Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lake Havasu City

Next thing will be to get the towing brackets fitted to it and the rear lights hooked up.

Unfortunately we couldn't take the Miata (MX 5) along on our next adventure, but I did order the equipment needed to tow it.
Our next adventure is to join our friends from the Shanty Shakers Chapter of the Escapees (SKP's) at their rally in Lake Havasu City Arizona. Camping courtesy of the Elks Lodge there.
Full hookups at the Elks Lodge

Our Shanty Shaker friends did it right again.

The reason for choosing Havasu?


They say this is the best fireworks show in the world for a reason. It's organized by a Pyrotechnics organization and they have the vendors who provide al the fireworks for professional shows displaying their latest products plus the “Amateurs” who set off huge fireworks in “Open Shoots” were they can happily launch their creations under safe controlled conditions.

The show goes on for at least 4 days and they have light and flame effects as well as ground and aerial fireworks.
You needed earplugs for this show it was LOUD and we were really close to the action. So much so that you felt the heat from the flame effects.

Not so well organized surprisingly was the Lions Club parking arrangements. One handicapped person was stuck behind a steel railing after following the crowd along and pathway that led nowhere. There were no signs at all for the handicapped access route and the teenagers manning the parking lot didn't have a clue.

Unfortunately my new diet took a severe dent after I fell off the wagon. All the great food and cheap booze at the Elks Lodge each night plus “Happy Hour” with the Shanty Shakers was too much temptation! I'll try and make up for it next week but I'm dreading weigh in on Wednesday.
Serious catching up being done
It was good to catch up with Lynn and Wayne, Bruce and Sue, Garth and Judy and the rest of the crew. Everyone is instantly at home around the campfire. Just like our original RV full time dreams.
Great company
We went for some exercise walking around the swap meet downtown and I managed to get a big book about painting in watercolors for $1. We bought our fruit and vegetables there too for half the price of the regular supermarket. An hour walking was penance for the 4 days of eating and drinking!!

Having said our goodbyes to everyone we set off back to Casa Grande and battled strong winds the whole way. In this desert environment the wind picks up the dust and throws it around. At one point it was like driving in a thick brown fog. Visibility was down to a couple of hundred yards and we drove warily thru it with our headlights on.
The brown clouds of dust going thru the campground
We arrived safely back and were re leaved to find that out outdoor chairs and the big mats were still there. We were laughing about how good it was to be “Home” after being away “Camping” for the weekend.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

All the usual stuff

We don't enjoy be overweight so we need to make permanent lifestyle changes to avoid letting the weight creep back on like it has over the last 3 years.

Barbara has been showing her talents on stage. Somehow she got volunteered to be in a skit/show at Sundance where they reenacted several radio shows from the 1940's. Her role was as a mailman in an “I Love Lucy” show about mixed up valentines cards. She did good and somehow got roped into organizing the rehearsals too! The whole show was a hoot with a Philip Marlowe detective show and the finale was the Abbott and Costello “Who's on First” routine that was very well done.

We've been kept busy getting the last of the winter maintenance done on the RV and now the brakes and cooling system are operating as they should and they think they have fixed the charge light problem. Unfortunately it's taken several trips, the latest being to get the slide topper awning replaced only to find when we took it in that they had to special order one.

Flying my RC glider has been keeping me entertained. I happened to see an ad on Craigslist for another transmitter and receiver really cheap and it was a more advanced one than the one I already had so I jumped in. Made it much easier to adjust and to fly, I'm building another model but the old model shops have mainly gone away now so it's either drive 100 miles or mail order things so it takes longer to get the parts together.

The Fiesta law suit against Ford is apparently getting close to being settled. The “Mass Action Suit” people passed me off to a CA lawyer who are going for a CA Lemon Law settlement. Whether that will be better or not we'll find out. One way or another we should be rid of it soon, which could be a good thing as it started acting up with an intermittent starting problem.

We talked about our options and decided to buy a used car to replace the Fiesta while we're here in Casa Grande. Finding one we could tow, preferably without a tow dolly was a challenge. Most automatics can't be towed flat and Barbara doesn't like stick shifts. As I do most of the driving I jumped in with both feet and bought a Mazda Miata sports car! Can't be a midlife crisis, I'm too old for that. At least it's not red!

Although Mazda say it can't be towed flat, and some friends knowledgeable about Miata's think it can't be, I found an RV forum where people were towing them with no problems. One gentleman had been towing his for 5 years.

Next thing will be to get the towing brackets fitted to it and the rear lights hooked up.

For a little diversion we hit an RV Show in Peoria which happened to be at the Sports complex where the Seattle Mariner and San Diego Padres have their spring training.  So Baseball here we come.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Surprise again

I can do the Generator service, engine oil change and chassis lube myself.

I was sitting outside the rig in the sun fiddling with something or other and a strange car rolled up. I glanced up and a familiar Australian voice said “How's it going Mate?” and there were our 2 Aussie friends from Florida last year!

We had surprised the heck out of them in Las Vegas a couple of months ago and they had decided to turn the tables on us.

What a great surprise! Before long we were catching up on the news, dragging them along on a tour of thee park, introducing them to the darts evening (Which they seemed to take too like ducks to water!) and piling in the car to go out to dinner at Olive Garden.

I don't think Barbara and I stopped grinning for days, these kind of meetups are exactly what we wanted from a fulltiming experience. We are so lucky to be able to do this and to have met such amazing people.

Dinner out has had us working hard to stay on our diet. Yes we decided to lose weight again and the park has a Weight Watchers group so in we jumped.

The “Freestyling” plan seems to suit us as we can plan ahead for a “Splurge” and eat meals with low point the rest of the day and use more for dinner. There are also “Roll over points” when you don't use all your points one day. They can be applied to the following days for a glass of wine or something similar as a treat. So far I've lost about 15 lbs and Barb around 6.

We don't enjoy be overweight so we need to make permanent lifestyle changes to avoid letting the weight creep back on like it has over the last 3 years.

A lighter wallet wasn't part of our plan but after the brake calipers and rotors were replaced the brakes were still spongy. Turns out the brake booster (Servo in UK) was leaking too, so another day in the shop, which turned into a long day after the wrong part was delivered to them. They have fixed the charge light problem and done an oil and filter change on the engine too so that's more off the list.

Next week we get the slide topper awning replaced. I'm gathering the parts for the Generator service too. 

To fill in time I've been building another RC model airplane!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Arizona for the winter.

My sea legs had come back and fortunately I felt fine the whole way, but I did stay out of the theater and other dark confined spaces where I was more likely to feel motion sickness.

A glorious sunset is almost guaranteed every evening
Once we got to Sundance 1 our “winter quarters” it felt like we'd come home. If you haven't guessed we really like this place, we've been here 3 out of the last 4 winters.

Sunbathing by the pool in January.
There is so much to do both in the park and locally. It's a little more remote than Leesburg was, although I did enjoy all the art events and societies there. I'll have to dig a little deeper to find some here.

The resort is, as usual, immaculately kept. It seems like every time you go out somebody is landscaping. Everyone waves and wishes you good morning or afternoon.

It's 2 years since we last wintered here but people are stopping by and welcoming us back. Our friends Paul and Karen were already here and invited us to join them at the Elks Lodge for the Friday fish dinner. We had a full table with Bill and Terry and some more new friends who's names escape me! (Getting old).

We soon got set up with our outside mats, chairs, grill etc and we pulled our bicycles off the rack to find one of Barbara's tires was rotted out. More stuff for the maintenance list!
That list has grown again, seems like every time I get it almost done it fills back up.
Currently we need.


Engine oil change
Coolant hose replacement
Slide topper awning replacement (The wind ripped it traveling here)
Generator service
Front brake pads replacement
Chassis lube
Water heater anode replacement
Air filter clean
Mystery intermittent charge light coming on - fix

Alternator replacement??

Front tire replacement

Seat replacement

So apparently we're going to be busy!

To ensure we were REALLY busy we got back into the darts league (2 afternoons a week), we joined the shuffleboard league (3 mornings a week), Photo club (1 morning every 2 weeks), weight watchers (1 morning a week), and Barb signed up for a park stage show

Photo club assignment for the week was "Close Up"
In a fit of insanity I also decided that I needed to buy a Radio Controlled (RC) model airplane. I have been an airplane and model nut off and on all my life. Somewhere I saw an ad for one of the new technology gliders which are made mainly of expanded foam. No more weeks of building with balsa wood and glue, they come ready made in a box.
Even better they come just about complete, with a motor, servos, speed control. All you need to do is assemble about 10 parts and install a radio system (Not supplied).

Giant RC glider
What really surprised me was how cheap all this stuff is. Back in the 80's when I last played with RC, the radio equipment was expensive and there was no such thing as an electric powered model. Now the complete model was just over $100 delivered and the radio was $40!!

Pretty soon I was the proud owner of an RC glider.
I thought I read in the ad that the wingspan was 54”, which would be handy in the RV. Unfortunately the HUGE box that arrived contained a model that was 54” LONG but the wingspan (Width) was 2600 mm which for the Metric challenged comes to abut 8 FEET!
It was difficult getting the thing in and out of the door.

I assembled the thing, programmed the RC radio (Using the computer yet!) and set off for a big open field. And promptly crashed the model into that field!
My repair skills were then tested!

Side trip to "Old Tucson" movie studio
We had been talking of getting on a diet after the cruise, I was so fat I couldn't fasten the jeans I'd left in the RV for when I got back! Luckily the park has a weight watchers group and we signed up.
Weigh in was a shock as I weighed 262 lbs at weigh in.

We lead a different life style when we hole up for the winter. Instead of driving everywhere we ride our bikes, and we are much more active doing the things we like here, so we both lost weight the first week.

They have a “Freestyle” system now that is really easy to stick too and a phone app the will tell you the WW points of any item in the supermarket just by scanning the bar code on it. They even have “roll over points” so if you indulge once in a while you can plan for it and save points from previous days.

At the "Old Tucson" stables
The local RV place Norris RV did some work on our rig last time we were here and I was impressed, so we called by to talk about our current maintenance list. Unfortunately they don't do the mechanical work we need but we did make an appointment for them to replace the awning that got torn up by the wind one the way here.

They recommended a company called Whitfield Auto for our mechanical work.

First on the list was the brakes which have been grinding lately. It sounded like it was coming from the front right. When they took it apart it was the rear right that was grinding and the brake rotor was completely torn up. A full brake service was required and we ended up with new rear calipers and rotors and new front pads. Not cheap but we should be good for several years now.

While they were underneath they replaced the fuel filler hose that had been leaking. 

We have a plan with them to do the rest of the work one day at a time so we don't have to stay in a hotel, next week they'll do the coolant hoses and try and find the charging issue we've been having. I can do the Generator service, engine oil change and chassis lube myself.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Hawaii and back

 We rode the trolley into the city and walked to Henry's but found that they don't do it any more. Instead we had a big breakfast at “The Field” an Irish pub nearby.
The Oosterdam
The next big adventure was our cruise to Hawaii on the MV Oosterdam from San Diego. Barbara has always wanted to go on a cruise but I've been reluctant. I have worked on ships all my working life but my secret is that I get seasick every time I sail on one. 

Our RV club the Escapees sent out an e-mail that they were doing a group cruise so I brought it up with Barbara. She thought it sounded like a good idea but I think she was a little puzzled at me wanting to go. I figured that at least we'd have a common interest with our fellow passengers.

A cheeky looking fellow
We sailed on December 2nd and it took 5 days to get to our first port of call in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. We had a tour booked “Taste of Hawaii” which took us up the Kilauea Volcano. It had stops at a candy factory and a coffee mill, lunch at an art gallery then up into the Volcanoes National Park. We had two guides David and Nate. David was an archaeologist and Nate a High School Science teacher. They really knew their stuff and we were treated to information on the flora and fauna and the geology of the volcanoes. It was a 6 ½ hr tour but went by in no time.
Volcanoes from the outside

And the inside
During the night we traveled to Hilo on the Island of Maui, this time we climbed 9000 feet up Haleakala then to Iao Valley. The driver/guide was a very funny Hawaiian who kept us laughing all day. 

We ended up in Lahaina and had a few hours cruising the very tourist town that had once been the center of whaling in Hawaii. We watched the sunset from Mick Fleetwood's restaurant in the rooftop bar. A super view and entertainment by the “Mad Piper” who apparently could play anything in any style on bagpipes!.
Some ports needed tenders to get us ashore.
Next came Oahu and the city of Honalulu. We had a secret weapon here. I met a lady on our online art group (Paintbasket.com). MaryAnne lives in the North Shore and has a guest cottage. When I asked if we could meet in person she immediately invited us to stay in her cottage and volunteered to drive us anywhere we wanted to go.
MaryAnne (Left) and Barbara
She took us to a couple of the local art shows. The one at the Hawaiian Country Club had food and drink to go with the art. We met and talked to several of the artists and met up with another Paintbasket member Liz and her husband. They gave us wonderful Leis and a pencil sketching set, such nice people. Back at the cottage MaryAnne and I sat and painted, tried some new art media, talked about our artwork. The time just flew by.
Turtle Beach


Parrot fish on the grill
Before we left Mary Anne drove us around the North Shore and she showed us some great viewpoints known only to the locals. Barbara has wanted to visit the Arizona Memorial so we went there for an hour before finally returning to the ship. We'll miss MaryAnne, she was such good company. Before we left, her husband Earl gave us one of his turned wooden pieces and MaryAnne gave us a watercolor of the “Chinaman's Hat” Island which she likes to paint.
A great Hawaiian face
Reluctantly we made our way back to the ship and on to Nawiliwili on Kauai.
Anchored out
5 more days at sea tested just about everyone's patience, especially as a few days were quite rough. My sea legs had come back and fortunately I felt fine the whole way, but I did stay out of the theater and other dark confined spaces where I was more likely to feel motion sickness.
The legend says that if you give your Lei to the sea you'll come back to Hawaii.
But then we arrived back in San Diego picked up the car from Ken and Gloria's, the RV from Thousand Trails and headed out for Casa Grande.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Pre-cruise San Diego

Our friend Mike Trimble dropped by (With a bottle of Tequila!) and we were catching up on the news with him and having dinner at the lodge too! Many plans were made for the rest of our stay so we could catch up with our many San Diego friends and neighbors.
Heritage Park San Diego
Having lived in San Diego for 10 years it wasn't quite such a rude awakening when we hit all the traffic! It does seem worse now than we remember and some of the drivers are still as aggressive/stupid as before, but the weather makes up for all that.

Our first stop was the Elks Lodge in Chula Vista where they have 27 full hook up spots and lots of space for dry camping. As we arrived a lady started talking to Barbara and we suddenly found ourselves with the Lady Elks enjoying our first Thanksgiving dinner of the season. And it was delicious.

We had to take a nap just as soon as we had the rig set up.

Our old favorite watering hole the “Aero Club” is still the same. Mike and Dean caught us up on the old office scene and news of my former colleagues, both good and bad. Barbara the ever friendly bar tender did her usual excellent job of serving and harassing us at the same time!
The old Aero Club crowd
A trip to the San Diego Elks Lodge secured our places for Thanksgiving dinner on the 23rd and we picked up their lunch menus for the rest of our stay too. They have great lunches there.

Back at Chula Vista we found the parking lot full of kids bicycles, literally a hundred of them. These were being given FREE to local kids as part of a police/community program. Very impressive and so much fun to watch the kids all laughing and riding their bikes all over the place!
The bike lineup

Kids everywhere riding their new bikes in the dark!
Our super friends Ken and Gloria welcomed us with open arms yet again and fed us while we caught up with the shipyard news from Richie, Chris, Tammy, Dana and Faye. We filled them in on our adventures. It felt so good to be there again.

We moved over to the Thousand Trails park in Jamul. This park doesn't change much and we have stayed here many times during our prep before going full time. We played the “Sewer Shuffle” a few times before we got the “Perfect” site with full hookups, telephone and TV signal, which are rarities in this big park. (https://banbrv.blogspot.com/2017/11/thousand-trails-good-and-bad.html)
Morning in Pio Pico
We began serious preparations for the upcoming cruise, haircuts, sorting out clothes, selecting side trips in the islands etc. I got my suit (Yes I still have one!) pressed.
We also sorted out storage of the rig at this park and the car at Ken's. We'll Uber from Ken's to the ship on the day.

To top up our “Dressy” wardrobes we shopped at charity stores where many new and almost new items can be bought. We don't have any use for dressy stuff normally so after we've done the cruise we'll donate it back to the store. That way we won't have to store stuff we'll never use again.

The best things in life are great neighbors and when we lived here we had exceptional ones. Ruby, Jason, Molly and Gus have moved to a new house not far from where we lived and invited our “across the street neighbors” Mike, Cathy and Sienna plus us 2 over for dinner. We all just fit together and their new dog Todd was absorbed into the group too. It's such fun to watch the kids growing although we probably notice the changes more with being away a year or so between visits.
Cathy gets to know Todd!

Our friends John and Debbie reported that their “Toad” had died and they were without wheels in the San Diego area.(http://banbrv.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-little-flat-green-thing-in-road.html)  
John and Debbie
The “Shanty Shakers” the San Diego Chapter of the Escapees RV club where having their monthly breakfast that weekend so we arranged to pick them up and take them. Our other friends Marty and Peggy, Wayne and Lynn and lots and lots of our old and new Shanty Shaker friends were waiting to once again welcome us with open arms, and suddenly it felt like we'd never been away.
Groups like this are priceless, everyone just welcomes each other without reservations and if it's been a week or 2 years since you met them they smile and give you a hug. To think that there are people without this kind of friendship is humbling. We even won a couple of prizes in the raffle.

The Shanty Shakers getting breakfast.
Some things have changed, our favorite sports are baseball and Formula 1 car racing. There has been a Formula 1 fan club that met to watch the TV broadcast races in Henry's Pub in the Gaslamp District downtown since before we left. 
The Gaslamp District San Diego
We decided to drop by for the final race of the year. I tried to call before the event but nobody answered the phone. We rode the trolley into the city and walked to Henry's but found that they don't do it any more. Instead we had a big breakfast at “The Field” an Irish pub nearby.
Caught in the act of posting her breakfast on Facebook!
Things are rolling along and it will soon be time to board for Hawaii!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thousand Trails the good and the bad.

We joined Thousand Trails (TT) very early on, before our full time adventures, almost as soon as we bought an RV.

The reasons we did so, how we did so and why, and the pros and cons of becoming a TT member are laid out here based upon OUR SPECIFIC EXPERIENCES

Why did we buy in?
When we were starting we were looking at ways to get our camping costs below our self imposed $25 a night (https://banbrv.blogspot.com/2016/06/camping-for-25-night.html). Back then we thought it might be difficult to do. Some friends in Escapees mentioned TT as a good source for cheap camping so I did some online research and based on their 30 nights a year free then $3 a night after that, plus the large number of TT parks shown country wide I decided we should go for it.

How did we buy it?
The big thing you should be aware of is that TT sells memberships at their campgrounds and thru booths at RV shows. You can just roll up lay down your money and start camping, but doing it this way is the most expensive way of all! The salesmen are like timeshare or used car sales people. Pretty soon you'll have a membership with all the bells and whistles, longer stays, earlier reservations, more parks to stay at -- and an empty wallet.

There are other ways to get in to TT!
You can find “dealers” who resell “Used” memberships online. They will get you any level of membership much cheaper than you can buy it from a TT itself.
You can buy memberships on E-Bay or on Craigslist (Which is what we did).

How can that be? I hear you ask.

Well TT memberships are transferable FOR A FEE. Remember that when you come to buy one. The fee as I write this is $750. Not cheap but it can be worth it.

This means that you can buy somebody else's membership, pay the fee and off you go. BEWARE though that there are annual dues to pay which as I write this are $590 a year and if you buy a membership that is behind in dues you will have to pay the arrears in order to go camp. 

Provided you have the membership number and the permission of the present owner you can call TT and they will tell you if the dues are paid up and how many parks you can stay at (See the 11/28 update below). Also ask if the 30 days free for that year have been used otherwise you'll be paying $3 a night from day one.
Provided everything is good you can do the transfer online and you will receive a membership card in the mail.

What is it going to cost?
Apart from the transfer fee and the annual dues?
It's a free market out there, obviously the “Dealers” will have their mark up so they will be more expensive but they will also have a  variety of membership levels to choose from.

The factor that affects price is the “Level” of membership.
Let me try and explain that, although I'm not an expert on all the levels and extras. Also they change the names of the levels and the benefits of each level to tempt current owners to move up, so what you buy might be different from what they are selling now!

“Camping Pass”
This is a fairly recent thing to tempt the first time buyers. A Camping Pass allows you to use TT parks in ONE ZONE ONLY there are 3 or 4 zones around the country. Obviously if you live in one of the zones and only camp occasionally then that would be a pretty good deal. From my understanding the pass only lasts a year so you either have to buy a new one each year or move up to a better membership level. You can't sell a Camping Pass if you don't like it.

National Membership.
This is the one we have and so I'm most familiar with it.
This to me is the “Basic” level. With this you get access to parks nationwide, you can stay for 2 weeks in one park and then you have to be out of the TT system for a complete week before you can enter another TT park. You can make reservations 90 days in advance and you can have reservations for 2 holiday weekends on the books.

Update 11/28/17
We went and talked to the salesman at the TT park. What we have apparently is a very OLD membership that includes Naco and another set of parks for 51 parks total. If we had a newer membership it would include all the parks in the system, about 70 total.

This level and the levels above it are transferable.
What this level lacks is access to ALL the parks in the TT system. I'll explain that latter on.

Elite Memberships
If you pay more you can get more.
This level lets you stay 3 weeks before having a week out. You can make reservations 180 days in advance. You can stay at more TT parks.

Update 11/28/17
There are apparently 3 levels in the Elite system.
They all get you 3 weeks in and no week out in between and 120 day advanced reservations.
The top level gets you 4 weeks in and no week out plus 180 day advanced reservations, 2 holiday weekends at a time reserved plus a bunch of frills like cabin rentals, cruise vouchers, 2 years free membership of Resort Parks International and discounts at Encore Parks.

Higher Levels.
I'm not sure how many levels there are and what all the details of in/out are but some of the things I've seen are “Platinum” memberships that eliminate the one week out and the restriction on the number of holiday weekends you can reserve, and lets you camp at even more TT parks.. Obviously these are more expensive again.

Update 11/28/17
I now believe these higher levels are the Elite levels.

TT Parks your membership gives you access to.
Our “National” membership includes a book of their campgrounds and access to the Thousand Trails website (https://www.thousandtrails.com/) where we can make reservations. 

We have looked in the book and found TT parks which didn't show up on the website! The first couple of times this happened we got very annoyed and called the customer service people to express our feelings. They then explained that not all membership levels can access all the parks. (That's how they get you to buy the higher more expensive memberships). If we wanted they would sell us an upgrade to Elite level, but otherwise we were stuck with what showed up on the website. How does the website know your level? Easy you have to log in using your membership number to make reservations!

In addition to the original TT parks the parent corporation over the years bought out rival camping organizations. Higher levels give you access to those too. You may see an ad saying “Access to Naca Parks” or something similar. This is the clue that you will have more choices.

Update 11/28/17
Apparently only old memberships have these other parks listed because now they are all just TT parks. It's the number of parks you have access to that's important not the names of the old parks. Look for access to 60 or more parks. Ask TT when you check up on the membership before purchase.

On top of this there is a group of TT related parks called “Encore” parks. These are supposed to be higher end parks in more desirabe locations that are open to the public and to TT members. BEWARE though that these are not included in the “Free” nights in your membership. 

You do get a discount using your TT card but we have found we get a better discount using Passport America (http://www.passport-america.com). They also tend to hide a “Resort Fee” in your bill where they charge you $4 a night for the “Resort Facilities” like a pool and a hot tub. In one crummy Encore park in Yuma the pool was 8 feet square and the Hot Tub had been broken for a long time.

Our buying experience.
When I started looking for a membership I searched on the local Craigslist in San Diego and the surrounding areas. There are several TT parks within 150 miles of there so TT is pretty common there. Obviously the more parks there are near you the better chance you will have of finding a membership for sale locally.

I found several for sale ranging from $1000 to over $3000. I wasn't aware of all the extra levels and what they meant and didn't want to jump in with both feet in case we didn't like it. After a week or so of looking I saw one pop up for $500 in LA. I immediately called the number and made an appointment to see the lady selling it.

Her story was pretty typical. She and her husband bought an RV they thought they'd use all the time, they visited an RV show and were offered a weekends free camping at a TT park if they sat thru a sales pitch. They liked that park and bought in. They never used the RV after the first couple of times and were stuck paying annual dues to TT so they heard they could sell their membership and get rid of the dues. 

We agreed to buy it pending confirmation of the dues being paid up to date. She gave me the membership number and permission to talk with TT direct and we did the deal. Better yet the 30 days free camping hadn't been used for that year so we immediately started camping and exploring the local TT parks.

Of course “Free” isn't really “FREE” at all. Our purchase price was very low, in fact we've never seen another one for sale for $500, although we have met people who were given an unwanted membership free by friends or relatives. The $750 dollar transfer fee is a one time thing but the $525 annul dues are ongoing and subject to increase at TT's pleasure, EXCEPT that one of the sales ploys for getting you to upgrade your membership is they may freeze your dues at your current cost.

So say that you buy a membership and use it for 10 years, camping the free 30 days per year. What does it cost a night in reality?
Purchase Price --- $500
Transfer Fee ------$750
10 years dues ----$5250
Divided by 300 nights
Average cost------$21/night

If we sell the membership at the end of all that for what we paid for it the cost comes down to $20 a night.

Camping more than 30 nights a year costs $3 a night so the more you camp the cheaper it gets.

So unless you like a particular resort TT isn't that much of a bargain. In fact if you buy in at the park's very much higher prices, it's more expensive. 

We have no difficulty keeping our average camping costs below $25 a night even without using TT.

Actually that calculation just shocked me! I was thinking TT was averaging about $15 a night.

Pro's and Cons.
The ability to make reservations up to 90 days in advance in a variety of parks around the country.
The ability to change those reservations online at any time WITHOUT PENALTIES.
Video tours of the parks as part of the reservation system.
Excellent facilities such as pools, rec halls, indoor and outdoor games, kids activities.
There is no restriction on age or condition of RV's entering
Private membership parks with gates and ranger patrols.
Great facilities for families with kids.

A few parks are pretty run down
There is no restriction on age or condition of RV's entering.
Some parks are VERY busy
Some parks may have limited Full Hookup sites.
You can't reserve particular sites, it's first come first served until the park fills up.
You have to leave after 2 weeks
They aren't in the central area of the country.
Some TT parks have become Encore parks taking them out of the “Free” stays.
The annual dues keep going up.
If you don't like kids running around you are in the wrong place.

I'm writing this sitting in Pio Pico outside San Diego. We've been using TT for 3 years 2 ½ of which have been as Fulltimers. Here are some impressions of TT parks we've stayed at or driven by because we didn't want to use them.

TT Parks we have stayed at

Pio Pico.
This is a very large park close to San Diego and very busy. Being in the desert it gets very dusty and hot in the summer (It's Thanksgiving here in 2 days and the weather forecast is predicting 95 degrees!).

Pio Pico is divided into 2 sections by Otay Lakes Road. One side has all the facilities and full hookups. It fills up very fast in peak periods and you get to experience the other side which has partial hookups only and few facilities. If you want to use the pool etc you have to cross a fairly busy road.
Very little of the park has cell phone reception or TV reception. Experienced campers know where the best areas are and grab them first.

There is a well established system for moving from the "bad" side to the good side. Called the “Cross Over List” this system allows you to put your name on a waiting list for sites that free up the next day, each name is written down in order of arrival. At 8am they post which sites will be available and you can go and look at them before the actual drawing time of 9am. 

At 9am the ranger at the front gate gets the list and calls out the name of the person on the top of that list. That person can choose which site they would like , or if none are to their liking they can “Defer” their name to the top of the next days list. The ranger reads the next name and they choose, until all the sites are gone or all the names have been read, after which anyone arriving after the draw can just pull in to an empty space. Each “Winner” is given a special sign to put on their new space so nobody else can pull in while they are moving their rig.

Of course if the park isn't full you can just pull in, but that doesn't happen too often at weekends here.

At first this seems awkward and unfair, but in reality with this park being as busy as it is, it works. Once you get the hang of it, using the list and the ability to defer you can usually get what you want before it's time to use the dump station on the bad side.

Pio Pico is pretty old and worn. They get, and stay, incredibly busy because everyone wants to visit San Diego and the commercial parks and County Parks are expensive and full.

Some of the “Inhabitants” of the park are not people I would want for friends and because there is no restriction on age or condition of vehicles some rigs are very rough. Our rig is over 10 years old but we keep it tidy and maintained.

A home made trailer at Pio Pico
Because we've used Pio Pico so much we may have a jaundiced eye, but we do like the adult section with its own adult only pool and a separate family area with a large family pool. There is lot to do and lots of equipment for doing it. There is a large rec hall and even a restaurant at the gate. It's a good facility for families.

Oakzanita Springs.
Another TT park near San Diego, not as big as Pio Pico. We went once and swore never to go back, there wasn't a space available we could get our 36' rig into. The few large ones were taken and the rest were very uneven. There was no cell or TV signal to be found.

This park is about the size of Pio Pico and being near Disney gets very busy especially in the winter when the “Snowbirds” come from the north. Nice facilities and grass everywhere, we liked the park but the desk personnel could use some “People Skills” from our experiences there. The park isn't actually IN Orlando but in Clermont near Kissimmee.

 Peace River
We decided to look at this park before making reservations because our RV club has it's own park nearby. After driving by we decided not to stay as the park is close to a busy road and there didn't appear to be a fence or any screens between the park and that road. We were told that this park is notorious for flooding if there is a big thunderstorm. We didn't stay there so this is hearsay.

Medina Lake
Right on the lake in pretty Texas hill country, lots of facilities, Deep in the woods with overhanging trees in need of trimming back when we were there.

Kenisee Lake
We loved this one, nice spaces and 3 lakes to fish in without a license, I spent several happy hours catching small mouth and large mouth bass.
Labor Day Parade at Kenisse Lake

Chesapeake Bay
We loved this park too, very picturesque, right on the river.

Chesapeake Bay right on the river
We wanted to stay here but it's not one of the parks our membership lets us use.

Encore Parks we have stayed at,

Araby Acres. We arrived in July and it was shut down for the summer as are most parks in Yuma. There was an honor system where you dropped an envelope in a box. Looked like a nice park with wide sites and some shade.

Cactus Gardens
A small and busy place when we visited in the winter, we used Passport America to get a better rate that we would have got with TT. We wouldn't stay there again.

Foothills Village
Describes itself as a “Resort”. They charge you $4 a day for  "resort fees". Dusty very tight spaces in a park right next to I8 with all the traffic noise. The “Rec Hall” is tiny and the pool was about 8' square! The hot tub apparently hadn't worked in months. Even using Passport America this was a rip off.
After staying here we have avoided Encore Parks ever since.

Obviously we have stayed at only a few of the many TT and Encore parks and we feel that we've had reasonable value for money as  typically we stay for more than the 30 “Free” days. Having redone the math on what it really costs we may consider using our membership more and selling our membership next time the annual dues go up.