Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We are full-time Campers since July 2000


Before I start to write about "living on the road", I start by showing you a copy of an USA Map.

Our traveling times will come to an end in the nearer future, we are getting too old to do all the necessary work in connection with breaking camp and setting up again. And driving such a long unit on Highways is no picnic either.

All the major US Highways and State Roads driven are highlighted in green. The small roads taken to sightseeing spots or simply to shop are not to be seen here...and so many of the highways shown were driven several times....
We have driven 72,000 Miles by changing locations since summer 2000.

You might be able to imagine what we have seen.
And the climate changes were sometimes pretty drastic. One day you wear a coat, mittens and a hat, and the next day you sit outside in a tanktop.

The United States of America have incredible landscapes, including Alaska.
The Canadian Provinces and Territories are beautiful, too, especially British Columbia. 



Some campers still have a house, or count a property of their children their home or have a storage shed somewhere. We have none of that, what we own is in the trailer.

I must admit, it was hard to leave some things behind I never imagined I could....
...like most of my books, my German Knitting and Crafts Magazines ( I kept 4 from about 100...), all my Crystal glasses, bowls and Vases and my Dinnerware ( most of it I got at anniversaries, my collection of over 40 Kodak 1000-Pieces Puzzles, and most of my clothing which I concidered "Must-have" and now never would wear as a camper.

We had so many Photo Albums, I did not even count them. It was hard work to take all the pictures out and sort them into 3 Photo Boxes ( size of shoe boxes) after having discarded about half.....
Other things were: all the equipment of my Gym, the biggest of it the treadmill.

We did not start this adventure of ours at the whim of a moment....

We were campers already in Germany and made vacations in Holland, Austria and Norway with our campertrailer.

When we lived here in the USA for a while, we bought a 19' Shasta Camper Trailer to drive to Myrtle Beach (S.C.) and Panama City Beach (FL) and Homosassa Springs (FL) to enjoy our vacations in the warmth of the south.
Over the next years we exchanged our first trailer against bigger ones every time we made a deal.
We liked it so much, that an idea began to form - especially after so many harsh snow-rich winters and having so much work to do overall to maintain our park-like property. Dieter was talking about selling our property and traveling full-time. At first I said  NO WAY!  But over time this stance got weaker and weaker, because the memories of our sightseeings so far really were winning about all questions we asked ourselves about it.
We knew that we would have to sell our property at one point, when old age sets in....So we said: Why not now??

After I had my mind set on the open road, it was easy to load just bare necesseties aboard our newest Fifth Wheel, a 34' SHASTA Phoenix. We just had sold our property after having it 3 years on the market...It was too big for most folks, but finally a family with 12 kids bought it....for only the money we had put into it in form of materials.

Some of it we used to buy camping  memberships. Without those our nightly fees for 365 days per year would have emptied out our wallet in a short time. And over the years these normal camping fees got more expensive. If anyone of my readers conciders this lifestyle, please, buy memberships in case you are not THAT rich. If you have any questions about it, you can contact me - either in my website using the mail icon or via message in facebook  (Karin Herrmann Bartsch).
Of course, you have to concider fuel, new tires, repairs etc, but having a house affords money also.

What about the doctors - you ask? It is best to have insurances which allow to visit doctors in any of the states in the US. It would be a mighty hassle in case of a sickness to drive to the home state of that insurance and would be most likely impossible. We have Medicare as our first insurance and a Medigap insurance which picks up the 20% and Medicare Deductable. It is a big chunk of money, but insurances stay on top of all our lists. This means having no money left to eat in restaurants or visits shows or pay extensive entrance fees anywhere. But that is fine....We enjoy landscapes in the big Outdoors. Sitting outside and enjoying ourselves or sitting inside the Fifth Wheel, which has big windows all around, and feeling really at home in that wonderful layout,  is all we care about.

When our Shata Phoenix gave us trouble, we exchanged it for a Winnebago Sun Cruiser, as you can see in the pictures. After having driven extensively in that motorhome without slide-outs, we wanted more living space and exchanged it in 2007 for this one we still have, an Alfa Gold -40' with 3 slide-outs. It feels like living in a small house, the layout is phantastic....
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This Blog is hosted by Google and so are the travel pictures I stored at Google. Those are not all I took, but I sorted out for you the ones giving the reader the best impression of an area.
If I had known at that time that I will be a blogger, I might have taken more pictures, maybe of every location we have been,  - - but then - I would have not enjoyed our experience so deeply by worrying about pictures...But I think the ones I posted give you a pretty good impression of our travel experiences.

With the motorhome we drove to Alaska - via Montana, British Columbia and so forth, and we returned on the Canadian Highway 1 all the way east to Manitoba, to Winnipeg and re-entered the States in North Dakota.

Alaska Tour 2003  You will find over 200 pictures of that tour within that website.

In my personal website I have a page which shows you in chronological order where we were parked and when.
So when you open up an album to see pictures, you have the direction we had taken and were the pics were done:

Home is....where we park our RV

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Travel - Albums ( Links )
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2000 Travels

2001 USA Roundtrip

2002/2003 Travels without Alaska

2004 Travels

2005 Travels

2006 Traveling

2007 in Florence, AZ

2008 Workkamping in California

2009 Workkamping in Texas

2010 in TX, NM and AZ

2011 Workkamping in California

2012 From AZ to FL

2013 Travels

2014 Travels


Please, keep in mind, that sometimes circumstances did not allow to take pictures. First 2 years I took them with an analog camera and scanned them later.


I hope that you enjoy the pictures !





Sunday, January 26, 2014

Moving into a New World

As I had mentioned in my last blog, we were ready to live in the USA.
Dieter's parents and his 2 brothers were living here already since 1953. As you might have read in one posting, Dieter had to go with them, but he returned to me, to Germany, at Christmas the same year....

We arrived at JFK Airport in New York on July 3rd., 1984.
Dieter's parents picked us up. At that time they lived in New Jersey. Dieter's father took the following picture of us when we had cleared the customs.


The following day, on Independent Day, we bought a Dodge Caravan....it had a big cargo capacity which later came handy to serve us when we built our home in Greeley, Pennsylvania.

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I have scanned over 60 pictures of our property, a very small portions of all the pictures we have.. Before I even start I will post one to keep your interest. It is taken near the driveway entrance. If you see later more detailed pics, you will wonder why we exchanged our beautiful property for the open road. Our relatives still think we were - and we might still be - crazy!! But our life as camper full-timers will be another post at another time.....




In the beginning we lived directly next to the Delaware River in a cabin built and owned by Dieter's younger brother. It was a very simple way of living for 3 months without electricity or running water, but it was in beautiful surroundings and we were thankful to have a roof over our head and nice beds to sleep in, and we could cook our own meals. Dieter started to work right away to build up a general construction business for his brother, together with his nephew and a friend of him. In the beginning the jump from the metric system to the inch/foot system was a slight hurdle which Dieter overcame very quickly. Having worked in Germany the last years from behind the desk and supervising huge building sites and now hammering away and working with his hands again was a painful process. His muscles were building up and were hurting....

During those 3 months we bought a property on the same road, Market Road, where Dieter's brother already had a house while he was still working in New Jersey. His wife and kids were already living in Pennsylvania. The newly aquired land was a piece of forest of Oaks, Red Maples, Pines, Hemlocks, Sassafras, Mountain Laurels and tall Blueberry bushes. And it had stones, huge stones under the surface, over the surface - big boulders....leftovers from the last ice age rims....
In October 1984 we could move into a small apartment in Greeley, we would have been totally stuck at the riverside in all the snow and ice.
Dieter bought a chainsaw and started to fell trees to make room for the house - in the center of the property of almost 2 acres. The area for the long driveway had to be cleared and for the septic mount also....
Many of you have similar experiences while establishing a property, but I will post some pictures how it all started. We also found out that we had a couple of springs sending steady trickles of water downhill which made parts of the building site pretty soggy. Later on Dieter built all kinds of ditches, partially covered, and a little pond in the front to catch the water downhill, a collection tank for it all etc.

After one year living here as visitors, we received the "Green Card".
In 1990 we were citizens of the United States of America.

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Building the Septic Mount, a large one, in the back of the property. It had to accomodate 2 families....in the meantime Dieter's parents had asked if they could live with us. We said Yes, but only in a separate house, which had to be connected to our buildings by law because it was just short of  2 acres.
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In the beginning of November 1984 we were ready to lay the foundation for our house.

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Working on the driveway meant also to harness the running wells and put drain pipes into the ground....

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Drilling of the fresh water well....
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Without words - - the over-next year (1987) we both quit smoking on my initiative - and "cold turkey". We never had a cigarette since....

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Dieter is building the smoke stack of our fire place in the living room, which will be the corner in a nice room, which was conceived as breeze way first in between house and garage. The open side of the chimney is  in the living room ( fireplace ). We decided to close the breezeway  up and make a leisure room out of it with a big sliding door to the deck in the back. You will see details later....

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Dieter learned to be a mason before he went to college to be a construction engineer and architect. He is an excellent one,  and the bricks around the smoke stack look beautiful.

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The big "breezeway room" takes shape  and to the right you see our extra long double garage. In the back it has a small room, which was my Gym and a storage shed with a double door to the back.

A big Black Bear might have thought we build it all for him, for his enjoyment....

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He does not like the "clicks" of the camera and turns to leave on the opposite side, the sliding door was not in then......

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Next to Black Bears ( see one bear R side of the wood shed Dieter had built?) we see Whitetail Deer, Foxes, Coyotes, Possums, Squirrels, Chipmunks and wild birds, of course.
This picture is taken from the back deck. The wooden cover you see is heavy enough to protect the septic tank with the pump in it to pressure the stuff into the mountain. Dieter made all kinds of walls outside with the smaller pieces of rocks he collected while establishing a lawn where it was possible. The wooden pathway from the garage/storage shed to the wood shed   ( in this picture just in the rough )  and the deer feeder covers also a little river. A "tributary" joints from the left. Before Dieter harnessed it all, it was so big that we had migrating geese feeding in it. I should have made more pictures............The wall on the right is the edge border of the even leveled sewer mount. The grass on it was so very well maintained by Dieter that we had a redneck Golf Course on it, with holes and all......

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Black Bears check the deer feeder for leftovers......we had at least one in the vicinity every day......

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A little story comes with this picture.....
I am in the kitchen and Dieter calls me very loudly from the back yard: Get your camera! A bear is going to the front on the R side of the house! I quickly got the camera and positioned myself directly outside at our front entrance door, which was in the corner of the building - as you will see later. The column is one of three which holds our balcony up. I have the view finder in front of my eyes, and.........suddenly I see nothing anymore than black, I mean: black/black.  I forgot to press the button and peeked - the black bear was about 4 feet next to me. I froze for a second or two and grabbed the entrance door and went inside to breathe...then I went out again and took the pic. The bear was already on its way to our street.....was about 400 pound.

The camper trailer was our first one in the USA, we made vacations in it to Virginia,  South Carolina ( Myrtle Beach) and Florida ( Panama City Beach ). The firs are still small on the lawn, when we left in 2000, the yard was like a park.

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Since we are talking bears, this one is taken from our deck in the back.

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Dieter built this heavy oak door - later on it got a screen door in front of it.

This picture of me was taken before we were invited to a birthday celebration at "Pinehurst", our favorite restaurant in Greeley.

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After we realized that our house needed more paining jobs than we would have liked, Dieter made the decision to dress the houses with white Vinyl Siding. From then on it was easy to keep the dust off and keep it shiny. Here you can see the matching screen door. Our house was the best insulated house in Greeley, I guess, all the inside walls and ceilings were heavily insulated. We had no Air Conditioner. During the 3 weeks of "Dog Days of Summer" in northestern PA,  I regulated the temperature by drawing insulated curtains where the sun just was. It was so efficient, that I had to open the sliding door in the back in the afternoon to let some warmth in....

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Before we finally come to the pictures you are waiting for, I have some winter pictures to offer.
It was normal in northeastern Pennsylvania to have at least 8 feet of snow every year. Nowadays those snow piles are caused by "Polar Vortexes" , at that time, before 2000, they were just winter storms and had no names, they simply came from the Great Lakes......



Not only was our entire property on a slope, so was the Market Road. It does not look so steep on this picture, but the icy conditions were the reason, why Dieter sometimes could not drive to work and neither could I with my car. The mailbox you see here is ours right at the driveway entrance....

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Pennsylvania mail boxes were in jeopardy all the times in winter. More than often they were damaged by snow removal vehicles because no one could even see them....Our driveway entrance is to the left. It had to be cleared by Dieter every time a snow plow drove by, otherwise we would have not been able to leave the property.

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Our parking places in the front of the house - and Dieter's work truck...

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In the front of the property you see our camper and "B & R" 's Box Van. We had a tractor with a snow blade, but the hight of the snow made that useless,  Dieter had to shovel the snow and throw it high up, so we had still the use of the driveway. And it was cold, as you can see, because Dieter can take harsh temps usually without overalls.

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View from our front area in direction of the garage of Dieter's parents house.

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All pictures are not from one winter but a selection from different one. Our backyard. Nothing underneath the snow - -just drifts and accumulation from shoveling....

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How to get to the wood shed and the deer feeder??   Shoveling !!!!!!!!!

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In the winterime we covered the flower pot in the front with a bird feeder for big wild birds and squirrels.. Across the street you can see a neighbor's house.

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View from our guestroom window onto the covered back deck and onto the wood shed, which in the meantime got an extension for Dieter's tractors and maintenance stuff. We had to dress the wood shed up and cover the entrance to keep bigger critters out, so we would not encounter them by getting firewood.

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This was in one winter before we put vinyl siding on. View from the wood shed onto the back wall of the extended garage....

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We had about 15 deer in wintertime waiting for Dieter in the evening to return home from work to receive a big bowl full of good stuff.....we had bought deer feed with molasses in it, they just loved it.

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With this winter view of our house-complex, which included several buildings and extensions,
I say once more Good Bye to cold winters. 

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Second Part of this Blog - showing more details.......


Entrance, Kitchen, Living Room.......upstairs: window of a smaller guestroom and to the right the sliding door from the master bedroom.  Right: Covered Breezeway.

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The access to the 28' x 6' covered balcony is only from our bedroom. It was our very private world.....

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Later on Dieter covered this porch with treated lumber. He found something to improve every year.

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On the right side of our garage you see part of the entrance porch to the house of my In-Laws.

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Entrance area of the house Dieter's parents lived in ( sliding door to living room and garage.All connected to our garage. The entire length of all the connected buildings is 100'.
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Dieter had built another room and connected it via a covered passage with double door to the side path  to be able to pass with tractors. When it was very hot in summer, I was sitting in that passage with the doors open, it gave me a cool breeze....The new room was heated with Propane Gas - it was Dieter's office when he had taken over the lead of the firm. He did not want people with dirty shoes walking through our house.

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Passage and Dieter's office building.

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The only garden we could have was a rock garden. We needed a digging bar everytime we wanted to plant anything.
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In the foreground the septic mount. Dieter had just finished to convert Mom Gertrude's vegetable garden into a fine patio and had replaced the fence with a better one.....
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The entire complex was insured for 250,000 Dollars. When we sold it, we got only 145,000 for it, it was only the amount of money Dieter had put into it over the years. A family with a dozen kids moved in.....
Meanwhile Dieter's father had died and his mother lived with us because she was not able anymore to live alone. 
Dieter's father was 90 when he died and his mother was 93. By then she lived in the Assisted Living Center in nearby Shohola, where I once worked.

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Our back deck - - which I sincerely miss sometimes, especially in the summer, when we sat outside in the warm evening and looked upon the forest in the back, which Dieter had illuminated with a lamp in a tree...that was just magical. 

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View from the kitchen window.....   without the snow - haha!

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Nice seating area next to our pond.

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Dieter built a little fountain into it to give the little fishes some bubbles. We also had frogs and bullfrogs in it and we had planted water lilies, which grew wonderfully.... This pond was created by harvesting dirt for the sewer mount. It is pretty deep and filled itself by rainwater and spring water. 

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Path from the back toward the driveway.

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Isn't that a neat wood shed and an elegant tractor shed?? Dieter saved the glass doors from a building site which had to be remodeled. All the floors in our house had thick hardwood floors.

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BTW - I did all the painting work with the entire property, inside and outside.

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Dieter also built all the furniture inside, including the entire bedroom and this heavy oak table. We could stand on it if we wanted to....I was sewing all the curtains from scratch. Dieter also put the mural on the wall. The lamps are from IKEA....

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Later on we exchanged this older lamp with 2 new ones and bought a new couch.
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We took the heavy door to the breeze room out and left an open passage, which we later outfitted with a folding door. 

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Seating corner in the bar. Dieter built everything, the bar, the chest, every nail and screw in those buildings went to his hands.....

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From left to right: Dieter's youngest brother Herby, then Karin, her sister is taking the picture and her husband stands next to me ( they were visiting from Germany ), and at the right Dieter's younger brother Fred. Both brothers are not with us anymore. And Dieter is the bartender. 

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We moved the old couch, which we got from relatives when we moved in, into the breeze room when we bought the new one for the living room.

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As I said before, Dieter built  the vanity and all the furniture in our big bath room by himself.

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This is the only picture of our kitchen without persons in it and therefore the only one I can post - but I think it is sufficient to show you that we had a real rural kitchen, admired by every visitor.

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I hope I did not bore you with too many pictures.... If you enjoyed it, please, post a comment.

Several times, when friends in facebook envied us for our lifestyle of sightseeing and living on the road, I told them that everyone can do it when we can do it.. We sold all what you saw here - and not have seen - ...
The next post will be about going full-time as campers.