The Grand[parent] Tour 2021 : First Stop Tomahawk, Wi.

My husband’s dad has a house on a lake in Tomahawk. We spent a week there tubing, waterskiing (teaching kid to waterski), fishing, swimming, building fires and eating s’mores, etc. I’m sure I put on a bunch of weight.

Our nephew is an MIT grad so he did some fun experiments with the kid. Heet + borax to make green fire.

The weather was beautiful and we had a great time.

We bought kid’s training waterskis, which attach at front and back. The kid got up on plane, but didn’t manage to stand up.

Maybe next year.

The elderly dog also wanted to go swimming or swim walking.

The kid did have the most spectacular luck in catching fish. All week. It was glorious (even if he was upset that he couldn’t eat the small mouth bass he caught).

Bottom line, he had a great time with Uncles, Aunts, Cousins and Grandparents – and that is what is most important after all….


Wisconsin Dells – still fun after all these years….

Since we’d been so quick in traveling across the country to avoid the heat – we actually arrived an entire day ahead of schedule in Wisconsin. So we headed to the Wisconsin Dells as a surprise for my son (who alleges he does not like surprises).

We went on the Army Ducks. It was a solid ride. Not exactly what I remember as a kid. We’ll have to try the Original Ducks next time.

Picture from ad.

We then went to the mega water park – Mt. Olympus.

Picture swiped from ad.

The place is fun…but also designed to separate you from your $. There were charges for everything. You couldn’t bring food into the park, etc. We had a nice time getting soaked on a scorching day…but we were soaked in more ways than one. $25.00 for parking? Six Flags charges that. It was a bit gross. But the kid had fun.

We ate dinner at Mexicali-Rose. It overlooks the dam and the outdoor seating is great. We had good service and food.

Something that bothered me though is how many immigrants there were working all over the Dells. And I looked into it. Not because I’m anti-immigrant , but because I was concerned about trafficking, abuses, and living conditions. None of the workers looked happy to be here. None of them. Apparently, they were hired on J-1 visas for seasonal work in the Wisconsin Dells.

I am concerned about potential abuse of those workers. Just a few internet searches revealed numerous scathing articles about what the Dells has historically done to J1s and students from abroad working there. And I’m worried about the loss of rooms and jobs (as well as these “security” checkpoints in the dormitories).

It bothers me. I’m not sure what I can do about it since Wisconsin has such a crappy government, but it may be worth a few calls to the Department of Labor.


MT Boondocks we liked…or we aren’t stopping because it’s too hot.

So we were planning on a leisurely trip across country to Wo. until we realized just how hot it was (104 F) . And then we decided we’d just keep driving until the temperature dropped.

That took a bit.

So while we planned on an 8 hour drive – we drove all day and half of the evening.

Grateful for the overnight parking outside Livingston. It was clean and needed, if rustic.


Towing a FIAT Behind Class C RV was EASY.

During Season 1 (Summer 2020) we were frustrated with having to hook up and unhook the RV (water, electric, sewer hose) to do sightseeing.

For example, in Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands (see earlier Season 1 posts) we ran into roads we couldn’t take RV on or parking a 24’ RV was an issue. It was annoying.

Mt. Rushmore RV Parking was under construction.

So, for Season 2 (Spring 2021) we decided to try to get a car we could tow and a tow package to attach to RV. This was all facilitated by the fact that I hated our second car (Hyundai Sonata 2013) and have been wanting to get rid of it for years. The problem was it (Sonata) was paid off and had low miles. We bought it because we lost our vehicles to Hurricane Sandy and we needed affordable replacements. Buying a car after a hurricane has trashed your house is super depressing.

Post Hurricane Sandy: This was the street in front of our house in Brick, NJ. Pictured are our neighbors cars. Ours are underwater more to the right. You get the idea….

News picture/view of Barnegat bay and bridge across from our house.

Hurricane Sandy. This is directly across the Bay from our house. Pictured is ocean coming in over bridge. Also, those houses didn’t used to be in the bay….

Bottom line, we took what we could get car-wise with little time for research. We were 19 days without power. It was a drama. Everything sucked.

My husband didn’t mind the Sonata – it was a constant annoyance to me though. Maybe PTSD from hurricane and associations- who knows.

Enter CarMax. https://www.carmax.com/

Shopped online at Car Max. Submitted our car license plate (Sonata) for a price estimate. Read car life/accident history of car we wanted to buy (FIAT). Then, you basically take in your car to Car Max, they inspect, drive, and value it. They give you a price (it’s their bottom line – no haggling). They were good about Covid-19 procedures too. We then traded Sonata 2013 for a FIAT 2015 and they did all the licensing paperwork. Test drive of FIAT was great.

And the whole process was so easy. If you don’t like the car you can bring it back with 30 days – 1000 miles no questions asked for your money back. The price they gave us was in the middle of Carvanna and other similar companies. Maybe I could have squeezed out another $300 elsewhere, but maybe not. The fact is, this is a reliable business that knows what they are doing. Highly recommend. Although they were a bit silly with final sale thing. A bow on a used car?

Or maybe I just need more whimsy in my life. And a better sense of humor. Quite possible. It’s all snark all the time around here. I’ll work on that humor thing… or not. Anyways….

So how we decided on FIAT? Seats 4, room for groceries in hatchback, and 11.5 feet long and 3,300 lbs GVW. (The Sonata was 15.8 feet long and 3.544 lbs curb weight? by way of comparison).

We looked at many small cars. Many. Read tons of RV tow reviews. Tons. Watched YouTube re install of tow/breaking systems and decided there was NO way in hell we could manage it on our own.

As for size requirements – I was just really nervous about towing a car behind an RV that was already 25 feet long. This is our first RV. I see people towing jeeps behind 40’ Class A’s. I’m just not there yet. Maybe ever? My husband was completely unconcerned about the whole thing -the rat.

Basically, we (I) needed a small car that I felt comfortable towing and driving AND that we could put a car seat in for the small spawn. The car had to have a decent safety record. I also needed a manual (stick) transmission.

I love driving a manual car. Our first car together as a married couple was a used Ford Cobra Mustang. Loved it, but very stiff clutch. Also, wasn’t comfortable with towing a car that long.

Loved that Cobra Mustang…sigh. Length 15.1 feet and weight 3,565 lbs. Lost that motorcycle in Hurricane Sandy too…sigh.

When we talked with dealers and read RV reviews they explained that many cars cannot be towed flat (four on the floor) without having the mileage increase or wrecking the transmission. I would have LOVED an electric FIAT, but the new car dealer said it could not be towed flat. I really appreciated their honesty.

Anyways, in 2.5 hours at CarMax we traded in 2013 Hyundai Sonata for 2015 FIAT Pop and got an extra $800 back to help offset the price of the tow package.

The tow package was NOT cheap: $4,020. We went to S&R Motorz. Highly recommend.


These guys ordered the parts and did install for $1000 less than other companies we called. And we really liked Ritchy (one of the owners). He apparently used to work at UHaul before he opened his own garage and he had the install done FAST. We got FIAT, had parts, and had tow package installed in 10 days. Efficiency!

We went with Roadmaster system. It had good reviews and was recommended by two different garages. https://roadmasterinc.com/m/.

Easy to follow re system and FIAT install. YouTube https://youtu.be/F1fvVKDTvEQ . Of course it wasn’t so easy that we wanted to do it ourselves….

So how did RV towing the FIAT turn out?

It turned out GREAT! Did I remember to get a picture of us towing?

I did NOT!

Update: picture months later of towing FIAT.

We towed FIAT behind RV for 12 hours roundtrip. We did 65 mph on expressway while towing FIAT with no problem. We towed on narrow roads and around sharp curves. The Thor Delano FB is a v6 Diesel on a Sprinter chassis. It’s tow rating is 5,000 lbs and it was not slow or sluggish when towing the FiAT.

2020 Thor Delano FB Tech Specs

We tooled around the redwoods, dirt roads, Crescent City, CA with no issues. Quick trips to grocery stores in that FIAT – with no problems.

Had a great trip!

Towing a car was a game changer and a big improvement for our RV trips. Highly recommend.


Ramblin’ Redwoods RV Park, Horseback Riding, and Stinky Sea Lions.

So we headed down to Crescent City, CA for our kid’s spring break. We had a good week and really liked this RV Park. Ramblin’ Redwoods was close to everything we wanted to see and do on vacation.


Dratted Thor Delano

It was a quiet RV park, had many redwoods, and some AMAZINGLY large tree stumps on property. It was also well laid out with a decent amount of privacy.

Guy for size perspective.

They even had a nice playground for the kid. It was just really nice to walk the grounds with the elderly dog, Everyone was very friendly (but not too friendly).

We did a ton of campfire packet cooking like this Andouille sausage , shrimp, potatoes and corn.

We did two different horseback riding trips during our time in California with same company Crescent Trail Rides. https://crescenttrailrides.com. They were solid and easy to book/reserve time.

The first ride was a 1.5 hour beach ride at Tolowa Dunes State Park.

The second ride was a 1.5 hour ride in a Redwood forest to Mill Creek. We thankfully spaced rides days apart because I don’t go horseback riding often (i.e., sore butt).

Seven-year old liked his pony.

I made the mistake of saying my family are experienced riders on the reserve time form, which is true – we are. But in hindsight, I wanted an old fat nag. I didn’t want to “ride.” I wanted to sit there on a horse and check out the view. The horses were well cared for – just lively. Next time I go riding I’m going to pretend I’m new at it so I get a boring horse.

My bad.

Another interesting tidbit. FYI – Sea Lions stink. I did not expect this.

We had a great time seeing them at the wharf (and eating some great salmon and cod). In addition to great food, Chart Room Restaurant had nice outdoor seating and a great view of the stinky seals and seal lions. https://ccchartroom.com/

130 Anchor Way, Crescent City, CA. Closed on Monday & Tuesday.

Good food and location, but darn those Sea Lions stink.

Repairs to Thor Delano needed when we return…as per usual. And of course Camping World can’t get us in for service until May 3 (it’s the end of March).

This trip the Delano had leaky seals, facing that came off/up in bathroom, a broken drawer, and other miscellaneous issues. Figures.

We are going to try to upgrade the water pump (noisy as hell) and change the shower head, which has no pressure and us irritating.


Darn it Thor Delano…and new things we are trying for Season 2….

The water busted on our 8-MONTH- old Thor Delano…again. Went to fill it and it auto-emptied. This water system had broke last season and it took Camping World an extra day to fix it. Apparently the fix didn’t last. Don’t know who I’m more irritated with about this. But I am irritated.

Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully we are parking the RV for the week while we visit Crescent City, CA – so we just had to get down to RV Park (about 5.5 hour journey).

New items for this season.

Portable Dishwasher. I hated doing dishes. Hated it. We don’t have much counter space. Dirty dishes, rinse bucket, dry rack – ugh. So we store dishwasher (so it isn’t loose and flying around house while we drive) in pantry. We are going to install shelf in pantry when we return from this trip rather than just piling stuff on dishwasher.

Very Spacious Pantry

When we arrived we set up dishwasher and new coffee machine. So far, the new system is working. Stay tuned.

New Dishwasher and Coffee Machine.

You may recall our short lived clothes washing machine. Hopefully this thing doesn’t turn out like that thing.


We are back! Some lessons learned….and about that winterizing thing.

So so many lessons learned in RV Season 1.

Last year we packed way too much. Too many clothes. And way too many cooking utensils. You know who doesn’t need measuring cups and spoons in an RV? Me. We cook and eat simply. Lots of plain foods. Plain vegetables. Plain rice. Why I thought I needed to bring a full kitchen setup I do not know.

We brought all the wrong foods. We need fresh fruits and frozen or canned vegetables.

Trying to pack and go quickly did NOT work well with full on coffee machine. I know it’s better for the environment, but we ditched the full coffee machine and got a Keurig Slim. K Cups for when you need to get going.

K Cups.

This time around we are going to try and pre-make and freeze the husband and my breakfast. We now have a mug breakfast down to a very tasty 260 calorie “nukable” science.

Whisk together with fork in tall coffee mug: 1/2 C Egg whites (box version), 1 T maple syrup, 1 T milk, 2T unsweetened apple sauce, 1/4 tsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar.

Then Add & mix in dry: 1/4 C plain quick oatmeal, 1/4 C oat flour (throw oatmeal in blender to make flour).

Add 1/4-1/3 C fruit of your choice ( we use blueberries). Microwave until it rises (about 1.5 minutes).

Protein, whole grain, fruit, and sticks with you until lunch.

The kid likes frozen pancakes, life cereal and eggs. This year we’ll bring boxed eggs because packing fresh eggs was just silly.

Also, last season we bought and brought a portable washing machine, which we stored in the RV shower.

We had no trouble finding laundry facilities (other than at boondocks) where we stopped. This season we are ditching the washing machine.

We are only packing one week of clothes this year for any trip. We’ll still pack three pairs of shoes: hiking, tennis, and flops.

We also stupidly did not remove water filter before we winterized water tanks in the RV with antifreeze.

Dumb. So dumb.

The Amazon reviews were not good so we bought three replacement filters from Camping World.

Stay tuned. We’ll be back on the road soon….


Thor Delano FB RV – 2020. Diesel/DEF/LP Class C Trip Costs

We purchased our RV new from a Camping World – and they didn’t give us a full tank of diesel or DEF. I’m still sore about this.

When we purchased it there were 2,395 miles on it. We ended our trip with 7,939 miles or 5,544 miles traveled.

We put 28 hours on the generator.

Our average miles per gallon was 13.49.

Our total cost (Diesel/DEF/LP) was $1,110.55. (Yes, I kept the receipts).

I have no idea if our expenses are reasonable or even typical. But they were our expenses from when we got on the road on July 25, 2020 and returned on September 2, 2020.

Here Goes….


West Gate KOA, Broken Laptop, Driving Home…the end of our first RV Adventure.

First, the West Gate KOA in Yellowstone, MT has a nice store and playground area. The fudge was decent and the people helpful.

Unfortunately, I broke my laptop screen at night. Entirely my fault.

I didn’t bring a spare laptop or monitor. Lesson learned.

So we are driving home quick like. This is the end of our first RV adventure. There will be an “after action” blog post/report.


Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon – Amazing.

Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon was (so far) my favorite part of the Park. We stayed in Grant Village. I wish we had stayed in the Canyon area.

The small spawn followed up his 11 mile geyser hike with a 6 mile Saturday hike in Canyon section of Yellowstone.

Saw one of the Falls on hike, but we mistakenly headed South rather than North?

Canyon Guide – Must Have. Spend the $1.00

We had some trouble with one trail map and we didn’t immediately find a Canyon guide so that is why we hiked in the wrong direction.

So once we got headed in the correct direction we came to the fork in the trail where one route went up to a parking area and another wound back and forth down to a Falls. The Down trail was totally worth the hike (and they had lots of benches where you could sit and take a break).

We then hiked back to the parking lot and drove to inspiration point because I was tuckered our (even if the kid wasn’t).

Next time that we are at Yellowstone- we’ll stay at the Canyon area.