Recently, while waiting in the business’ reception area, I had a conversation with a young lady who was manning the desk and phones about our RV lifestyle. Guessing, she had to be in her mid to late 20’s, single, no kids and full of life and aspiration gathering from our conversation. She seemed genuinely interested in our lifestyle.
Strangely, we didn’t really know what to expect once we pulled our fifth wheel out of that small Kentucky town. I guess you could say we had visions of visiting everything under the sun, cleverly writing postcards like Hemingway, going out everyday sampling local cuisines and wine tastings, sightseeing every inch of every State, etc. e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y! I mean, that’s the stereotype or perception of what full-time RVers do, right? Continue reading “Our 10 Challenges about RVing”
We recently wrote a blog piece 10 Things we should have known before going full-time. It was our list of challenges we have faced since full-time RVing. We hope that didn’t scare those of you who are contemplating this lifestyle. Though being brutally honest, we hope it saves future RVer’s sanity or helps to better prepare them, then that piece was worth sharing. We certainly don’t want to be a downer. Ya just gotta see the grit and dirt. We get asked a lot about full-timing and the romance of it but sometimes that may obscure the real deal. So, take that for what it was intended. Nothing is all puffy clouds and rainbows; RVing included.
Okay, now that we got THAT out of the way…
We’ve come up with our own list of Why RVership is Better than Homeownership. This is a fun list we put together for your enjoyment and perhaps may be that nudge you need to push yourselves over the edge into selling it all to go on the road.
1) LAWNSCAPING – We hope we never have to pull the cord to a lawn mower ever again…or firing up a chain saw or weed wacker. Our dreams of never having to pick up a shovel to dig holes to plant things or worry about our hard-worked gardens and lawns drying up in the heat of the summer have come true. Admittedly though, it is fun to sit in our chairs outside with our cold beverages while watching others do it. That said, we aren’t total jerks; we always offer a cold bottle of water or ice tea to them as they painstakingly do their chores. Sorry…not sorry!
Our water garden (we built) at our former sticks & bricks home. Though it was beautiful and serene, it required maintenance. Now we enjoy gardens without ever having to pull a weed or water.
2) ALL DAY HOUSECLEANING – Never do we miss a day of taking three days to thoroughly clean our former 3600 square foot home. NOPE! No more lugging that big monster Kenmore vacuum up and down the stairs, dusting four bedrooms, laundering curtains and washing window, organizing the never-ending craft room mess, scrubbing floors, and constantly wiping knicknacks and wall art. It always seemed to be endless chore after chore. Now, we can have the bed made, dishes done, bathroom cleaned, deck swabbed, pillows fluffed, lateral surfaces dusted, etc. all in the course of…*drum roll*…ONE HOUR. Can you imagine? Our 380ish square foot 5th wheel doesn’t need massive cleanings anyways because we always keep it clean and picked up. We have to or we’ll trip over it.
3) COLLECTING STUFF/CLUTTER – We simply can’t be collectors of stuff anymore. We don’t have the room and we have to be mindful of our weight. Every few months, we purge. If its not been used since the last purging, out it goes. We buy ‘disposable’ holiday decorations. When the holiday is over, ‘out, out damn spot!’ If its good useable stuff, we usually put things in the RV park or campground laundry rooms. Two or three hours later, we’ll notice its gone which means others enjoy our givings. If they are big things or clothes, we’ll donate or pass them on. Our choice donation centers are on military posts/bases where young military families can get our contributions for nearly nothing.
4) HOUSEFUL OF FURNITURE – When buying an RV, it comes completely outfitted with furniture and even decor. Sure, we’ve picked up a couple pieces of small basket holders and purchased a better mattress but that’s it. We have a couple photo frames and two small table lamps. We may pick up a piece or two of wall art but when we put up the new, out goes the old. We usually buy less expensive decor so we don’t feel bad about getting rid of it when its time.
We still can’t believe ‘all’ the furniture we had in that huge house!
5) PAYING REAL ESTATE TAX – While some may this might seem selfish, it’s not. We paid dearly for years while we owned three homes at different duty station locations. Don’t think we get off scott free; we still pay federal tax on Dan’s military pension and our contract work, sales tax on purchases, taxes on fuel and road tolls, and truck/RV/motorcycle registrations but we don’t miss having to set aside upwards to hundreds a month for real estate taxes…a savings of about $4000/year (seriously!).
6) SHOVELING SNOW – NOPE!! We prefer consistent 70’s and 80’s but unless we’re in Cabo San Luca, that’s not going to happen. We have been bit by cold snaps a few times so we’ve quickly looked at our map’s latitude lines and told each other, ‘let’s head for better weather!’ Once in awhile we have to run our furnace…and we hate it!
7) OBNOXIOUS CABLE BILLS – Some RVers have Direct TV or Dish Network. We prefer not to. For fun watching, we subscribe to Netflix or Hulu for occasional movies and we have a case full of DVD movies or we swap-borrow. If an RV park or resort has cable tv in their hookups that’s part of their rate, fine but we won’t pay extra just to have it. Its not important to us. In fact, all of January and most of February, we’ve not even turned the television on. We went hiking, walking, sightseeing, played cards, visited friends, and just enjoyed the other things. You can’t believe how liberating it was not having to watch the elections leading up to the Presidential Inauguration.
8) WASTING FOOD – Rarely do we throw food away because simply, we don’t have the room for two loaves of bread and bagels, numerous boxes of crackers, etc. We don’t do a monthly grocery shopping anymore or bulk shopping at Costco or Sam’s. We plan out our meals each week and shop for those provisions accordingly. We don’t cook for an Army (er…Coast Guard) anymore; its just us and perhaps a couple more servings for leftovers for lunch the next day unless we’re entertaining.
9) JUNK MAIL – We don’t get bills in the mail because we ‘went paperless’. Not only are we conservation-minded, we have more time to do the things instead of opening mail, putting it in a pile, sorting and shredding it. To read about how we handle our physical mail, read our blog piece You’ve Got Mail.
10) SAME BACKYARD – Seriously, with our nomadic life, our aft picture window views change frequently. Sometimes we have the beach or mountains, and other times we have the forest or desert. Our neighbors change also; if it’s not us that’s relocating, its them. If we end up with boring scenery, we hitch up Liberty and find something better to look at or interesting places to go. Even Krissie and Kandi, our nomad cats, enjoy seeing different views.
As you have just read, while it may sound like we’ve gotten lazy, we have not. We fill our time with exciting activities like hiking, ADV motorcycle riding, visiting friends and family, playing tourist, blogging, writing, jewelry making, etc. We even volunteer sometimes! We keep busy. Our days still start early (just kidding!) and our nights…well, we don’t have set bedtimes anymore either. What’s funny though…it may seem like we have all the time in the world, we manage to live one moment at a time. We now have time to really ‘stop and smell the roses’. We’ve learned how to LIVE and enjoy it living in an RV instead of a big McMansion.
The day before Thanksgiving 2014, we signed papers and handed over our keys of our home, one shell-shocking question hit us like a ton of bricks…the one question we hadn’t thought of during all the selling, minimizing, and prepping for our RV travels…
How will we meet people and forge friendships?
Being we are both fairly outgoing, we kind of let our own personalities take the reigns. We’re not new at this game. As a military family for 30+ years, it’s the life we’re accustomed to so, you could say this comes a little easier for us. Through our experiences so far, we thought we’d share our list that future or new(er) RVers who struggle with ‘getting out there’ can build their amazing relationships, have fat address books and look forward to reunions after.
1) SMILE & WAVE – Bees are attracted to sweetness, right? It’s a no brainer, we all are drawn to happy people. When we are in a new location, we smile in hopes that we get noticed as ‘those happy people in the big Landmark’ (our identity at parks). Don’t be that grumpy one that looks the other way or grumbles as others wave to you. Be approachable! Strike up conversation while walking your cat (or dog), polishing your coach or lounging by the campfire. For what it’s worth, IT WORKS! Try it, you’ll see.
2) INVITE – When we have or are planning a campfire, outdoor TV game or just sitting out for cocktails, we love for others to drag their camp chairs and cocktails over to sit with us. Okay, so you may like the rival team…we can drink to that! We’ve also been invited over ourselves and of those, we’ve become lifelong friends. In other words, don’t be shy. The worst they are going to do is decline. If they do, suggest the next day. If they decline again, it’s their loss.
Our Marine Corps friends, Ed & Gail whom we met at Malmouth AFB in 2016 and met up with again at Gila Bend, AZ in early 2017.
3) PARK & RESORT ACTIVITIES – So, you’ve just pulled in, parked and set up with your chairs and carpet out. Now you’re wondering, “what next”. “Oh look, a pickle ball court!”, “Hey, they have two pools and a jacuzzi!”, “Wow, they have Wednesday night dinners in the club house!”. Come on! Don’t sit inside and watch tv. Go out and meet people! Aren’t the activities the reason for staying at these places. You pay for it so use what you’ve paid for.
4) PLAN & SHARE OUTINGS – You’ve noticed the decals all over your neighbor’s car roof carrier and they’re screaming, “we’re hikers”. Invite them over for a cold beverage and ask if they know where the best hikes are. I bet soon, you’ll be hiking together even if it’s just a short one to grasp each other’s level. On another note, you notice the “I love my Labs” sign in an RV window and you have Labs too. Go see if they want to walk your pups together. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. We always ask the one’s who’ve been there for awhile where the best eats are and oftentimes, end up going to dinner or lunch with them. Oh yes, and ask to borrow that cup of sugar. We’ve met the coolest RV peeps doing this.
Hiking with our friends “Timily” (Tim & Emily) from OwnLessDoMore at Red Rock Canyon in Nevada
5) ATTEND RV CLUB RALLIES, CONVERGENCES & SHOWS – Join your RV manufacturer owner’s club and other RV clubs like Escapees, Family Motor Coach Association, etc. We are members of Heartland Owners Club and Xscapers and Escapees. This is where we meet a lot of our friends. We tend to break off into different ‘interest groups’ (ie. favorite type diners, ADV/motorcyclists, RZR or Jeepers, etc.). At the Xscapers Quartzsite Convergence 2017, we organized an ADV Ride with others who also ride. We had a blast! Now we are Facebook friends with a couple.
For a comprehensive listing of RV Clubs and Associations, visit RV-Camping’s site HERE.
Xscaper ADV Riders at Quartzsite 2017
6) SOCIAL MEDIA – Before we started RVing, we joined about a half dozen RV groups on Facebook. For the first few months, we just read, listened and learned. Then, once we bought our toyhauler, we were making friends on Facebook and be messaging where we could meet up. We started following others blogs and communicated where the best places to go are. We learn so much from each other. Our Facebook page is…drum roll…Always On Liberty if you wish to follow us too!
Networking with on Facebook for over 2 years, we finally met in person RV Outlawz buds Denny & Veronica
7) GO SEE OLD FRIENDS & FAMILY – Because they’re going to have two friends and those two friends will have two friends, and so on and so on! We went to San Antonio to meet up with our Army comrades, Leon and Barb. We met a whole bunch of their Army friends and soon after, we all ‘went to the ball’. Now, we visit with several friends who live in San Antonio each time we go back. Our schedule is always full there…all because, “they had two friends…”
Even WE got to go to the Ball! U.S. Army MedCom Ball 2015
8) TRAVEL CARDS – After you’ve traveled a bit, you’ll notice others have these cool looking business cards we call Travel Cards. We exchange them like kids exchange baseball cards. We have a business card small file book that we keep them in. We write on the backs where we met them, date and type of RV so it rings our noggins a year or so down the road. If you don’t have them, get them!! Even if you don’t have a blog, simple contact information is all you need. For ours, we don’t list our phone number(s) or address. That’s a personal choice.
So, as you see, making friends is not hard to do when you RV full-time. In fact, the more you travel, the more friends you’ll make and the more destinations you have later for reunions! Before you know it, you’ll be making plans with friends to caravan or meet at new destinations.
When it comes to trip and destination planning, its a tedious job. Its probably the hardest thing we endure in our travels. Extensive research and considerations are made before we actually make a reservation at a campground, RV park or resort.
One of the most frequented questions we are asked is ‘how do you decide where you’re going to park?’
That’s a good question, because really, there’s no simple answer. We will tell you that in our year and a half OTR (on the road), we’ve learned what works for us and what works for us may or may not work for others who we follow or who follow us. As well, what works at one location may not work for another location. There are so many variables that makes our choosing a bit of a task; it takes considerable research. Admittedly, it can be a little stressful in our planning.
1) SIZE MATTERS!
No really! Joking aside, its probably THE most important issue we contend with when considering a reservation or where we moor. Liberty is 42′ (actually 41′ 6″ but who’s counting, right?) and Captain America (our dually truck) is about 20′ and we now have an 8′ Idaho Tote extension off the back of our coach. So ‘hooked up’, we are 70′. We need space to maneuver to hook, unhook and wiggle ourselves into our site. Typically, to reach our comfort zone, we ask for sites at least 85′ or longer; the more the merrier.
Liberty fully hooked up and ready for the road.
Our leveling jacks and wood blocks not only protects the site surface but also helps reduce shake or instability due to full jack extension.
That said though, if no pull-through sites are available and/or we opt for a back-in site, we can try have our back wheel of our coach on the edge of the concrete or gravel site pad depending on other contingencies (read on). There are times though, campground/park/resort owners will not allow our auto leveling jacks sit on 10″x10″ blocks to sit on the grass aft of the site. As well, if we backed our back coach tires to the most rear of our site, this may not allow proper placement of our utility hookups (electric, water & sewer). That would put our aft leveling jack pads & blocks on the grass which most park and resort owners disapprove of because of landscaping. If we opt for a back-in site, we unload our toys from our Idaho Tote prior to pulling in. Now, not only our length is a determining factor, we also consider site width. When we park, we certainly don’t want to have our coach entry door and steps out into the grass, dirt or mud. Nor do we appreciate ‘tight’ spacing where literally, our awnings touch the coach next to us. That’s too close for our comfort. Most parks or resorts have enough site width to include a small patio with methodical placement of where ‘most’ coach doors ‘would’ be however, depending on the age of the facility or site planning, that’s not always the case. Our width during tow with slides in is 8′ however, when fully set up, our slides add another 4-5′ so typically, we need a site at least 15′ wide or wider. Again, the more the merrier. Older campgrounds, parks and resorts may have been surveyed and designed with narrower sites back before slide-out concepts appeared on RV’s.
Here’s a good example of tree issue. The big front tree doesn’t affect Liberty, however, the rear awning over the slide out cannot be fully extended because of tree branches that hinder extending and retracting.
Then there’s the issue of trees and obstacles (ie. permanent grills, poles, concrete or wood parking barriers, etc.). A lot of older parks or campgrounds may have nice shade trees and think they are doing you a favor however, if they are too close and not pruned or cut back, we run the risk of scratches on our full body paint and slide-outs or awnings being hindered from full operation of extending or retracting. Trees can be a double edged sword for us. Yes, they protect from wind and shade from hot sun, they also can be damaging to our coach.
Older campgrounds, parks and resorts have been surveyed and setup for smaller campers (ie. under 36′), so door placements are quite different than many of the bigger rigs. As well, there’s a difference between entrances of a Class A Motorhome than a 5’er or travel trailer. Most times, entrances to Motorhomes are near the front of the coach with 5’er and travel trailer more centered.
2) PAVED vs. GRAVEL vs. DIRT vs. GRASS:
We try to avoid dirt sites the best we can. Personally, just the idea of tracking in dirt constantly or wind blowing dirt around isn’t our forte’. It’s a choice most don’t mind however, we are finicky. We just put dirt sites last on our list. Nothing worse than the Captain having to go out after a torrential rainstorm to clean up what has splashed up all over the coach and her underbelly…and Captain America (our dually). Grass sites aren’t as bad however, we have to deal with mounds and leveling issues. Not forgetting to mention, critters tend to hide in the grass which can result in a short journey up to our rig in places we wouldn’t think of them entering. Gravel is ‘ok’; prefer finer gravel vs. larger chip stone because finer gravel allows our leveling jacks to settle better and more evenly. We noticed we get less shake. So, paved sites are ideal for us but not a deal breaker if they’re not. Its cleaner and nicer. You can ‘see’ things on the ground (ie. creepy crawlies, etc.) Also, you can store a few things under your coach and not worry about ‘things’ making homes around them as opposed to being on dirt or gravel.
Liberty on a ‘paved’ and level site on Galveston Island, Texas
3) LEVEL…KEEPING LIBERTY ON AN EVEN KEEL:
This is hugely important when parking. Yes, we are gifted with a 6-point hydraulic auto-leveling system and it’s awesome! With a push of the button, Liberty automatically levels itself giving us a message beep when its completed its leveling process. ‘Usually’, its right on within a degree or two. Sometimes though, we have to override the leveling system manually to get it to our liking. Nothing like trying to cook soups or having your peas roll off our plates because were not as level as we thought; kind of like being on a yacht…or a ship…or a boat…or a canoe. You get the picture. We can tell if Liberty is off a degree or two just by how cabinet doors and drawers close. We are now skilled by eye and feel when our coach is off a couple degrees. Captain Dan has this wonderful CLINOMETER app on his phone that he pulls up and places it on the floor if we feel ‘not level’. We always ask parks and resorts how level their sites are when making reservations. Nothing is more unnerving than having part of our site level with a slope or crowning which makes hooking and unhooking frustrating.
Ha! Boy did we learn our lesson on this one after our first few parking experiences. We would get all cocky thinking we were all set and unhook…well, that was until we start to put our slides out only to see that we were inches from the water spigot or the electric box or couldn’t extend fully. So, we’d have to button it all up and reposition Liberty. Placement of Liberty on a site is contingent on where the utilities are, where our slides coincide when extended and our entry steps. Again, older outdated facilities are more than likely to give us issues because back when they built and configured their campground in the 1940’s, slide-outs didn’t exist. Our electric on our toyhauler was mid-coach but on current Liberty, our electric cord is aft. We now have an extension if we find ourselves in a predicament of odd electrical box placement.
5) WiFi CONNECTIVITY:
WiFi connectivity is extremely important to us. We’ve learned not to depend on their ‘free’ WiFi (*eye roll*); most times is weak at best to nonexistent. Nothing is ‘free’. You always get folks who take more than they should and stream videos or movies leaving the rest of us out of connectivity. So, we need for our own service providers give us data coverage. We have an AT&T hotspot with 40 GB monthly data which we use mostly for Lisa’s work and trip/destination planning and a smaller data bank with Verizon for a backup in case AT&T doesn’t work and for keeping connectivity with family and friends and for leisure. For some RVers who work OTR, that’s a very small data plan; we know others who use upwards to 500 GB per month *GASP*. We have been in areas where neither work; mostly and coincidentally at military bases/posts. We think it has something to do with communication jamming because campgrounds on military bases/posts are usually near air command facilities. Its at those places where we concentrate less on internet and more on going out and doing things. We can always catch up later.
So, there’s the five things we research prior to making a reservation. Those are the necessities. Now that we’ve discussed all that, let’s now talk about our destination planning.
We usually sit together over morning coffee or campfire cocktail and talk about places that interest us (ie. National Parks, great hiking places, friends and family we wish to visit, etc.) Then on trip/destination planning day, we set up our table with laptop, IPad, and both of our cellphones, our road atlas, calendar book, two pencils, two pair of reader glasses and a couple books. This is when we need good connectivity.
We open our laptop up to a website called ‘RV Park Reviews‘ which is a compilation of campground and park reviews of fellow RVers. We rely on their reviews however, they also are ‘opinions’, so we take those into consideration. We also belong to several online forums and network with RVers with ‘like-minded interests’, standards and coach size/requirements. We all keep our own notes and those of us who blog, have our own RV Park Reviews section that we all can resort to; thus, we open a window to their blog or website. We also will open a window or two of potential park or resorts we’ve narrowed down to look at their rates, park site map, rules and other essentials.
We open our IPad to Google Earth. This is an incredible tool for not only locating the park and seeing its location in relation to the roads leading to it but also the park/resort site layout, obstructions, how many trees, close approximities to neighboring sites, how wide roads leading into sites, etc.
We use our phones to check out our interests (ie. National Parks, historic sites, hiking adventures, etc.) on Facebook groups (ie. RV 5th Wheels, Full-Time RVers, etc.) which we will post our queries on Facebook groups. In a matter of minutes, we oftentimes get our answers which is wonderful…and we reciprocate. Its called ‘networking’ and it works. We ask ourselves, ‘how on earth did RVers do it before the internet?’
While one of us is looking up the location we want as a destination, the other will research the park/resort reviews and Google Earth it to make certain of accessibility. We work as a team. Once we narrow down our choices, we make our phone calls to check availability. We have learned, to ALWAYS nail down reservations for holidays well in advance (ie. Memorial Day weekend, July 4th weekend, Labor Day weekend, etc.); sometimes even 6-12 months in advance. We’ve learned the hard way in regards to that subject…which…is a very SORE subject between ourselves and vowed never to leave ourselves without a place to go.
Once we’ve made our phone call and made a concrete reservation, we enter the information in our paper date book. Yeah, call us ‘old school’ but its what works for us. Other’s do it electronically but we like to have a datebook where we can pull it out at moment’s notice and see where we will be, when and for how long. We use highlighters to differentiate reservations. We make notes of the campground/park/resort, phone number, address, confirmation from whom we spoke with, and our total amount. Most places require a credit card to make the reservation and some don’t. For one or two night reservations, we pay cash (and tell them) and longer term, we pay via credit card. We always read the fine print of what the penalty is if we have to cancel a reservation or arrive later due to weather, RV or vehicle repairs or other unforeseen events.
When we arrive at our destination, I always have in hand a) our datebook, b) credit card or cash, c) any discount card (ie. military ID, Good Sam, Passport America, KOA, etc.) and good manners, a smile and patience. Once checked in, we go park; sometimes escorted by staff or volunteers but most times, we do it on our own. We NEVER allow anyone else other than ourselves to direct whomever is driving into our site. We work very well together with hand signals and commands. When we get positioned correctly, we unhook, level up, and plugs into electricity. Captain Dan puts out our yard art, puts up our flagpole, awnings out (if its not windy), outdoor carpet, grill, firepit and outdoor chairs while Lisa puts the slides out, checks for water leaks when Dan hooks up the water, and pretties up the inside and VOILA!
Welcome to our blog! I guess this means we’re ‘big time’ now. We ask that you all be patient with us as we try out this blogging thing. Unless you’re a internet wizard (which we are not), this doesn’t come easy for us but we’re willing to give it a go.
We’ve read several other RVers blogs and figured we want to do the same.
As I write this entry, we are pleasantly parked at Cheatham Annex Naval Station “Kings Park” near Williamsburg, Virginia. Its a beautiful sunny day outside while I try my hand at blogging ‘inside’ while the Captain is doing outside chores.
So, please be patient as I chance this thing called ‘blogging’.