Catching Up With… Happy Camper

Catching Up With… Happy Camper

It’s been too long since I’ve been made a concerted effort to blog, so… in sticking with the program of sticking with a program, here’s what’s been going on in our world while we’re Working on Happy…

MuffinWagon Died & Reborn

Ahh… the MuffinWagon™ – Our 10 year old minivan we’ve taken on hundreds of trips for over 100,000 miles — DisneyWorld, Stone Mountain, Washington DC, Nashville, Cocoa Beach, the Everglades, and much much more.  Well, after all that crazy living, the harmonic balancer (whatever in the world THAT is) decided it needed to die.  The rubber gaskety thing that balances harmony got old, vulcanized, and the thing went “kerchunk”. This killed all the power transfer to the air conditioning, power steering, and alternator.  Suddenly the van was SUPER hard to steer, and the battery light came on.

A few months ago, the dealership told us, when we took it in for the “free oil change”, how we were leaking power steering fluid and “any day now” it would just give out and we’d Thelma and Louise right off of a cliff.  They gave us a ludicrous estimate, so I wanted to hold off on that, realizing that while we’d lose the POWER part of the steering, we’d still have steering.  When I took it in to get its harmony balanced, the mechanic said there was no sign of a leak and the power steering fluid was full.  I’ve always been fairly confident that the dealership “free oil change” was just a BS way to get us into grubby mitts and find or make something wrong, and this only reinforces my distrust.

I cleared all of our normal stuff out of the van, loaded up my 10 speed mountain bike, and drove the MuffinWagon into town for repair.  On the way back home, it started raining, and I bailed when driving through what appeared to be a puddle.  That left me with some nice road rash on my shoulder and calf, and a HUGE bruise on my hip and bruised my ribs a bit.  Did I mention “ouch?!”  I got up, screamed a few profanities at the birds nearby, and finished my ride.  Later that evening, they had the diagnosis and an estimate for repair of $850.  I acted alarmed at the price, shouting far fewer profanities than the birds experienced, and asked if they had any sort of discounts available: AAA, AARP, veteran’s… ANYTHING.  After the mechanic hemmed and hawed a little bit, he offered a 5% discount, which with taxes and everything brought the price down to around $800.

The next morning, I pedaled my bruised butt back there and picked it up, after dropping off $800 in their custody to repair and replace said harmonic balancer.  So, now we have one deluxe minivan!  And we ended up paying less to fix an actually broken part than was estimated to fix a leak made up by the dealership.

RV Shopping

In staying in the hotels at client sites over the years, I’ve noticed that no one really has the same standards for cleanliness that I do. Combine this with the opportunity to visit and share some of the better places to live while Working on Happy, Princess Muffins and I have started looking at RV’s.  These accommodations will physically pull us out of the dog-eat-dog rat race of the (sub)urban assault, and give us a chance to be a part of the natural world that we were born a part of.  We spent nearly all day looking at different sizes and configurations.  It looks like we’re going for a 30 foot class A.

We (mostly the Princess) are not that eager to participate in stealth camping, so the fact that the Class A looks like a small tour bus doesn’t matter to her.  I like the fact that it’s 1/10 the size of our house of which we’re barely using 90%.  This will allow us to have a place to stay when our McMansion is sold.  Until then, I can stay in it while working at client sites or en route.

Since the 2018 models have recently come out, it looks like we’ll be able to get a “brand new” 2017 with warranty and everything.  But, as a bonus, we’ll take the first year’s “as soon as it rolls off the lot” depreciation right off of our cost by suffering with last year’s model.

Binging for Delta Miles (aka Triple Stacked Dining Deals)

The past week has been quite an effort for me maximize my dining deals.  Here’s my situation: I get a $40 daily meal allowance.  However, I only get reimbursed for as much as I produce receipts. If I fast all week, no one cares – not a “Thank you for saving us money” or “Did you eat anything?  Are you okay?!”  If I spend $40 a day on lattes, no one bats an eye either way.  So, I’ve been thinking… and that’s when things get crazy… Why not max out the benefit to me, personally!?

So, I’ve been working a deal with Delta SkyMiles Dining and Mogl along with whatever coupons I can muster to get miles, and cash back.  So far I’ve eaten every allocated meal this week at a restaurant that provides both SkyMiles and Mogl cash back.  It’s actually been pretty complicated to line up a relevant establishment for each meal type near where I plan to be at that time, while simultaneously maximizing the Mogl rebate amount.  Of course, I put it on my miles-earning card.  After all of that, I get reimbursed for the amount shown on the receipt.

Just as I was binging myself to death with my $30 dines for the maximum bonus dining miles, I realized it made more sense to do my 12 dines to get to VIP status first, so that my final $30 dine would earn 5x miles per dollar, rather than the mere 3x miles of the bourgeois “online member”.

Here’s how I’m doing so far:

Day Coupon Spend Miles Rebate
7/31 None $25 76 $1.78
8/1 None $30 90 (+500) $2.43
8/2 Free chips from joining mailing list $34 104 (+1000) $2.11
8/3 None $9 27* $1.35*
8/5 $5 Welcome Back $25 N/A $2.03
8/7 AARP 10% discount $7 $0.47
8/7 None $9 $0.59
8/7 None $11 33* $0.75
8/8 None $11 33* $0.66
8/8 None $8 24* $0.58
8/8 None $16 48* $2.38
* Award not yet received, but estimated

Overall, it’s actually been difficult for me to spend all $40 every day.  It’s a bit like Brewster’s Millions with food.   I figure I have an annual food budget of about $10k.  If I spend all of it, I get 50,000 bonus miles a year.  If I get an average rebate rate of 10% from Mogl, that mean $1,000 rebated to my credit card every year.

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Photo Credits

One of my key aspirations is to express my creativity through capturing the beauty of nature through photography and videography.  All of the photos on this site were taken by me, The Happy Camper.


Because my wife and I still work for our wage slave masters, while I viciously attack the concept of such servitude in this medium, I will use a pen name and refrain from being directly visible in any of the photos or videos.  This is because “the man” isn’t terribly interested in having people work for them who aren’t in it for the “long haul.”  Just as companies can fire someone when it’s right for them, I reserve the right to quit my job when it’s right for me, and would prefer not to gain any unwanted attention from the overlords until then.

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