Monthly Archives: November 2018

Favorite Recipes: Baked Pasta

010This is really a baked ziti recipe, but since I often don’t use ziti pasta, I’m naming the recipe generically. This dish was a big hit at the campground potluck!

Baked Pasta


1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 16-ounce box penne pasta
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 45-ounce (large) jar pasta sauce
4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated


Prepare penne pasta according to package directions. Drain. Add a little 
pasta sauce to the pasta so it won't stick together. Set aside.
Brown ground beef, drain and set aside. Sauté green pepper and onion until
just tender. Add to ground beef.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In greased lasagna pan, layer pasta, meat
mixture, pasta sauce and cheeses (2 to 3 layers each). 
Top with remaining pasta sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.
Bake about 1 hour, until top is browned and cheese is melted throughout.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Top with additional parmesan cheese,
if desired.

This makes a large pan, enough for a crowd! It also freezes well, I just typically add a bit more pasta sauce when re-heating to add moisture.


The Wal-Mart Museum

016I can’t quite remember when I became aware of the Wal-Mart phenomenon. Growing up in a small Indiana town, our local discount store was a K-mart or Woolworth five and dime. I don’t believe that Wal-Mart even expanded to Indiana until after I moved to Florida in the mid-80’s. I just seemed to wake up one day and Wal-Marts were literally everywhere.

The Wal-Mart expansion is controversial for its history of opening in small towns and driving small, local businesses out of business. It’s hard for those small businesses to compete with Wal-Mart’s immense purchasing power and resulting lower prices. On the other hand, the chain does offer lower-cost merchandise (helping families stretch their budget) AND jobs. It’s a trade-off.

RV-ers typically like Wal-Mart because of their established policy to allow overnight RV parking at stores, unless specifically prohibited by town ordinance. We have parked overnight a time or two while in transit from one area to another. We can stock up on needed items, use their bathroom facilities, purchase a hot meal, and park safely overnight. Every Wal-Mart that we’ve been to also has a section of RV-specific items such as sewer hoses, tank treatment chemicals, fittings, and other often-needed items. That’s really handy.

So, while in Bentonville Arkansas – home of Wal-Mart – we had to stop in at the free Wal-Mart museum (located at the site of his first store) to learn about the founder’s remarkable history. Born in 1918, Sam Walton’s youth was influenced by the hardships of the Great Depression. Following college and a stint in the military (WWII), he went into retail – first as a management trainee for JC Penneys, and later as the manager of another retail store. It wasn’t long before he took the leap to open his own store and begin building what would become a vast global empire.

The museum walks you through a timeline of his life and his business successes. Early on, he decided that he would find quality merchandise at the lowest possible price even if he had to travel a distance to find it. His goal was to provide great value, thus “saving people money so they could live better”. Saving people money, means more dollars in their pocket to improve their quality of life in other ways. It’s hard to argue with that philosophy.

The story of his incredible business success is impressive – but I have to wonder about the toll such drive takes upon the man and his family. The museum talked in glowing terms about his devotion to family and community; after all, it IS his museum! And I have no doubt he was both inspiring and approachable. Such qualities make a great leader. But he was on the road constantly. First to find items of good value for his store, then to scout new store locations, and finally to visit all of his store locations. Such travel doesn’t make for the easiest home life.

And what about his own life/work balance? He essentially worked until he died. Did he truly have the opportunity to enjoy the monetary success that all of his efforts reaped? It’s hard to say.

I hope so.



Campground Review: The Creeks Golf & RV Resort, Cave Springs, AR

001Campground Review Summary

  • Name: The Creeks Golf and RV Resort
  • Dates of stay: Oct 25 – Nov 7, 2018
  • Location: 1499 S Main Street, Cave Springs AR, 72718
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $39.46/night (weekly rate)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: AT&T good
  • Website:
  • Pros: spacious site, reasonable cost, close to Bentonville
  • Cons: none

Full Review

One of Jeff’s goals as we travel is to hit the best mountain biking trails in the country. According to his sources, some of the best trails (funded by the Walton Foundation) lie just outside Bentonville. The Creeks RV resort came highly rated and put us in reasonable proximity to the trails.

The park appears relatively new and is immaculately clean. Our FHU pull through paved site is long enough for all of our vehicles. The water pressure is great and so is the cable TV hookup – which is fortuitous because our satellite TV dish is currently on the fritz! The free wifi works reasonably well, and our AT&T signal works fine for voice and data.

The amenities are basic. The bathhouse is painted concrete block, but it is clean and the hot water plentiful. There are only two showers each for men/women, but I never found it to be overcrowded. The bathhouse structure also houses a laundry facility that works on tokens purchased from the office.

The campground is co-located with an 18 hole golf course, and the RV sites look out over the course and a lovely pond. The campground office doubles as Pro Shop and snack bar. The staff and campers are quite friendly and campground events are offered occasionally. During our stay, there was a Halloween potluck and a chili cook off contest. There seems to be quite a few permanent or seasonal residents, all with neatly kept sites.

The rates are reasonable, especially compared to what we’ve been paying, at less than $40/night. Monthly stays are $600.

Bottom Line: Nothing fancy here, but it’s clean, scenic, and reasonably priced.


TV Entertainment – Our Set-up

TVAs I peruse several RV Facebook groups, questions about TV entertainment options seem to come up a lot. Satellite TV – which one? Streaming or over-the-air channels? I can share what we have and why.

Living in a stationary home is easier. You choose from among several options available in your area, set it up, and then essentially leave it alone (unless you switch things up to save money, which is a whole ‘nother topic). When you’re living in a moving home, the landscape is literally changing all of the time. What works in one location, may not in another. So, how to maintain access to those favorite TV series, news shows, and football games? We have instituted several viewing options, so that (hopefully) at least one will work at any given time.

Our primary TV access mechanism is by satellite dish. There are two provider options – DirectTV and Dish network. Our motorhome came with a Winegard Trav’ler automatic satellite dish that was designed for DirectTV, so that made our choice simple. As an added bonus, we were able to bundle it with the AT&T wireless unlimited data service that we already had.  I ordered our satellite TV boxes before we even purchased our motorhome and had them sent directly to the RV dealer who installed them for us. We have a DVR and three “genie” units which allows us to watch any content on all 4 TVs. Activation of all the boxes took a rather lengthy phone call, but then we were all set.

One important, but little known, nuance is the available of home network channels while traveling. Due to FCC regulations, satellite providers “beam” local channels to receivers within a certain radius only. If you travel a hundred or so miles outside of your “home” location, you will still find a number of channels, but not your home area network channels – ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, etc. That’s a bummer if you want to record your favorite series or catch the game and all you can get are channels like the home shopping network. The way around that is to subscribe to Distant Network Service, which provides either New York or LA network channels wherever you are. You have to fill out a special application and pay an extra monthly fee ($15), but you can count on having those channels as you travel. We’ve set up all of our series’ recordings on these channels. Your home channels magically reappear when you return within range of your home area.

Our secondary TV source is good old-fashioned over-the-air TV channels. Our motorhome came equipped with a digital antenna, already wired in. I like to watch the local news in the morning, and this works great – if there is signal. When we are parked near a larger city, we will get many OTA channels, but we have also parked in areas where there is little to no TV reception. OTA TV channels are highly variable from place to place, but it is good to have the option. We have also been parked in shady RV sites where satellite signal is blocked and unavailable. In those cases, OTA TV may be all that we have.

Once in a while, we stay at a campground that provides free cable TV. This is awesome, when it works. Some campgrounds have a great cable TV signal with lots of channels. We’ve also had instances where the provided cable TV box produces nothing but snow – you just never know. Most of the time, when they SAY they have cable TV, it works fine. But most of the campgrounds we stay in don’t offer it. So, it’s a nice supplemental option, but we never count on it for our TV fix.

The last year or two we lived in our big house, we cut the cable cord and went to 100% streaming. Our super-fast cable internet connection made that a viable and cost-effective option to view our favorite shows. However, in the RV environment, we simply don’t have that kind of bandwidth. Our data access is through an AT&T hotspot and data speed just isn’t that robust. And in our year of traveling, we’ve stayed at exactly one campground that provided free wifi capable of streaming. (Some campgrounds offer paid wifi, but we’ve never tried that so I can’t comment). What we CAN do is take our Ipads someplace there is robust free wifi (like a local Starbucks) and download Amazon Prime videos to watch later.  We also found that we can use DirectTV to download on-demand content (in the background) for later viewing. But we almost never have a data pipeline that is strong enough to directly stream video without constant sputtering and buffering.

Even with all of this, sometimes we won’t be able to get some specific big football game, so Jeff will seek out a local sports bar, which usually works. And if all else fails, there’s always Redbox.

Rocky Horror Night

IMG_4956Of course I’ve heard of the Rocky Horror Picture Show – it’s firmly ensconced in our pop culture. I was aware of its cult status, and the midnight showings with costumed patrons bearing props and shouting lines at the screen on cue. Heck, “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” is on our iTunes playlist! But somehow, I made it to my advanced age without ever actually attending a showing of the movie. In Rocky Horror parlance – I was a virgin.

Until Halloween night.

As is our wont, Jeff was browsing the “things to do in our area” and stumbled across a Halloween showing of the movie at Fayetteville’s Walton Arts Theater.  Tickets included the movie, a band, themed adult beverages would be available – sure, let’s go!

011It seemed appropriate that it was a dark and stormy night. I should have had a newspaper clutched over my head, as we trotted through the cold drizzle to the theater. We entered a fog-shrouded foyer full of costumed patrons. I saw Rocky Horror themed costumes, Fred and Wilma Flintstone, a hobbit, a biker chick (she was about 90), among others. I saw a lovely bride in flowing white dress and veil …. with a 5 o’clock shadow. We snagged an adult beverage and settled down to listen to the talented, but irreverent, musical duo perform. Soon, the band area was filled with patrons dancing to the “Monster Mash” and other standards.

015It was so much fun, it seemed only moments before the theater doors opened and we filed to our assigned seats: balcony, middle, front row. We had a perfect view of the screen ahead and audience below. The costumed event emcees staged a costume contest, winners determined by audience applause. The winners were dead ringers (ha ha) for Brad and Janet in the underwear scene. All I could think of was they must have been cold! Then the emcees called up several other Rocky Horror virgins and walked them through a dance tutorial of “Let’s do the Time Warp Again” and explained the shout-outs and props. We were ready, we were set …. time for the show!

For my family-friendly blog audience, I won’t repeat the shout-outs, but it should be noted that I participated enthusiastically. A kind neighbor shared some of her props, so I got the full audience participation experience! The movie is really silly on its own merits, but the audience heckling makes it completely hilarious. It was just full-on goofy fun – start to finish! It was over all too soon. I would do it again anytime!

I am no longer a virgin.


How we chose our motorhome

A Throwback Thursday post!  Originally published last year, this describes how and why we chose our rig. It has proved to be an excellent decision!

Choosing an RV for full time living is a Big Deal. It will be our moving home, one that we will be living in for a very long time (hopefully!). Before making our decision, we spent years researching and travelling to RV shows.

The first decision:  What kind of RV?

Jeff loves to ride motorcycles. He’s had some kind of motorcycle for most of his life. At his peak, he had 4 cycles in our garage:  a Honda 15cc scooter, a Honda 450 trail bike, a Honda 650 sport bike and a Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited touring bike.  Life on the road without at least ONE motorcycle was not an option. So, any housing option we selected had to allow for towing or otherwise carrying a motorcycle along with some kind of car/truck for everyday transportation.

5th wheel trailers are homey. The layout is much more house-like and very comfortable. And they are potentially the less expensive option. But, towing a large/premium 5th wheel trailer that we would be happy living in full time would require a hefty tow vehicle, on the order of an F-350 or larger. I wasn’t enamored with the size of the vehicle that we would use for sightseeing and errands. Plus, there was no good way to carry a motorcycle too. So, 5th wheels were out.

A conventional travel trailer was another option that we ruled out for most of the reasons above (size of trailer desired vs. corresponding tow vehicle required). It was possible to carry a motorcycle in the back of a large truck tow vehicle, but we liked the appearance, ease and convenience of the motorhome option. Plus with a motorhome, we had options that enabled us to tow both a car/truck and a motorcycle.

So we zeroed in on a motorhome as our preferred choice fairly early in the process. But, which one?

Second decision:  Selecting the bus

Key factors for us were cargo carrying capacity, quality, and of course, price. Since this would be our full time home, we wanted it to be a quality build with home-quality furnishings. RV’s can look nice on the showroom floor, but if the materials aren’t top grade, they can quickly fall apart with daily use. And since top quality furnishings are heavy, that steered us toward a diesel pusher in order to have the cargo capacity we needed to carry our entire life with us.

Our researched showed Tiffin, Newmar, and Entegra to build quality rigs in a comparable price range. We watched the models evolve over years and also perused the owners’ forums to assess customer satisfaction.  We were fortunate that our nest egg grew, so we were able to raise our sights to slightly larger and fancier motorhomes. We debated RV size, and decided that we preferred having more living space and accepted that having a “big rig” may limit our camping options. As we approached the time to buy, Entegra bubbled up as being the best value for the features provided as well as providing the best warranty. Entegra had a model and floor plan that we liked and fit our budget. So that was the pick.

The final factor was timing. With the introduction of 2018 models and close out of 2017 models, we felt late summer or early fall would be the time to pull the trigger. We watched and saw the prices dropping in early June.  We found our preferred model and color scheme at a price significantly lower than our budget and felt we had to move on it, even though it was earlier than expected. So, there you have it!

I know what you’re thinking – why didn’t you look at gently used buses rather than just new? It was an option we seriously considered, but cream puffs are hard to find. Since this is our very first motorhome, we liked the security of having that full 2 year warranty period. And, we have almost always bought new vehicles. It’s just what we do.

So that takes you through our rationale and decision making process. It is a rig that fits our particular needs/wants and lifestyle.