South Haven, Michigan

This weekend there was a four day weekend for the kids due to a school in service day and Columbus Day. We decided to take a trip with our new fifth wheel. It is about 10 feet shorter than the old one we lived in and also weighs much less. We chose to go to South Haven, Michigan which is about 3 hours from home. 

We stayed at the KOA in Covert so South Haven was only a 15 minute drive. We did not bring the kids on this trip so we were able to do more adult friendly activities. We went to the Arclight Brewing Company in Watervliet, the Great Mead Brewing Company in Bangor, and the Coppercrast Distillery in Saugatuck. There were lots of wineries and vineyards in the area but we decided to still with local beer and liquor.

Besides drinking we went to downtown South Haven, which has a ton of cute stores. We went to the beach in South Haven where we saw the lighthouses. For lunch we ate at Taste, which is known for having small plates. We ordered 5 different plates and shared them. I wish we had went there for dinner because the restaurant seemed like more of a dinner place rather than a lunch place. 

We went to a Chili Cookoff in Saugatuck. For $.50 we could sample chili from each contestant. It was so delicious. We then walked to all the downtown shops in Saugatuck, which were similar to the shops in South Haven. 

We went to ATVing one afternoon. It was $100 a person per hour. Unfortunately I'm inexperienced in riding and I hit the back of Cody's ATV. The damage, which we had to pay for, was $1300. Ouch!  We spent more paying for that than we did on the whole trip. I'm lucky I wasn't hurt. Cody didn't get upset about the cost and we even laughed about it afterwards. I think we were both just thankful that it wasn't worse. The owner said that the amount of damage was in the top 3 that they have ever had there. I don't think I'm going to go ATVing anymore. 

Overall the trip was fun!  It was a few days of relaxing in a very laid back part of Michigan. No stress, no busyness. We will definitely be going back. 

A Change in Plans

Four months ago we started this incredible adventure of living in a fifth wheel.  There were many reasons we decided to live in a fifth wheel (read about them here), however a few situations have changed and it no longer made sense to live in the fifth wheel.  We have purchased our first home together.  That does not mean our fifth wheel adventures end here though.  We already have a trip planned for next week with the fifth wheel.

Let me explain why living in our fifth wheel no longer made sense for our family.

Our main reason to live in a fifth wheel was to save money.  In the time that we lived in the fifth wheel we saved an additional $10,000 to put towards a house.  On top of that since we bought a house we traded in our 2014 Keystone Avalanche for a 2005 Forest River Flagstaff.  The price difference meant $21,000 in our pocket.  So we had an additional $31,000 saved since May.

Living closer to family was a big reason for living in the fifth wheel.  We did live on the farm with Cody's parents but my parents, two sisters, brother, niece and nephew all lived about 20 minutes away.  We ended up buying a house in the town that my family lives in.  Now our kids go to the same school that my niece and nephew go to and my son is actually in the same class as his cousin.  Family is even closer than I originally thought.

Another reason for living in a fifth wheel was to start planting roots.  We were under the impression that we would be building a house on Cody's family farm however we realized those pans would not be able to happen and rather than continue to live in the fifth wheel and have the kids start school in that town we decided it would be best to look for a permanent house so the kids wouldn't have to change schools again.

Lastly, a goal of living in a fifth wheel was to simplify our lives.  We wanted to not have our lives be consumed by things.  It was such an eye opening experience living in the fifth wheel and seeing how little we really needed to be just as happy.  We will continue to let God fill us up rather than material things.

As I already said, our journey with a fifth wheel is not over just because we don't sleep in it every night.  We still travel for work and we still work remotely so traveling is something that is very much a part of our lives.  We will continue to keep this blog alive and share our adventures.

I Will Not Let the Devil Steal My Joy

Ever since I've been young I have been embarrassed to wear a swimsuit. I don't know why or where this insecurity stems from. I remember being a teenager and loving the pool but hating having to wear a swimsuit. When I bought my first home I purchased a pool so that I didn't have to go to the public pool anymore. Being in a swimsuit in public just made me uncomfortable.

It's not that I'm insecure with how I look. My weight has fluctuated over the years but I've always been happy with my body regardless if I was a little bigger or when I was most fit training for a marathon. 

I sold my house over a year ago so anytime since then I've had to swim in public, which meant being seen by people in a swimsuit. I love my body I just hate swimsuits on my body. Always have. So swimming is always my least favorite thing to do. 

I don't want to be a downer when I'm with the kids so anytime they want to swim I suck it up and put on my dreaded swimsuit and a happy face. The whole time I'm not as happy as I could be. 

I started to ponder why I let myself feel this way. Being insecure in a swimsuit was affecting how much fun I had with my kids. That's when I decided that I WILL NOT LET THE DEVIL STEAL MY JOY.  

The insecurities I had were not coming from God, they were thoughts the devil placed in my head when I was younger and I let those thoughts manifest so much that I was unhappy wearing a swimsuit. No more. I decided I would no longer care how I looked in a swimsuit.

That was almost a year ago and although I still hear the devil try to convince me to care how my arms look a bit flabby in a particular swimsuit or another makes my thighs look big I instantly tell myself that I'm perfect how I am and I will not let thoughts from the devil make me feel any different. 


Myrtle Beach to Charlotte, North Carolina to Homer, Illinois

Thursday was our last morning at Myrtle Beach. We left at 10am and headed for Charlotte for a work meeting.   We went to see one of our manufacturers that we represent and took a tour of the plant that is located in Charlotte. The kids went to a daycare in Charlotte during that time.

The trip from Myrtle Beach to Charlotte was only 3.5 hours but from Charlotte home it was about 11 hours.  Lots of driving but luckily the kids are so well behaved while traveling that it is just long, not stressful.

Our trip was amazing.  We had so much fun.  Thank you Lord for giving us this opportunity to travel and make memories.

We are Engaged!

Cody finally asked me to marry him. He asked me on the beach one evening while in Myrtle Beach. 


Myrtle Beach

There are so many fun things to do at Myrtle Beach. Mostly we loved going to the beach at the campground we stayed at. 

Lakewood RV Resort was pretty neat. It has around 1000 camping sites. Two pools. It is beach front so we avoided the public beaches. There is a trading post, a coffee shop, several cafes, mini golf and water slides. It was pretty busy but not so busy that it was uncomfortable. 

We went to Fun Warehouse where the kids played arcade games, laser tag, jumped on inflatables and rode go carts. 

Hudson's Flea Market was like most flea markets, you buy things you don't really need but they are pretty cheap so you buy them anyways. 

The Seafood House was a Buffett style restaurant that had live mermaids. They food was amazing but the atmosphere was the coolest part about it. It wasPirate  themed. The kids thought it was neat. 

There was also the Pirate Voyage. It is a show that serves dinner. Think of Medieval Times but Pirate themed. So much fun. 

We went to Hollywood Wax Museum. It also has a mirror maze and a haunted house in it. 

Broadway at the beach was delightful. We went to Wonderworks. Ate at Senor Frog. Took Old Time photos. Went to the Ripley's Aquarium. 

The boardwalk was also fun. We went to the mirror maze, a 6D movie, Ripley's Believe it or not, rode the Ferris wheel, and watched Polynesian fire dancers at Sharkey's. 


Knoxville to Myrtle Beach

Today we got on the road at about 9:30am. We drove for several hours before we stopped for lunch. After getting lunch we were on the road for maybe 15 minutes before we heard a loud noise. We thought we blew a tire but when Cody checked we hadn't. He climbed on top of the camper and saw that the canvas on top had started ripping off and that was what we heard. That is not a good thing but we can temporarily fix it until we are able to take the camper to a a specialist who fixes that sort of thing. 

We stopped at a Camping World and Home Depot to get supplies to temporarily fix the roof. After about 15 minutes in the parking lot with Cody on the roof he fixed it enough that we could keep on the journey. 

We didn't get to the campground at Myrtle Beach until about 7:30pm. We set up and headed for a walk on the beach, which turned into Cody and the kids not being able resist themselves and getting in the water. I loved watching them. 

Thank you God for getting us here safely and for not allowing minor problem to turn into major problems. 

Home to Knoxville, Tennessee

We got on the road at 8:30am. At the first exit we had to pull over because our youngest left the window open that's inside his bunk and the screen almost flew out. In order to get to the window from the inside the slides have to be open so there we are on the exit ramp with Cody messing with the hydraulic slide system to only open the particular slide he needs to get in and close the window. After less than 10 minutes Cody was done and we were back on the road. 

For this trip we decided to give the kids a small present every two hours. We put them in brown lunch sacks with their name on it and if they were well behaved for the 2 hours they got to pick one of the sacks and open it. 

To keep the kids busy we made activity binders. I printed and laminated different activity pages to put in the binders with dry erase markers and colored pencils for drawing on blank paper in the binder. 

I also made travel board games. Yahtzee, Chutes and Ladders and Sorry. I put the dice in a Tupperware container so that they could just roll them in that and not lose any dice in the truck. 

A little after noon we stopped near Cincinnati at a truck stop for Subway for lunch. We fueled up and used the facilities then got back on the road. 

We got to the campground at Knoxville at 6pm. We went swimming for about an hour after getting set up. After dinner we watched Big Brother. We had a simple day of driving. Thank you God for getting us to our destination today!




What I Miss About Living in a House

We have lived in the fifth wheel for 2 months now.  Although I love the adventure there are things I miss about living in a house.

  • Long, hot showers - In a camper the water heater is small and doesn't get as hot.
  • Kitchen prep space- Making a good size dinner takes every inch of counter space
  • Bigger refrigerator - Camper refrigerators are much smaller. 
  • Privacy - This doesn't mean privacy in general.  This is our code word for needing to use the restroom and not wanting everyone to hear us so they must leave the camper.
  • Steady temperature - The temperature seems to fluctuate quite a bit.  Maybe it is our particular camper...I don't know.
  • Thick mattress - Our mattress is pretty thin, even with a pillow top cover on it.
  • Laundry not shaking the house - When I do laundry the loads always make the camper shake just a little bit but it is still noticeable.
  • Not having to explain my choice of home - In a house nobody asks you why you live there, whereas in the camper we get asked why we live in a fifth wheel often and then we have to explain it and it can be uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing.
  • Normal plumbing - The camper requires work in terms of the septic. 
  • Water pressure - This may not be the case in all cases, but the water we are hooke up to is a light spit at best.
Overall, living in the camper is amazing.  It is an adventure that we are happy to be a part of however we do miss some things about living in a house.

The Wilds - Cumberland, Ohio

We had the most amazing time going to a place called The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio.  They are the largest research and breeding facility in the US for endangered animals.  We took the Sunset Wildside Tour.  Go at sunset if yo can because that is when they feed the animals and splurge for the Wildside Tour rather than the regular safari because the Wildside Tour gets you up close and personal with the animals.

You can check out their website here.

What We Save Each Month

I have not been looking forward to writing this post nor did I finish it in one sitting.  Money is such an awkward subject to discuss with strangers especially when it is about your personal finances, however, I think it is necessary here for us.  Our adventure of living in a fifth wheel has the specific purpose of us saving money in order to put a $100,000 down payment on a house, so I think it is important for you to see how we do that.

Let's start with our fixed bills while we lived in Indianapolis then look at our fixed bills living in the fifth wheel.

May 2016 - House

Rent: $1755
Electricity: $146.91
Gas: $115.99
Water: $28.95
Garbage: $38.97
Sewer: $45
Cable, Internet, Home phone/fax: $190.52
Student Loans: Natasha - $726.28  Cody - $161
State Farm: $220 (This includes insurance for our vehicles, golf cart, fifth wheel, renter's insurance and life insurance)
Truck Payment: $611
Health Insurance: $710
Tuition for Private School: $1000 ($12,000 yearly for 2 children broken into monthly payments)

Our cellphone bills are a business expense so that is not something we pay each month.  Also you can see that I did not include groceries, clothes, household items, beauty supplies, fuel, etc.

Total Fixed Bills in House: $5749.62

June 2016 - Fifth Wheel

Storage Unit: $269
Student Loans: Natasha - $726.28  Cody - $161
State Farm: $220 (This includes insurance for our vehicles, golf cart, fifth wheel, renter's insurance and life insurance)
Truck Payment: $611
Health Insurance: $845 (This amount changed because we moved to a new state and had to purchase different policies)

Total Fixed Bills in Fifth Wheel: $2782.28

What We Save Each Month: $2967.34

If we live in our fifth wheel for a year, which is about the time frame we are looking at, we will have saved $35,608.08 in fixed expenses alone and that doesn't even include the typical amount we are currently budgeting for each month to go into savings.

We are not looking to save the whole $100,000 while living in the fifth wheel, as we have already saved $60,000 before even living in the fifth wheel, however we do not only want to have $100,000 in savings and use it all on a house.  We would like to have more than that in savings so that when we use our down payment we still have emergency money in the bank.

As you can see from our numbers our expectation of putting $100,000 down on a house is very doable within the timeframe we have set.  As I have said before though, we do not know what curveballs life may throw our way so these are just our hopes and expectations if life goes according to plan and God continues to bless our finances the way He has been.

I felt the need to share the financial benefits of our journey because it is the whole reason for this adventure but it's an uncomfortable topic so I am done discussing it now. Whew....awkward finance post over!!

Gulf Shores, Alabama - Swimming with Dolphins

Written by Cody

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to wake up to an alarm…. Not really, but I knew today was a big day for the other half. She is very serious about her bucket list and one of the things on it is to swim with dolphins. Call me an ole farm boy, but I have never had the urge to get in the water with a giant sea mammal. I know they are no whale, but still huge compared to the foot long fish I have handled at best.
It was a pretty early rise to throw on our swim suits and some over cloths comb the fangs (brush teeth) and roll. Roll has become quite the popular saying with yours truly after being in Alabama for a few days. Roll tide roll!! It was a bit of a rainy morning, but there was nothing bringing the mood down when it came to playing with dolphins as the outcome. There was a long three hour drive. Not just a normal interstate set the cruise and roll, no this was stop and go right near the cost slow and go driving. The highlight of the drive was finding Flora-bama and stopping at McDonalds to grab a southern biscuit breakfast which we do not have in the Midwest.
Long drive, but we made it. Tosh has a great love of being early, not being a little early, but being two hours and 800 minutes early. I had a feeling this place was not huge and their highlight was their dolphins, but did not voice this to the other half. We got signed in and pointed to the right direction when the time came for our plunge with the giant fishes…. The swim with dolphins… one in the same I thought. The place we were attending this at was called Gulf World in Panama City FL. Should probably throw that out there in case any would like to attend this as well. We walked around for a bit checking out their great exotic bird collection and their small, but cool aquarium area. They had very interesting shows and different feedings or small sharks, tortoises, and seals. Let me tell you their dolphin exhibit was spot on. Before we swam they had a show in the dolphin tank. It was spectacular! We have seen a few at other larger aquariums and they got nothing on this place. The trainers got in with the dolphins and played for parts. It was very awesome.
A few after the show was over, it was our time to get in. The program said there could be up to 20 people in our group. This made me worried about time and being freaked out by large fish in front of people. On a side not, I would like to throw out there that I completely understand that dolphins like whales are mammals not fish. Fish takes much less time to type the large sea dwelling mammals. Any who, the group was about 16. It was split up into to two smaller groups with four dolphins used. Two males on one end with one trainer and an assistant also with a photo taker. The other side was two females with the same trainer and helpers. I was chosen as a volunteer to swim out to do the foot push. I am always down for being a guinea pig, but I swim like a kid who didn’t get in a pool for the first time until he was in middle school. I don’t call is swimming I call it surviving. The dolphins pushing be was crazy awesome. The power they have and they almost balanced be as they pushed. It was so cool!
We did our poses and did another fin grab pull thing, all insanely awesome, but the best was the hug. To feel the size and the weight of the dolphin was like nothing else. Another thing that I would like to mention was the trainers and their connection with their animals.