Our six month anniversary of full time RV living has come and gone. For the first couple months on the road, I would wake up on the 6th of each month and announce that it was our whatever month anniversary of living in the RV and we would toast the day with our coffee or beer. But by November 6th, our 6 month anniversary of full time travel, we were no longer keeping track of dates or number of days/weeks/months on the road.
On November 6th, we woke up early, hitched up Babs, began our longest drive to date-from Pepin, WI to Bloomington, IN. We had just completed a 6 week workamping job at a winery in Pepin, Wisconsin and were heading back to Indiana to visit family for Thanksgiving. Hitching up the RV only took us a few minutes, I had all of the breakables put away and secured, we had full propane tanks, an empty gray tank, and coffee ready for the long drive. As we prepared to leave, we did our customary walk around the RV to make sure all doors were locked and the brake lights and turn signals were working properly. This all took us less than an hour and then we hit the road. This may seem like no big deal but when comparing it to our first month on the road, when we had absolutely zero RVing experience, this is big progress.
So now, a week later, I decided I should jot down some thoughts about our six month adventure thus far. Some things we've learned, big and small...
Again, let me point out that we had no RVing experience when we left so things that are common sense to most people that grew up taking RV trips with their family or who use one for fishing or hunting on weekends in the summer, were just completely new to us.
1. Secure your breakable shit. Duh, right? It seems simple and it is but until you've towed your rig a few times, you don't know the best ways to pack it up when it's time to move. I've learned to remove a few of my framed items off the walls. I've learned that the items in the fridge must be secured-I learned this by opening the fridge and having an avalanche of food items fall on me, including a dozen eggs. I've learned that plants must be extra secure or you'll find a potting soil tornado has flown through your Rv while you were driving. After a while, this all gets easier because it becomes a routine. I still make mistakes-I left the dog food and water bowl on the floor during our last drive and miraculously, they were still in place when we parked but for the most part, we have way less surprises when we open the door after a long drive.
2. Speaking of long drives-travel days are exhausting. We learned quickly that we can only comfortably drive a maximum of about 4-5 hours per day. And really, that “4 hour” trip can turn into 5-8 hours depending on road conditions, potty breaks for Jane, and truck break-downs. So on travel days we try to have easy meals in the fridge and nothing on the agenda for when we reach our destination for the night. We've learned to be gentle to each other on travel days. We basically have a total forgiveness policy for whatever we may say to each other when we’re parking the RV and just on travel days in general. Parking the RV can be stressful. Most spaces haven’t been too bad -we can just throw a few levelers under the tires and we’re good but other times….other times you’re tired and cranky and it’s super hot outside and neither of you really knows what you’re doing and you don’t have walkie-talkies or pre-determined hand-signals and you just want to murder each other. Thankfully, Al doesn’t hold a grudge so he’s agreed to the total forgiveness policy even though I’m usually the one that’s yelling obscenities at him and then apologizing later. It works out.
2. We prefer boondocking over all other styles of camping. When we began this adventure, we remodeled Babs with the intention of staying off grid as much as possible and we are so glad we did. Our solar panels and composting toilet have allowed us to stay on beautiful public lands, with no neighbors, and at no cost for up to two weeks at a time. When we workamped last month, a full hook-up site was included in our compensation package and it felt pretty luxurious to have unlimited water and unlimited electricity but there's no way I'd trade the convenience of full hook-up campsites for the independence and beauty of free camping in national forests and BLM lands.
3. We've become more observant and grateful for everyday conveniences we've taken for granted most of our lives. Some examples: truck stops-when you're just getting gas, you don't realize that these places are amazing-gas, auto parts, food, showers, clean restrooms, postal services, sometimes fresh water or a dump station. In some stretches of the country, truck stops are an oasis of modern convenience after a desert of small town 1970's gas stations that can barely fit our big rig and only sell cigarettes, pop, chips and candy. Another example-libraries. I haven't appreciated libraries this much since I was a child. They're quiet, have free wifi and you can stay for hours without spending a dime. When you're camped off-grid with no cell service or wi-fi, libraries are priceless. Also-post offices. Great for mailing postcards to family back home but also a place to have deliveries sent when you don't have an address. We often ship Amazon items to the local post office in whatever town we're near and then just pick it up. This has saved us when we need hard to find auto parts or supplies for our composting toilet. The list can go on and on-towns with easy to locate recycling centers, grocery stores with water refill stations so we can easily fill our jugs, places that are dog-friendly so we don't have to leave Jane in the RV, the point is- we just notice the basics more. When we roll into a new area, we make note of the little conveniences that we'll need and appreciate during our visit. It forces you to notice more of your surroundings and be excited when you find small things that will make life on the road a little easier.
4. We love small space living. I know (by the questions we get asked) that this is a thing many people find unattractive about our journey. The space seems way too small and being with one other person in such close quarters sounds like a nightmare. For us, it's just not. Our 34-foot fifth wheel is plenty big enough for us. We have storage space and room to move. For alone time, one of us can be in the bedroom while the other is in the living room. We do get on each other's nerves sometimes but it's rare and isn't usually due to being in a small space together. The RV gets messy but it's quick and easy to clean. The main thing I do to maintain my sanity is to do light cleaning every day. The bed gets made, the dishes get washed and put away and the floors are swept every day. In a small space, things just have to be kept tidy or it can start to snowball quickly.
5. We've learned that we each have strengths that keep our life moving. Alex takes care of what I consider the hard shit. He empties our gray tank, fixes leaks, makes corrections to our solar set-up, monitors our power, fixes the water pump and the furnace, replaces brake pads on the truck and just generally repairs everything when it breaks. AND IT ALL WILL BREAK! It's just the nature of moving your entire house every couple of weeks. He has found strengths that I don't think he even knew he had and has been my hero more times than I can count. He also does ALL of the driving. I do the route planning. I research campsites and local areas to determine where we'll go next and how to best get there. If it's a longer trip, I research places to stop and sleep overnight-at Walmarts or a Harvest Host etc. I also find most of our fresh water and dump locations. I also (and I know this sounds so fucking stereotypical) do the cooking and cleaning and general interior upkeep. We talk about these roles often and make sure that each person feels appreciated. We're always willing to help each other but for the most part, we know our strengths and both enjoy the roles we have. He doesn't begrudge me when I relax in the RV while he's on the roof tracking down a leak and I don't fault him for watching TV on the couch while I prepare dinner. It all balances out.
When we began this roadtrip it was with a one year timeline in mind. Since then, we've thrown all plans and timelines out the window. We know where we'll be through the holidays but after that it's a big unknown. We've learned not to plan too far in advance and to just take opportunities as they arise. The first six months have brought us adventures that we couldn't have imagined and lessons that we still can't fully articulate. We've loved every minute and can't wait to see what's in store for the next six months.
Miles driven: 12,045
Gas Money Spent: $3, 527
States Visited: 14
Number of nights of paid camping: 6
National Parks Visited: 6
National Forests Visited: 8
National Monuments Visited: 3
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