bags they will go into when ready.  They still take your initials to call out so you can grab your yummy soups, sandwiches and platters before heading back to your car.  Unless you are heading home, most locals will move their car closer to the bulkhead to sit by the water and eat their meal, always saving some of the generous portion of French fries for the spoiled sea gulls.   

Linda opted for a platter with shrimp and flounder

Interestingly, Linda actually got married in NJ (not to Steven – but to her first husband) – AND – in the same exact church as Bill and I! Of all the places in the world to get married! AND – also by the same minister, Rev Riley.  After the sea gulls got the last of the fries, we back-tracked a little to go see St Johns United Methodist Church.   We parked and got out to get a pic.  I still can hardly believe the coincidence!  

It was now time to start heading back south.   The day before, when discussing potential routes, Bill had come up with the idea of stopping at another local landmark – Delicious Orchards.  Apple Cider Donuts anyone?  Another quick drive by – of the old Bell Labs water tower this time – and we took back roads through Holmdel all the way to Scobeyville.  Most of you are probably asking “Scobeyville? – where is that?”  Even NJ natives might be thinking I’m making that up – but no!  It’s an actual small town, right next to Colts Neck.  Another drive-by, this time at the place where Bill began his career in beverage manufacturing, Laird and Company.  I worked there first, in the office, and told Bill about the job opening in the quality control lab.  That was way back in 1984!  WOW!  Going on 33 years ago!  

Laird and Company is “Americas oldest native distillery” per their own website.  It is still owned and operated by the Laird family, as it has been since 1780.  Their largest product is Lairds Applejack, which is a whiskey distilled from apples.  They also produce Apple Brandy.  The company survived prohibition by making apple cider, applesauce and other products; in 1933 Laird and Company received a special Federal grant to produce applejack for medicinal purposes.  During Bills 9 year tenure working for Lairds, along with their products, they also did contract bottling for Hiram Walker, bottling Kahlua, also Cruzan Rum, Smugglers Scotch, etc.  

Next up was another NJ fav – Delicious Orchards!  This used to be, again, back in the day, a small Mom & Pop kind of place, with apple picking, pumpkins, fresh picked local veggies and their homemade delish pies and BEST EVER Apple Cider Donuts.  The donuts come in sleeves of 6 and you always needed to buy at least 2 because there was a better than average chance one sleeve (yes – 6 donuts) wouldn’t make it home.  Delicious Orchards is now a HUGE place, still selling fresh local fruits and veggies, still have their fresh homemade pies and Apple Cider Donuts, among the other desserts, but now they also have a fresh butcher area, fresh seafood, fresh deli, homemade preserves and dairy products.  (I think that’s it!). We headed inside to be awed by the selection!  

Looking toward the butcher and seafood sections

Check out the tiny personal size pie!

Dairy area

Pies and other desserts

The world famous Delicious Orchards Apple Cider Donuts! They come plain, powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar

We all started out with the idea that we would get some donuts, however, what we left with was much more, little pies, cannoli, brownies, jams, salad fixings, and more.  It’s a yummy but dangerous place!

I’m not exactly sure what Steven got, but it was cream filled and yummy!

Linda savoring her cinnamon sugar donut


It was now time to continue south toward home, before serious food coma set in!  

Stay tuned – next up – boardwalk tours!