Trip to Wonderful

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Musee de Beaux Artes

Well, actually it was the local art museum here on the Gisland--Nassau County Musem of Art. Staff were nice, but the inside is not especially kid-friendly, let alone for ASD kids w/impulse issues and a desire to touch everything. The outside, though, was great: there's a big sculpture garden for which one does not have to pay, benches (in noticeably short supply in the museum, incidentally--a guard politely warned my daughter off the baseboard she was using as a seat), and formal gardens with fountains--plenty of narrow paths to walk along, not too many precious botanica to destroy. Lots of bronze and stone sculptures that would be fairly hard to destroy, and plenty of space to get one's yayas out. Almost all the visitors were retirees, with the exception of one young Orthodox couple (on a date?).

Another minus: the part of the sculpture garden we visited is a very large open field favored by Canada geese, so it was filled with goose spore. And the restaurant had the child-unwelcoming-sounding name of "Cafe Musee," so we didn't check it out.

We briefly checked out the Tee Ridder Miniatures Museum. Not wonderful except for very tractable kids, though I'd have liked it were I alone: the room is smallish, with a wooden floor, so my son's rather averagely loud voice sounded like it was bouncing off the ceiling. Not to mention the Fear Factor of all those doll houses with doll parts, doll eyes, doll mouth, doll legs, on sale for $4,000 and within arm's reach of my son.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Moving day is here!

Finally, Trip To Wonderful's permanent home is set up. Change your bookmarks to

Friday, May 13, 2005

Travois deux and the Datastorm arrives...

In five separate boxes...the latter, that is...

It took us two months to decide upon our first trailer, the Jayco 25G. We looked at a good dozen different hybrid models before settling, happily, upon the Jay Feather. When we learned of the aforementioned full-timing clause (ironically, on page 18 of the owner's manual), our world was definitely thrown off kilter. D-Day is slightly more than three weeks away, and we have no home.

So for two days we traversed the state high and low, on the hunt for that perfect trailer, and with gross vehicle weight ratings nearing 10K lbs and lengths over 30 ft, these were of a very different breed.

Last night, we ordered a Sunnybrook 3009. With a queen, a full, a twin bunk and queen pull-out sofa, it sleeps the Keebler elves or a medium-large sized family.

I thought that by finally settling on a trailer and tow, I'd banish the anxiety gremlin which wakes me very morning at four. So this morning, while I'd like to blame the pre-dawn street scrubbers (which for some reason PARKED and then proceeded to BACK UP, which that horrific beeping, for a full 10 minutes outside my window), it was the excitement of the pending trip which pulled me from dreamland.

Today, as I drove off to pick up Jonah, my favorite man in Brown arrived with a heap of packages, all addressed to me. It was the DustyFoot datastorm tripod satellite unit, which will allow is to access satellite internet just about anywhere in North America. We broke out the wrenches, and spent the next few hours assemblign and re-assembling. Then we ran out of daylight. Fortunately, tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bad news and good karma...

A few days ago we learned from the very kind people at RVDirect (our Jayco dealer) that Jayco's warranty policy precluded owners from residing full-time in their vehicle. We've spent the past few days attempting to get a more complete answer, and are still waiting (kinda, sorta.) The latest information is that Jayco deals with such situations on a "case-by-case" basis, which, unfortunately isn't really good enough when you're planning your next 12 months around a bumper-to-bumper warranty.

We are exploring other options, e.g., heavier trailers which explicitly allow full-timing, and to that end had to re-evaluate our tow vehicle options.

We'd mostly settled on a 1/2 ton Suburban or it's GMC equivilant, the Yukon XL. The tow capacity 72-8400 lbs fit well within the range of a lightweight hybrid (the Jayco's GVWR is 5800 lbs.) Heavier year-round tow trailers tend towards the 9000 lbs+ range. So we knew we might have to look for a larger SUV.

When we were exploring the Airstream option, I sent out feelers for a 3/4 ton Suburban (2500 series), to no avail. The closest one I could locate was in New Jersey.

Yesterday, I was randomly calling dealers, still thinking that 1/2 tons were options, when a dealer informed me that the vehicle about which I was inquiring was in fact a Suburban 2500, 4WD to boot. Mileage was pretty good for a 2001, and indicated it had only one private owner. We looked over the car, liked what we saw, and today, bought it.

So where's the good karma?

When Grace was 18 months old, she developed an intussuception, a potentially fatal bowel blockage. Her care at Maine Med was overseen by a team of diligent and competent surgeons, led by a wonderful pair of experts, one known mostly by his nickname, Dr. D.

We learned today that the one owner of our new Suburban was the same Dr. D. who saved our Grace's life (it took three interventions to right the obstruction.) You can't buy better karma than that.

We have our cheval. Time to nail down the travois once and for all.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I've purchased the we need the horse...

Eric joked recently that we should order matching "vanity" plates for the trailer and tow vehicle. After much brainstorming, my suggestion, a nod to his more equine Plains roots (Abenakis used dogs, not horses, as pack animals), was "cheval" and "travois".

Well, yesterday, I bought the travois. A brand-spanking new Jayco 25G awaits us in Buffalo, New York, with an early June due date.

The horse is still a mystery, though we are narrowing the choices.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The countdown officially begins.

Well, 5PM last evening came and went without incident, so now the house is truly sold.

D-Day, 6th of June.

Today, I had a date with a half-dozen late-model Suburbans (with a lone Yukon XL thrown in the lot), still trying to match up our Jayco 25G with its perfect mate. A few decent prospects, nothing which made me open the checkbook immediately, however.

Lunch with my former campaign manager, Tracy and her lovely spouse Josh was sandwiched between stops at the DMV to pick up Jonah's handicapped parking permit. Why two stops? Seems that our pediatrician overlooked checking a box. Thus, the wonderful bureaucrats at Motor Vehicles determined that when someone is applying for a disabled permit, it makes complete sense to make their life even harder, sending them across town for a simple checked box, rather than assume from the lengthy desciption on the second page that a diagnosis of autism indicates a neurological, not ambulatory, disability. Sigh.

Next on the agenda is a follow-up to RV Direct to find out the status of our prospective trailer.

As this post up until now indicates, activities around here for the next few days, perhaps weeks, will be mostly organizational...and dull. Thus, I urge you to head on over to my latest discovered gem of a blog, Travelogue, chronicling the adventures of a family of six, two parents, four young kids, meandering around North America in their travel trailer (having sold their home and stored their possessions.) Gee, I hate when we end up being copy-cats without even knowing it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The pins and needles of home selling

Although we've accepted an offer on the house (two now, actually, and a third waiting in the wings,) we've been subjected to over a week of inspections, appraisals and, sadly, arm-twisting. Seems as though the buyer's broker failed to inform them that freestanding appliances needed to be negotiated in the sale, and thus, neither the 48" Viking range and hood or the high-end KitchenAid fridge were included in the contract. The sellers attempted to rectify this by offering a lower (yes, lower) price, including the appliances, with the hope that although we'd reject the reduced price, we'd "compromise" and happily include $12K worth of appliances in the original price. Since we've rejected that scenario outright, they have until 5pm this afternoon to decide whether to annull the contract. If they do, we go to the next offer, equal to the first, with much less manipulative buyers/brokers. If they don't cancel, they're tied into the contract without appliances, though we might consider selling such, for their market value, of course. (Note: When the buyers first realized their faux pas, we offered the appliances at a very reasonable price.)

The worst of all this is the uncertainty: It's hard to plan an itinerary if you don't know if you'll be on the road June 7th, 27th or sometime in July. It also leads to writers block, as all mental energy is consumed by the ongoing ordeal of negotiating with a party determined to get the very best deal, even at the expense of goodwill.

I'd like to update the sidebar, but I'm still hoping Eric will get around to purchasing the permanent URL. I guess I can just copy the links into their new location. I do now have quite a library of new travel books, including some great Insider Guides for families.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More camping resources

At some point, I will address private campgrounds and RV "resorts", but since we don't plan on spending much time ourselves in such accomodations, much of my current focus is on public recreational lands.

I mentioned the Reserve America site a while back, namely as the means of reserving sites at National Park campgrounds. However, I found a wonderful resource on the site, it's "Browse Maps" feature, which provides information on thousands of state and federal campgrounds, including those, like Army Corps of Engineer lands, which are often more "developed", e.g., provide water and electric hookups, but are often overlooked by camping guides and websites. The only limitation is that only sites which are in fact reservable are listed on the website; "first-come, first served" campgrounds are not.

A second resource I happened upon which begins to fill that gap is unofficial US National Forest Campground Guide. The authors have now reviewed over 100 Forest Service campgrounds, with the expectation to eventually hit all USDA sites.

I just mentioned to Eric this morning that I need to come up with a more "accessible" means of organizing campgrounds which may or may not fit our own perimeters, so that when it's late in the evening and we're looking for a good spot to set up camp, that information is as close as my laptop. I'll let you all know what I come up with.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Step 1 complete

Sold the house yesterday. Well, I should say, we accepted an offer (actually, a counter-counter-counter-counter offer (we won the bidding war)) and signed the papers last night. We close May 31st, vacate the premises June 7th.

Now the real fun begins. While the stress will probably decrease on some levels and increase on others, I should have more time to document the process, as I won't be constantly cleaning and leaving the house for showings. Thus, TtW will return to it's previous relatively prolific status.

En vacances

Right now the Honda odyssey is sounding pretty good--we're off for an entire week, courtesy of the district not using up its alloted snow days. We need structure chez nous. I'm thinking we should probably plan a couple of day trips for this week, or things will get ugly: my daughter is already starting to get ornery. Right now it's taking the form of wanting stuff, like why aren't we on vacation to Disney, and why can't I have a hamster (I don't want hamsters: they eat their young). I have a couple of ideas for trips: I'll write about the results if anything instructive happens.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Getting off "The Grid"

As I posted over on Wampum yesterday, I've spent the last week immersed in the workings of alternative energy sources for camping in areas without convenience hookups, electricity in particular.

So why would families with neurologically exceptional children choose to forgo such ammenities on their vacations? For one, as I mentioned in an earlier post, National Parks and other US government lands offer deep discounts in entrance and camping fees for disabled individuals and their families. That means that most campsites are $10 or less per night. Compare that with $40-$50 per night for many private campgrounds.

In addition to lower cost, public land campgrounds offer larger, more private campsites. This provides not only room to expend the extra energy a lot of our kids have, but is welcome in the middle of the night when children like our Jonah decide it's time to get up and play - loudly. Not having to deal with angry neighbors in the morning greatly increases the chance of an enjoyable camping experience.

While our needs will be a bit more extensive than the average camping family, there are requirements for all families who choose to "rough" it in more primitive campgrounds, whether in a tent or a 40' motorhome. For us, it means that our electric needs, mostly limited computer, lights and TV/DVD use in the evenings and coffee maker and toaster in the morning, must be handled by energy stored in the house batteries (DC) or produced for immediate use via a gas-powered generator.

Many national and state parks prohibit the use of generators for long periods, even the new "super-quiet" models, due to noise concerns. So while recharging the batteries every few days is a possibility, depending upon full-time generator power isn't feasible, or even environmentally friendly, as generators burn gasoline and produce emissions.

While not an inexpensive initial outlay, we've decided to replenish most of our energy usage with a solar-electric set-up consisting of 2 125W solar panels mounted on the trailer's roof and a medium-sized bank of deep-cell batteries for energy storage. We'll convert from DC 12volt to AC 110volt, as we can then use most of our own appliances, rather than purchase new 12volt substitutes. On days with little sunshine, we'll supplement recharging with a small generator (2KW), rather than having to invest in a large (4.5KW+), expensive model.

Of course, all of this is hypothetical, as we still haven't purchased our trailer yet. In addition, the question is whether I can install the system myself, or have to turn everything over to an RV electrician. Stay tuned.