One year ago today we started our RV road trip through the US. The time has gone by too quickly and we have had a huge mix of fun times, new adventures, stressful times, and just-go-with-the-flow times. We have learned a lot about ourselves, the 5th wheel, the RV lifestyle, and just about living life in the last twelve months. When we first started off, we didn’t know what to expect. Going on this adventure was one of the scariest and most exciting things Brad and I have ever done and we are grateful that we took the chance moving into the 5th wheel and going on this journey. We figure things out as we go along and know that this is something that we want to continue to do.
The biggest roadblock we have hit is with regards to jobs. My photography business is new and hasn’t brought in enough income yet to support this lifestyle, though, that is the goal we are aiming for (along with a book I am working on and an idea that Brad has, too). Remote jobs seem to focus on having a computer degree or trade work experience, which neither Brad nor I have. The sales job that Brad started with when we first hit the road was just ok. Remote sales job are mostly cold calling and after a while, we both got tired of the same line that Brad said over and over day after day.
How are we managing? We’re stopping at places and getting jobs along the way. Even before we started, we were always open to this idea and it has been serving us well. We stop for a few months, get jobs, explore, save money, take a month or so off, and then repeat. Brad is looking into a traveling sales position and other options right now, too. We will just keep doing what we are doing knowing that the right opportunities will be there for us. Everything happens for a reason and we both know that this is just going to make things that much better once we find what works best for us.
Time for the fun part! Below is a list of our top activities and what we have learned. I have enjoyed writing this blog to keep family and friends in touch with what we are up to and I hope you have enjoyed reading the stories!
Our top activities:
• The Catty Shack Big Cat Rescue in Jacksonville, Florida
• Gettysburg in Pennsylvania
• Driving around New Hampshire looking for moose
• Hunting Island in South Carolina
• Jekyll Island in Georgia
• Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the UP (upper peninsula) of Michigan
• Sunrise at Acadia National Park in Maine
What we would go back and redo:
• The New England fall colors. When we were in the East, the fall colors were three weeks behind the normal schedule! Since we had to be out of that area by mid-October due to campgrounds closing, we didn’t get to see the fall colors.
• Moose AVT tour out East.
• See more of Montana and the UP of Michigan.
The top biggest lessons we have learned:
• Stock up on favorite grocery items that we love. Not every town is going to have a Costco or Trader Joes and we might be two months away from seeing another one.
• As best as we can, no food down the sink. No sink disposal + food down the sink = a smelly sink.
• Connect with other RVers. Everyone has a great tip or knows a hidden spot to visit.
• Become Good Sam members. They have a great discount for gear, insurance, roadside assistance, and best of all, an online travel planner.
• Go with the flow. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned and the best way to deal is to just go with it.
What we were most surprised about:
• How more aware we are of other drivers while driving with the 5th wheel. We cannot slow down and speed up quickly so we are always on alert while driving.
• We used to go on road trips and drive fourteen hours in one day. It’s a lot different driving with a 5th wheel and we learned that four to five hours is all we like to drive.
• We like staying at places for longer periods of time. Moving every few days is too rushed and tiring.
• We enjoy living in a smaller place. No yard work, cleaning takes less than thirty minutes, and we have all that we need with us all the time. It’s very liberating.
• We thought as we were driving with the 5th wheel we would make little stops if we saw something interesting. We learned that stops are slow and not easy to do with thirty-six feet of room behind us. We just want to drive to the next location, set up, and then explore.
• The air-conditioning only cools the 5th wheel twenty degrees lower than the outside temperature. That was a wakeup call when we got to Arizona and it’s 110 degrees during the summer. It makes cooking difficult and there is no relaxing in the house between noon and 7:30, the hottest part of the day.
• We knew we would have free time but sometimes it feels like a lot of free time. Somedays we do not want to drive far to see something or in the case of being in Arizona, we cannot do anything outside during the summer. We find activities that are inexpensive or free (like bowling membership, walking around a famous city, going to the dollar theater, using Groupon, etc.).
Our top tips:
• We had multiple keys at first—one for the door, one for the storage area, and one for the truck tool box. We went to http://www.rvlocksandmore.com and got one key for all. Makes the keychain a lot lighter.
• Get long cords and hoses. Being in a campsite and realizing your extension cord is not long enough is not fun. Especially when there are no stores around.
• Give yourself time to get used to the RV lifestyle. It takes time to get used to driving, parking, setting up, leaving a campsite, etc. You will not know it all, you will be slow, and you will figure it out as your go. There is most likely an RV neighbor who will be more than willing to help or answer questions.
• Get dual-paned windows. We didn’t know about them and when we were in South Carolina, there was so much humidity our windows had condensation, which can cause mold and mildew. We now have a huge dehumidifier. We would also suggest getting a four-season RV. We have one and that helped on cold mornings in South Carolina.
What we miss:
• A dishwasher.
• A washer/dryer in the house.
• A real convection oven.
• Having two cars when we are in a place, with one being smaller. The dually is a big truck and we always worry about parking. Especially when we go into a downtown area.
• Weekly get together with friends or family.
What we plan for the future:
• Keep on traveling.
• Keep staying at places longer—a month or so.
RV/Truck fixes and maintenance over the last year:
• Before we took off on our journey, we took the 5th wheel out for a test run. When we tested out using the fresh water tank, the city connection had a leak in the valve. This was under warranty and we were able to get this fixed two days before we left.
• A month or so into our trip, the shower started to leak where the shower door track connects to the shower. We were able to get a fellow camper in Maine who used to run an RV dealership to help fix the issue.
• One time the back stabilizers didn’t work so we had to raise them manually. Gratefully, that has happened only once.
• The fireplace makes a weird noise, but we found a quick fix with cardboard.
• In South Carolina, the fridge was not keeping cool. We called an RV remote repair guy that came out to our campsite. He told us this is common when the fridge is running all the time and is stationary. We learned that since the fridge is not meant to run all the time, the coolant can “freeze up” and cause bubbles. When we were moving all the time, we turned off the fridge, giving the coolant time to settle and move around, breaking up any bubbles. When we’re stationary, it’s a quick fix: a mallet to the back of the fridge.
• Recently, the headboard in our bedroom broke free from the wall. The screws holding in the headboard are stripped and we are on plan C of fixing it.
• Maintenance has been done to the slides of the 5th wheel, spraying the rubber seal every six months and moving them in and back out again once a month if we are staying at a place for a long period of time. We checked the brakes, tires, and had the once a year roof cleaning and resealing done.
• The truck had normal vehicle maintenance: oil change, fuel filter, and air filter change. We have a few scratches on the truck that we are looking into getting buffed out.
Till next time!