Hi everyone. It’s time for our semimonthly update. As a somewhat rare event we had visitors last week. This is a unique challenge in our relatively small RV. Even with 3 slides, our RV has only 225 square feet of floorspace. Thats perfect for one person, snug for two, and increasingly close the more people you add.
Fortunately our visitors were close family and more importantly, they’re both very small. 🙂 My mother and aunt flew out from the east coast to visit my cousin – who lives outside of Seattle – and then to visit with us.
Paradise RV Campground
At that time we were in Silver Creek Washington at Paradise RV campground – part of the Thousand Trails network. It’s a very nice park with fantastic views of Mt. St Helens.
That said, our RV site could have been better. I call this out because site selection can make or break any campground experience. We pride ourselves on finding ‘the best’ available site in any campground, but in the case of Paradise we failed miserably.
The challenge with Paradise is that the full hookup sites (power, water, sewer) are mostly in the front. While some sections were completely full, the area near the main entrance was completely empty. At first glance those sites look very appealing, but due to the design of the campground everyone who comes and goes drives right past those sites. As it’s very dry in Washington this year, our car was quickly covered with dust as was our patio and RV. Not the end of the world, but we prefer privacy and less traffic of course.
That said, Paradise has some amazing sites if you’re good with water/power only. As we often stay for two or three weeks at a time, we prefer full hookups (FHUs) as that saves us from paying honey wagon fees of around $25 per pump out. It also means we can take slightly longer showers without stressing about tank levels, and trust me when I say, thats a very nice thing. Oh, and by ‘slightly longer’ I mean 4 minutes instead of 1. Our hot water heater only holds 6 gallons, so you take what you can get!
Picking up Visitors in Seattle
We left the RV at Paradise and drove to Seattle on Saturday. It was good to see my cousin and his family, and my mother bought us all tickets for the Seattle Duck Boat Tour. The tour is fun, with music and an animated driver who kept things upbeat. I didn’t love the drive through the city, as the duck boat is tall enough that you can’t see well as trees and signs are at eye level. I think we all really loved the water tour, as it includes incredible views of the city and a mini-tour of the many houseboats in Lake Union owned by the rich and famous.
We finished our Seattle visit with a very tasty meal at Plaza Garibaldi – a Mexican restaurant close to the Space Needle (thanks Mom!). From there, we brought our visitors back to Paradise with plans to head to Birch Bay, Washington in the morning.
Hosting visitors in a small space
It is something of a novelty having my Mom and Aunt stay in our RV. They travel everywhere together, they’re both small women, and they don’t mind sharing a bed which helps a lot. Our couch turns into a queen bed quickly and easily, and they both slept comfortably – or so they said.
The trickiest part of having visitors is the bathroom. As mentioned, our hot water heater only holds 6 gallons, so getting 4 people ready in the morning can take a little time. Fortunately the campgrounds we stay in all have public bathrooms, and that helps a lot.
It also helps that our RVs bathroom is located ‘midship’ – between the bedroom and the living area. If you’re shopping for an RV and plan to have visitors this is an important design consideration. You definitely don’t want to make visitors walk through your bedroom to use the bathroom at night!
Another challenge is noise. As the RV is a small space, one person can easily wake up the rest by flushing the toilet or getting a drink of water. We overcome this by using a white noise machine – which we think is a must have for getting a great nights sleep anywhere – and especially in an RV!
The model we use is made by Marpac and it’s very similar to the Marpac Marsona shown here. It takes up very little room on our nightstand, and makes either a steady, consistent white noise sound, or an ebb and flow white noise sound that’s similar to ocean waves.
We absolutely love it, and have slept better since we’ve had a white noise machine than we ever did before. That makes it well worth the price – especially when compared to sleep medication and the potential side effects.
Back to the point – it also makes it so we can sleep through foreign sounds from visitors in our RV. That helps us to be at our best during the day while hosting our visitors which is important considering the challenges of operating in 225 sqft with 4 people. If you have sleeping issues due to noisy neighbors, snoring spouses, or simply because it’s too quiet, we can’t recommend a white noise machine enough.
Birch Bay Washington
In the morning, we packed up and took our visitors on the relatively short drive to Birch Bay RV Campground (yep, also Thousand Trails) in Blaine, WA. This involved driving through Seattle on i5 or Bellevue on i405 and we opted for the latter. Traffic in Seattle area has gotten pretty bad over the past decade, and even on a Sunday we spent lots of time inching slowly forward through heavily congested traffic.
Even so, we rolled into Birch Bay at around 5pm and we scored a FHU Site against the woods with lots of space on both sides. It’s much better than we had hoped, plus our space gives us plenty of room to use our fantastic LL Bean Screen House. Our Screen House is 10-foot x 10-foot, so it increases our living space by 50% which is very helpful with visitors. It has the added benefit of keeping the numerous yellow jackets from buzzing around our faces while trying to eat outside or while enjoying a beverage – and we love to sit outside with our coffee in the morning!
Birch Bay is about as close to Canada as you can get without actually being in Canada, which worked well for us. We all wanted to visit Vancouver British Columbia, as none of us had been there. Vancouver is consistently rated one of the world’s most livable cities, and everyone we know who’s been has told us we “must” visit while we’re up here, so we were looking forward to it.
It’s worth noting that if you get too close to Canada, your mobile phone will go a bit nuts. We’ve been fine in our campground as it’s about 5 miles south of the border, but in certain parts of Blaine WA – and especially on Semiahmoo Spit – our phone service comes in and out as Verizon thinks we’re roaming. Verizon won’t allow phone calls and texts to go through without a calling plan upgrade, but we’re not sure about data. I turned ‘mobile data’ off while in Canada, so hopefully we don’t get a crazy bill. I’ll let you know!
We had plans to visit Vancouver British Columbia on both Monday and Tuesday. Vancouver is only 50 miles north of the campground, so as long as the border crossing goes smoothly (Yes, you must have a passport!), you can get to Vancouver in less than an hour.
We spent the first day visiting Queen Elizabeth Park which is an outstanding park. The park is full of stunning Botanical Gardens, water features, and trees. It’s also the highest point in Vancouver, and from the top of the park you can get fantastic views of downtown as well as of the mountains behind the city.
We had lunch at Seasons in the Park – a restaurant with incredible views and excellent food. The salmon sandwich is outstanding and highly recommended by all of us. As an added bonus the U.S. dollar is strong vs other currency right now, so we effectively got a 25% discount on everything.
From the Park we headed downtown and went to the Telus World of Science. While the Science museum is kid-focused, there’s still a lot to do for adults. The dinosaur display is excellent, and many of the interactive displays are both fun and interesting. Kathy and I really appreciated the outdoor displays on sustainability – everything was very well presented.
We finished the first day with a visit to Gastown – Vancouver’s first downtown that’s now the somewhat eclectic and touristy part of the city. There’s still a functional steam clock in the middle of Gastown, and many of the streets are still cobblestone. Gastown is rightly a National Historic Site.
Day 2 – We visited Stanley Park for most of the day, with a stop in the West End of Vancouver for lunch. The West End is a very colorful part of the city, with rainbow crosswalks and many signs of LGBT pride throughout. It’s also a good place to grab lunch as there’s a wide variety of restaurants.
Stanley Park is the huge city park at the west end of Vancouver. The park is more than 8 miles in circumference on the park road, and there are many things to see and do in the park, including hiking, totem pole displays, horse drawn carriages, bike paths, the Vancouver Aquarium, and a stunning viewpoint of the Lions Gate Bridge.
There’s also a spot where you can hike down to the bridge, which has a pedestrian walkway. I dragged Kathy, my mother, and my aunt out there as the views are good from the bridge. It’s a little freaky as you can feel the bridge swaying underneath you, but very worth it in my opinion.
We finished our second day with a visit to Vancouver’s best known Brewery and Restaurant – Steamworks Brewing. Steamworks has good beer and solid food, plus the views of the harbor are fantastic.
Saying Goodbye, and back to work
My Aunt left on Wednesday, and my mother stayed until that Friday. We brought my mother to SeaTac Airport, and made sure to give ourselves plenty of time. The drive from Blaine to SeaTac should take just over two hours. On a Friday afternoon in the rain it took us more than 4 hours! Note to self – allow lots of extra time to drive anywhere near Seattle.
From there things are back to normal. As I’m self employed it’s both easy and difficult to take vacations. Easy because I set my own hours, but difficult because I have several big projects this year, so any time I take off I have to make up somewhere to stay on schedule. I’m not complaining! Working from the RV is 10x better than commuting and working in an office – believe me.
Other than that, we’ve been doing the standard stuff you do after hosting visitors. Lots of laundry, lots of cleaning – which is easier in an RV, restocking food, coffee, and beer, and some general maintenance.
RV Products Purchased
We’ve bought two things for the RV over the past two weeks.
Dometic Air Filter – RV air conditioner return filters are basically just thin gray foam, however they do an impressive job of collecting dust. As our last RV park – Paradise – was so dusty, our AC filter was a mess. We’ve been using the original filter and I’ve been washing it out every few months.
It’s been looking ratty for a while, so I was happy to replace it. The Dometic filter was bigger than our stock filter, but it’s easy to cut to size with a razor or scissors. Depending on the size of your factory filter you may be able to get two.
Our Camco 35-foot Drinking Water Hose (amazon.com link) suddenly gave up the ghost the day after we arrived in Birch Bay. One end of the hose separated, and fortunately I was there to see it happen and turn off the water pressure. I carry stainless steel hose clamps for just such an event, and patched the hose temporarily while we had visitors. We’ve had the hose for two and a half years, so we’re a little disappointed with the product. It feels very well made, so we’ll see how our next hose compares in durability.
There’s a Camping World not far south of our campground, so after our visitors left I headed down and grabbed a Camping World brand 50-foot ‘Never-Kink RV & Marine Drinking Water Hose’. I’ve been wanting a longer hose anyway, as the length of our last hose didn’t always allow me to place the RV in the best position. I’ll let you know what I think of the Camping World hose in future posts.
Plans Going Forward
We’re staying in Birch Bay another week (we could stay here all summer!), and we’re planning one more trip to Vancouver. We’re still playing catchup from having visitors, so we’ll work a little extra as well.
Next week we’ll head a little closer to Seattle as we’re staying near the Swinomish Reservation in La Conner, WA. Our next update post should be shorter, but we’ll see. Until next time, happy trekking!