Archive for the ‘RVing’ Category

This posting has been removed as the article has been purchased by an outstanding RV’er periodical. More info to come!

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I was discussing the three-day drive across Texas we’ve taken in the past and wondered how that stretch compares to other states.  I decided to let Google Maps be my guide as I looked throughout the country for similar treks for the nine longest in-state drives.

I created a few ground rules, such as any route candidate for my list being calculated as the shortest drive between two cities or towns. This means that there may be longer routes to or from unincorporated towns not showing on Google Maps.  I can’t do much about that.  I only utilized routes that stayed within the state being researched.  A few shorter routes may have existed through neighboring states.  Also, traffic, season and weather don’t affect distance, so I kept to miles instead of hours.

One last point – I didn’t research all 50 states.  Obviously, states like Hawaii, Rhode Island and Delaware won’t be on any longest drive list.  But as I calculated the most extensive drives in states like Pennsylvania, Maine, Virginia and North Carolina, it became clear that most candidates were less than 400 miles.  With the 9th largest stretching 629 miles, I could visually rule out dozens of states.

Here’s the list, ranked shortest to longest:

9.  Oklahoma-  Kenton to Tom- 629 miles

Many of the states on this list are of medium size compared to the rest of the country but have irregular shapes that provide longer routes.  This is true of Oklahoma, where we start at the edge of the panhandle and drive cattycorner to the bottom of the pan, covering over 600 miles.  The route only utilizes a few dozen miles on an interstate (I-40) and flows through Oklahoma City smack dab in the middle of the Sooner State.

8.  Michigan-  Copper Harbor to Erie Township- 631 miles

Situated at the northern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or U.P., is Copper Harbor on Lake Superior, and it’s now on my bucket list to visit.  On the other end of the drive is a small town near Ohio on Lake Erie.  In between, the Mitten State will provide a variety of sights and views of three of the Great Lakes.

7.  Nevada-  Laughlin to Denio- 698 miles

It was surprising to see Nevada on this list.  Laughlin is found near the state junction points of Nevada, California and Arizona in the far south of the Silver State. Almost 700 miles north is Denio, a small town at the Oregon border.  Along the way, you’ll see some of the state’s desert and scablands, Las Vegas and other gambling meccas, and many miles of secluded highway. 

6.  Montana-  Troy to Ridge- 721 miles

I did expect to see the Big Sky Country in the Top 9, but the surprise was that it wasn’t longer than a few others on the list.  Troy is in the northeast corner near the Idaho border, sitting in the middle of the Kootenai National Forest.  Over 700 miles southeast is Ridge in the opposite corner.  The two towns show a stark contrast in environments, with Troy in the midst of fabulous forested mountains and Ridge reminding more of the barren hills of the Dakotas. 

5.  Idaho-  Good Grief to Fish Haven- 827 miles

Another panhandle, another long drive.  At the far northern edge of the Gem State is the best city name on this list, Good Grief.  Because the most direct route takes you through Montana, we had to calculate traveling through Boise to stay in Idaho to reach the southeast corner of the state at Fish Haven.  This takes you along several mountain ranges and forests until you reach the capital city, then the scenery becomes more scrub-like. 

4.  Florida-  Muscogee to Key West- 840 miles

Let’s face it, panhandles give states an edge to get on this list, and the Sunshine State is no exception.  Like Oklahoma, we begin on the far eastern edge of the panhandle in the town of Muscogee, then head west to the body of Florida before driving south, all the way to the Keys.  The distance between the two is so far that Google shows the direct flying time to be almost four hours.  The inland drive will repeat the same scenery for much of the trip, except for the time you are near the ocean.  On this jaunt, south is best, as it includes West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, the Everglades and Key West, many of which are on most people’s bucket lists.

3.  Texas-  El Paso to Orange- 858 miles

Now we see the state that started it all, Texas, and its 3-day straight shot east from El Paso, all on I-10.  The Lone Star State is vast and mostly barren, though green by comparison to much of the southwest.  Hundreds of miles after leaving El Paso, you’ll finally reach San Antonio, the 7th largest city in the country, and about 3 hours later, Houston, the 4th largest.  Orange is just across the state line from Lake Charles, LA, and is hurricane susceptible.

2.  California.- Smith River to Winterhaven- 1008 miles

Not far from the Oregon coast is Smith River, California, a continuation of the fabulous northwest coastline.  This path takes you south along the coast until you reach San Francisco, then it heads inland through wine country and the Big Valley, before hitting the Los Angeles metropolitan area.  From there you travel east, then south towards Mexico, ending up in Winterhaven, next to Yuma, AZ.  You’ll see a wide range of panoramic views of ocean, coastline, vineyards, agriculture, historic cities, theme parks, and southwestern deserts.  It’s never a bad time to take in a thousand miles of the Golden State.

1.  Alaska-  Homer to Prudhoe Bay- 1074 miles

As we all expected, the Last Frontier takes the top spot for providing the longest in-state drive.  Interestingly, the longest route I could locate included just the main body of the state, since so much of Alaska is inaccessible by car, even in the summer.  Speaking of summer, that’s the only season most of this route is safe.  But, the views!  Prudhoe Bay is on the Arctic Ocean and was built atop the tundra.  This route is almost 1,100 miles in length and just about every mile has dramatic views.  Like many awe-inspiring landscapes, photographs along this byway simply can’t do them justice. 

Honorable Mention-  Missouri- Watson to Cottonwood Point- 560 miles

At nearly 600 miles long, the Show-Me State was just out of the Top 9, but the odd-shaped state still deserves a mention.   In the far northwest corner, Watson is more like Nebraska than Missouri.  The lack of a direct route to the southeastern notch forces the route to take a bit of a zig zag, traveling south along the Nebraska and Kansas state lines, hanging a left in Kansas City and a right at St. Louis, then south along the Illinois line and the mighty Mississippi River.  This would definitely be an interesting drive.

Now, then, these are the longest drives in the country that don’t cross state lines.  Many of these are now on my future to-do list, if not my bucket list.  I trust you have the same interest.

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While taking some incredible photos in the Grand Tetons a couple of years ago, it occurred to me just how many National Parks we’ve had the good fortune to visit. We don’t have a bucket list or a specific goal of seeing every National Park, but we have enjoyed more than a few.

The United States has set aside just under 65 protected areas of the country (plus one shared by Canada) known as National Parks. Since Nadyne and I have been together, we have visited 29 of them, with more on the horizon. It didn’t hurt that we lived in Colorado and in proximity to Utah, but we stopped in many of the parks after we hit the road in our 5th wheel.

Our favorite so far? That’s a difficult choice. I loved Zion and Bryce, and camping on the edge of the Badlands was memorable. Acadia was a bucket list item for me that didn’t disappoint, as was Campobello for Nadyne, along with Rainier and St. Helens. We were both in awe of the sheer size of the giant redwoods, the splendor of the Rockies and, of course, the sights and sounds of the mighty glaciers in Alaska. And I didn’t even mention the Grand Canyon. No, there’s just no way to choose.

Here is the current list (as of this post) of the National Parks we’ve toured, followed by a slideshow of a few of my pics of some of those remarkable places:

  • Acadia (ME)
  • Arches (UT)
  • Badlands (SD)
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison (CO)
  • Bryce Canyon (UT)
  • Campobello Int’l (ME-NB)
  • Canyonlands (UT)
  • Death Valley (CA-NV)
  • Everglades (FL)
  • Glacier Bay (AK)
  • Grand Canyon (AZ)
  • Grand Teton (WY)
  • Great Sand Dunes (CO)
  • Great Smoky Mountains (TN)
  • Hot Springs (AR)
  • Joshua Tree (CA)
  • Lassen (CA)
  • Mammoth Cave (KY)
  • Mount Rainier (WA)
  • Mount St. Helens (WA)
  • New River Gorge (WV)
  • Petrified Forest (AZ)
  • Pinnacles (CA)
  • Redwood (CA)
  • Rocky Mountain (CO)
  • Saguaro (AZ)
  • Sand Dunes (CO)
  • Wind Cave (SD)
  • Zion (UT)
  • Acadia (ME)
  • Arches (UT)
  • Badlands (SD)
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison (CO)
  • Bryce Canyon (UT)
  • Campobello International (ME-NB)
  • Canyonlands (UT)
  • Everglades (FL)
  • Glacier Bay (AK)
  • Grand Canyon (AZ)
  • Grand Teton (WY)
  • Great Sand Dunes (CO)
  • Hot Springs (AR)
  • Joshua Tree (CA)
  • Mount Rainier (WA)
  • Mount St. Helens (WA)
  • Pinnacles (CA)
  • Redwood (CA)
  • Rocky Mountain (CO)
  • Saguaro (AZ)
  • Sand Dunes (CO)
  • Wind Cave (SD)
  • Zion (UT)

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​Below is a 360-degree view of one spot in the middle of the Jedediah Smith State Park near Crescent City, CA.  Here we found an absolutely beautiful forest of giant redwoods.  Notice that the some of the trunks are wider than the road?

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is a California State Park that preserves old-growth redwoods along the Smith River, approximately 9 miles east of Crescent City, in the far northwest of the state. The 10,430-acre park is named after explorer Jedediah Smith, the first American to travel by land from the Mississippi River to California, passing through the parcel that is now the State Park. It consists of 9,500 acres of redwood trees, including several groves of old growth trees. One of the groves, totaling 5,000 acres, includes the world’s largest (not tallest) coastal redwood, which measures 20 feet in diameter and 340 feet tall.

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Over several years, with our long-term plans to travel full-time underway, my wife and I read blogs and watched YouTube videos, almost ad nauseum, regarding downsizing to an RV. Sell, store or give everything away, they said. It will be hard, they said. We believed them.

Then, excitingly, it was upon us. We sold our 1,700 sq. ft. house and started downsizing in earnest to move into 340 sq. ft. It WAS hard, and it didn’t happen overnight. We took the necessary and difficult steps — selling, storing and giving away stuff — over months, and we still had to store much more than we had hoped. By “D-Day,” as in “Departure Day,” we had to be out.

While they mention the emotional pain of minimizing your possessions, what the bloggers and YouTubers don’t really tell you is that some of the pain is about the pure loss of value. Thousands of dollars’ worth of things we bought because we needed them, or wanted them, was left behind. We obviously didn’t have room for everything, so, intellectually, it made sense. However, years later, we still feel the loss of monetary value from starting our day-to-day nomadic life, especially when most of the significant downsizing happened over a relatively short period of time. Even small, unsellable items can bear a cost. If we paid $30 each for a hundred of these, they would have cost us $3,000 accumulatively.

Let’s say I want to buy a new TV or notebook and give away my old one, even if it works fine, or a wine rack is in the way and we decide to sell it to free up space. Those individual decisions are easy to live with. But, in the span of a month, we dealt away or carted to storage our living room and bedroom furniture, our guest room furniture, the dining room set, two wine racks, two big-screen TV’s, most of the house’s décor, half of my tools, three-quarters of our wardrobes, and even a car. Everything we had stored for a rainy day was gone.

​Even a few of these items can be difficult to think about, but our belongings were literally $20,000 less valuable than they were a month before leaving for the road, money we spent right out of our checkbook (we paid off all our material debt long before, thank goodness). The cash we gained in selling furniture, etc., was a pittance compared to their original values.

And then there is the emotional pain that the bloggers and Youtubers do tell you about. You can prepare for it, but it was a far more difficult experience than we expected. It was your stuff, sometimes for decades, and soon it would be left behind, perhaps never to be seen again. For most people, emotional attachments don’t dissolve easily.

Just as with anything we have to deal with in life, we tried to focus on the positive and look forward to many years of long-awaited travel. We have been able to visit friends and family we haven’t seen in years, or ever, and we finally were able to experience different parts of the country for more than a long weekend at a time. For most people, emotional attachments don’t dissolve easily. Indeed, on our journey, I’ve taken tens of thousands of photographs, and we have experienced 32 National Parks and 40 states.

​It took over ten years for the choice of living on the road to come to fruition. I just wish we had known how divesting most of our possessions would make us feel. In the four years since we began our journey, we have continued to downsize, with experience providing the impetus to do so. When we started, we didn’t really know what we didn’t know. As time went on, it became obvious that, even with all the stuff we left behind, we were still overstocked. The first three years, we returned to Denver each summer to off-load more items and clothing to our storage unit, then moved the all that stuff to our permanent winter base in Texas. That has eased the conflict of what to take on our travels and what to leave behind, but, if we’re not careful, we will have to go through the process again. Our space is not unlimited.

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I recently posted “9 Reasons Not to Become an RV Nomad.” More than a few responses led me to believe that people thought that we weren’t enjoying our nomadic lifestyle. Not so. Nadyne and I have been delighted to be full-timers.

I decided I should dispel the notion that everything is dreadful on the road. It isn’t all great, but most of it is. So, here are my top 9 reasons to ditch the 9-to-5 and live in an RV on the road:

  1. You can visit friends and family all over the country- When we were living in Denver, how many times do you think we visited my brother in Boston or my daughter in Seattle? Two weeks of vacation per year isn’t enough time to fly across country to visit all of one’s family, especially if that family is scattered from coast to coast like ours is. We left friends behind in Buffalo, NY, when we moved to Las Vegas that we haven’t seen in many years, and that has happened after every move we’ve made since then. Seeing these folks in person is a priority to us in this new lifestyle.

  2. There’s a lot less to clean- We downsized from almost 1700 square feet to just about 360. Yes, we have to clean more often, but it just doesn’t take very long.

  3. You can take as long as you want to explore nature or other areas of the country- Again, because of limited vacation time, we were severely limited in the distance and duration we traveled, and we put off our Yellowstone trip twice for that very reason. When we do make it there, we may stay a month (if we want to). Also, small towns go unexplored when you have a time limit. Some of those towns are well worth visiting, and now we have the time to do that, wherever we are.

  4. Enjoy tourist attractions off-season or middle of the week- Another benefit of setting your own schedule is that you can plan to visit highly-popular (read that “crowded”) parks and attractions when they will be less congested. You can skip all the Spring Break venues in March and the National Parks in July and August. Being able to do local tours midweek is a huge advantage as well.

  5. Lower your cost of living- Reducing debt, as we did, helps a lot, but even eliminating mortgage or rent payments is a large advantage. Meanwhile, whenever you are strapped for cash, you can boondock (i.e. dry camp or camp without fees or hookups), which makes camping nearly free. Or, you can “moochdock” by parking your rig in your friend’s or family’s driveway!
  1. You meet like-minded people- Few people understand what life is like on the road like fellow full-timers. In the RV community, life on the road is an experience that travelers have in common, making conversation between random RVers seem effortless. How many people do you know that can relate to a build-up in the sewer hose or smells of less-than-ideal black water venting? There is much you can learn as well, such as how to get the best drone footage, troubleshooting power outages or your dual-power refrigerator, or researching what is needed to install a solar power system.

  2. Find solitude often- Even in Colorado, solitude was fleeting. The Denver metro area is comprised of 2.8 million people, most of whom are in the Rocky Mountains on the weekends, as I relayed in my post, “Colorado is Both Boon and Bane.” If you are a city dweller, as the bulk of the population is, finding solitude can seem next to impossible. Being on the road, however, can be the opposite. Solitude, quiet, wide open spaces and the Milky Way are at your fingertips nearly everywhere you go.

  3. Increase closeness in your relationship- Most couples who live together in an RV find that getting close is mandatory — you either become intimate or your relationship suffers, usually the former. There is no benefit to holding onto anger or resentment. You have to work it out, since you’ll be seeing a lot of each other. For most loving couples, kindness, empathy and cooperation become second nature. Alternatively, if you don’t like your partner, don’t move into a confined space together.

  4. If you don’t like where you live, you can move- There are many reasons you might not like where you park — overcrowded campground or boondocking area, rowdy campers, parking lot partiers, excessive Interstate noise, approaching severe weather, and more. If you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or irritated by your surroundings, you can move. After all, you’re mobile!

The overarching theme to the nomadic lifestyle is adventure, enjoying a continuous journey to the unexpected, extraordinary and memorable. We’ve only been full-time for about four years, but prepared for a decade, and would unequivocally do it all over again.

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Mile after mile, nearly every parcel of land in Texas is fenced off to the public. With the exception of the many open Gulf beaches, almost all waterways and lakefronts are privately owned and unavailable. A fisherman or photographer, and I am both, on foot is going to have a difficult time anywhere except when paying for State Park access, and much of that is crowded and very limited.

In addition, nearly all rural acreage is owned and fenced farmland or portions of vast ranches. If you want to bird watch or photograph a sunset without a road in the scene, you are often forced to trespass or be limited to state parks.

According to Texas A&M’s Natural Resources Institute, “Texas has a long history of private land ownership where 95 percent of the state is privately owned.” That means that 255,166 of its 268,596 square miles is private property. The state has leased a little over 1,500 square miles from landowners to allow, for a fee, hunting, fishing, photography and equestrian activities. That equates to about 1/2 of 1% of all Texas land, and can necessitate a guide to bring you to, and through, the proper acreage.

Fenced ranches in Texas are HUGE. According to wideopencountry.com, “the combined square footage of the 10 biggest Texas ranches reaches over four million acres or nearly 7,000 square miles.” That’s an average size of 700 square miles EACH. The majority of ranches in Texas range between small ranches of 2,000 acres to those of 20,000+ acres.

Alas, Texas is not unique in citizens successfully blocking public access to desirable land. In two hundred miles of New England coastline, we found only a dozen or so state beaches, all expensive and tourist-packed, and little other public access. If you want an iconic photo of waves crashing on a Maine cliff or of an eagle nesting in a seaside strand of trees, you need a boat. Trying to find public beach or shore access on almost any lake in New York State is a fool’s errand. In Florida, beach access proponents have sharply criticized a new state law as “privatizing the state’s most valuable resource and undermining the tourism-based economy.”

This is not the case, at least not to the same extent, on the west coast. There are hundreds of miles of Pacific coastline where you can literally park on a shoulder or other parking area and walk down to the beach or over to a clifftop view of the Pacific. Almost all freshwater lakes are accessible, though some require local or state fees to enter, without private lot upon lot of lakeshore. There are many Texas- and New-York-like exceptions, however.

Thus far, in more restricted states on the East Coast or in the South, including Texas, when not in a lakeside or coastal campground, I’ve had to park near bridges or overpasses and walk a considerable distance to take photos of lake or ocean views. In the West and much of the Northern States, these opportunities are everywhere.

We have stayed in a campground on Texas’ Lake Tawakoni on numerous occasions. This lake boasts 200 miles of shoreline covering 37,879-acres, but, in exploring all the roads around the lake multiple times, the only other access to the water we could find is in the State Park.

So, what’s the answer? There isn’t one, at least without a grass-roots outcry. Sadly, as long as the wealthy want to own the most desirable views and have unlimited access to water, there isn’t much hope for change. States could begin purchasing some of this scenic lands within their borders and convert them to public resources, but that has yet to happen in any meaningful way.

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You may be aware that we purchased an RV site at an Escapees Co-Op in Texas in order winter in place. But, why winter in one place?

You may have read my article, My Top 9 Trepidations of Full-Time RVing, in which I describe several anxieties upon moving to and setting up in an RV park. Some of these trepidations are the availability and status of full hookup sites, cell and Internet access, parking and setup difficulties, weather on the road, satellite reception, road hazards, pet friendliness, and others. Consider the fact that we commonly change campgrounds every two weeks or so, meaning that I experience these emotions more than two dozen times a year.

But, it’s more than these apprehensions. Driving takes a toll, especially as we get older, and fuel is a big expense when you are constantly on the move. The cold of winter leaves little of the country available for visiting in anything other than frigid climates. The usual RV snowbird regions, i.e. Florida, Texas, Arizona and Southern California, are rife with more large rigs than small, leaving space, convenience, solitude and privacy all wanting.

Even with RVillage, a virtual RV community with over 500,000 members nationwide, telling us which other members are camping in a specific park we arrive to, RVers in a park are often strangers, even more so during the pandemic. RVers are people, meaning that they include all types of personalities, social acumen and political persuasions, and not everyone is open to meeting newcomers.

I guess I’m saying that we miss friends and social circles in which to gather to share moments, stories and laughs. A two-week stay in an RV resort may afford us an acquaintance or two, but the process of our getting to know each other typically starts from scratch each time. Sure, there are stories from the RV lifestyle all RVers can relate to, such as many of the anecdotes I share in my book, “RV Life Happens,” but there are only so many black tank tales or RV park complaints you can regale. By spending four of five months in one community, we can begin building some real, longer-term relationships.

One quick mention: We have made several valuable personal connections in RVillage and on the road, and some will become lifelong friendships. We don’t diminish this possibility and always leave ourselves open to making new friends wherever we go.

Then there is the convenience of staying in a place long enough to see doctors and dentists, and to get RV repairs or make sure maintenance is performed. Although we had been returning to Denver each year for a couple of weeks to get medical and dental treatment, two weeks isn’t always long enough. After our first year on the road, I had to forgo one medical appointment when they couldn’t make space within our travel window in Colorado. RV upgrades and repairs can be especially difficult when moving around the country, with parts and materials taking longer to arrive than we are camping in any particular area.

One of the reasons we decided not to spend considerable time in any one park when we started this adventure is that we both had many, many items on our must-visit list and we were anxious to experience them all. We circumnavigated the country three times in our first three years and will embark on another grand circle as soon as the pandemic lets up, perhaps checking Yellowstone and Nova Scotia off our destinations lists. We have camped in 36 states and driven in 44, with more in our future itineraries.

Now that we have seen so much of the country, we can afford to take time to relax in a single community for the winter. The Escapees Co-Ops make this affordable but some have waiting lists with hundreds of names on them. The sites have space and hookups for an RV of nearly any size and for one or more sheds or casitas. Fortunately, in our Texas choice, we started at #42 on the waiting list and, in less than two years, we will were awarded a property last spring. We quickly moved our stored stuff from Denver to the new site and moved in, just in time for a tornado and major hail storm, but that’s another story.

Lastly, it would has been nice this year during the pandemic to have had a permanent spot to hunker down in rather than having to worry about whether any or all of the RV parks we had booked would decline our reservations when we arrived. During national emergencies, it’s comforting to have a home base to go to.

So, why Texas? Several reasons:

  • No state income tax
  • Milder and longer winter and spring seasons than most winter locales
  • Friends and relatives living in Texas
  • Availability of affordable sites
  • Driving distance from Mexico (for drugs and medical treatment)
  • Driving distance to the Gulf (for recreation)
  • Lots of DQ’s (Nadyne’s favorite) and several In ‘n’ Outs (Jack’s favorite)

All told, we have many reasons for being stationary in the winter, but that doesn’t mean we plan to give up traveling the country. We’ll still have eight months a year to continue our adventures.

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Contrary to the title, this post is really more about our lifestyle than travel. We spend, on average, two weeks in each campground or resort we stay, meaning that about twice a month we have a travel day, moving our house to the next stop, sometimes taking three of four days to arrive, boondocking at Walmarts or Cracker Barrels on those nights in between destinations.

Often during these commutes, I have anxieties about our next stay. Here are some things I think about, in no particular order.

  1. Availability and status of full hookup site
    We belong to Thousand Trails so that we don’t have out-of-pocket resort fees to worry about, but most of them are first-come, first-served, for full hookups, meaning that we may or may not find sewer or 50 amp electric hookups. This is important because without sewer, we can’t shower more than once or use our toilet more than one week during our stay. It takes a couple hours to set up or break down camp, so even if there is a dump station on-site, it takes much time and hassle to make use of it.

    A couple of years ago, we called ahead to confirm that we could easily get a full-hookup site with at least some cell signal for Internet, and they assured us that was the case. When we arrived, however, neither was available. We ended up passing up the resort and paying out of pocket for a private campground.

    Often water pressure is an issue as well. For that reason, we always keep our fresh water tank full in case there is little or no water from the park spigot, which sometimes happens mid-stay.
  1. Availability of cell coverage and Internet
    Speaking of confirming Internet availability, both Nadyne and I work on the road, Nadyne remotely doing insurance agency accounting and me writing and marketing. Both of us require Internet and Nadyne must be able to speak to clients across the country, so early on we purchased a cell booster to give us a stronger cell signal and more reliable Internet, along with utilizing cell coverage from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Among the three service providers, we almost always have something we can use, but every once in a while, we don’t. This was the case in the resort I mentioned earlier, where we only found two bars of coverage in one parking lot on one end of the park, and no signal from any campsite. You can’t boost zero signal, so this was unacceptable and we had to move to another campground.
  1. Parking difficulties
    We haven’t had a massive RV: a 31′ fifth wheel until this year and now a 36′. Still, backing into some spaces requires time, energy and nerves of steel.

Only once have I not been able to, eventually, get parked, but occasionally, because of narrow sites, trees at the corners of the site entrance, narrow paths between rows of sites and/or close proximity to immovable park models, parking can be harrowing. In the case of the Palm Springs RV Resort, all four were problems. Add the situation where a truck or toad is partially blocking your path whose owner can’t be found, or the off-level nature of a site, there is a lot to dread about parking, even if we’ve been to a resort before.

  1. Weather on the road
    We are mobile and can move our fifth wheel when we know severe weather or flooding is imminent, but it’s not always foreseeable. Since we are usually traveling hundreds of miles in any particular leg of a trip, forecasting isn’t often reliable. My biggest concern is wind, which can greatly affect gas mileage at best and cause an accident at worst, not to mention risking expensive hail damage. We were extremely fortunate to not have any serious weather issues during our first three years on the road, but the fourth included a major hail storm, destroying our rig and severely damaging our pickup. This is now something we actively worry about.

  2. Satellite access
    We are often in rural campgrounds without cable or over-the-air TV coverage so we invested in a Tailgater satellite dish and Dish TV service, along with a DVR. This has worked out great except that satellite dishes and trees don’t play well together. The dish needs fairly unfettered access to the southern sky and the farther north you go, the more towards the true horizon it needs to see. In one park, in which we are often parked beneath and among trees, I tried about fifteen locations around the rig until I found a spot in which the dish could see one of the three satellites it normally uses. The only reason I was successful to that extent was because we were in Southern Texas, where the dish is pointed in a fairly vertical direction in the sky. If we had been in Ohio, where it would point farther down for the signal, we wouldn’t have had any satellite TV at all.

  3. Road hazards and clearances
    We were in downtown Binghamton, NY, having no worries about our height and underpass clearance, since we utilize three different resources (including a trucker’s guide) to check our route for low clearance bridges, etc., without any cautions. However, I turned left to enter an underpass and found myself face-to-face with a bright yellow sign warning of a 10′ 11″ bridge height. Our rig is over 13′ tall, so that would have left a mark. Nadyne had to get out and stop traffic so that I could back out of the underpass entrance and turn around. We now have a brilliant yellow vest for her to wear in case that happens again.

    I mentioned that we use three resources to check for clearance and my in-dash navigation system utilizes an app on my phone via Bluetooth to check for traffic and hazards, but no resource is foolproof, as we have learned the hard way. East of the Mississippi, especially in New England, there are far more of these low bridges than out west, but really it’s a nationwide concern.

    The road age and condition is itself a major concern, from coast to coast. The last time we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the long duration of significant bumps actually broke one of the springs on the fifth wheel. Any rough road is bad for an RV’s interior and joints. Prolonged travel on such highways can be like riding out a continuous earthquake, but even a single big bump can rearrange our contents.

​7. Breakdowns and blowouts
Logging over 20,000 miles per year means that the odds are against us. Eventually we will have a major breakdown or tire blowout on the road. To help mitigate this we installed a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), which has twice saved us a major tire issue twice since we starting using it.

The first time a tire went flat after picking up a screw while traveling 60 mph, allowing us to pull over before a blowout ensued, and the other a slow leak developed in a brand new tire on a dirt and gravel road and we were able to get it repaired before a serious issue occurred. In both cases a disaster may have resulted and I worry about that happening again, even with a commitment to the technology. Our new rig has a new TPMS system that connects to our smartphones via Bluetooth, and, thankfully, it seems to accurately and quickly discern and communicate the air pressure details.

  1. Being pet friendly and having unfortunate park rules
    We have seen some overly aggressive park rules against pets and other uses of a campsite. We installed a doggie door flap in our rig’s screen door. By setting up a small fence around our steps and giving our dogs both shaded and sunny areas on a mat, we leave some dirt or grass uncovered so they can come and go and potty as needed. We never leave them in the pen without us being home and are always diligent about their barking while outside. Despite this, some parks forbid outdoor pens and even having pets on leashes without the owner’s full participation and attention. While I understand the purpose of such an edict, it makes our lives difficult, as does restricting clothes lines under our awning, restricting noise at 7 pm, a 3-mph speed limit and other rules that some bad apples have forced parks to include in their codes.

  2. Access to grocery shopping and gas stations
    Having a refrigerator only half or one-third the size of a house fridge means having to shop for groceries more often, at least once per week. Staying in the boonies doesn’t make this an easy chore and we often camp up to 50 miles from the nearest Walmart. Small local supermarkets (with “super” being a bit facetious) almost always have a miniscule stock and higher prices compared to a big chain store. Sometimes a rural market has fresh, locally-grown or raised food or delicious baked items, but usually it’s just missing several items we’re looking for. Not having gas stations nearby can also be an issue and requires a more thoughtful plan to stay filled up.

We don’t experience these difficulties often, but enough to cause us trepidation, No matter how much advance research we do, some things just cannot be known until you are present, and that is a cause for concern every time we begin our travel day. I’m sure we’re not the only ones.

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For as long as I can remember, I had wanted to take a sunrise photo from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine.  Finally, I crossed that puppy off my bucket list.

Though only 1,530 feet in elevation, Cadillac Mountain is one of the highest points on the eastern seaboard.  Most people think that this peak is first to see the sun all year long, as I had thought, but we were mistaken.  Even though it’s not the easternmost point in the US, Cadillac’s height does allow it, for roughly half the year, to receive the first rays of sunshine in the continental US.  The other half of the year, from March to October, a slightly taller peak near the Canadian border has that honor.  The tilt of the earth and changing position of the sun throughout the year is what causes this difference.

Regardless, as a photographer, it was still high on my bucket list.  I’d been camping (glamping?) for two weeks about 20 miles from the Park, which resides on Mount Desert Island on the rocky Maine coast, and I longed to see and photograph the sunrise there.  However, another quirk of Maine’s environment nearly foiled that.  Almost every day I was there, it had either been raining or was extremely foggy at daybreak — until a particular Friday morning during our August stay.

I had been checking forecasts twice or three times a day since I had been there and it finally appeared that Thursday would be clear.  I went to bed early so I could get up at 4am to set out for Cadillac and was awakened at about 12:30am by a severe thunderstorm, one that had not been in the forecast.  I decided to give it one more day and fortunately, the weather stayed clear that night.  At 4:00 Friday morning it was as dark as midnight but I packed a brunch and headed out.

When I arrived at the park a little more than an hour before sunrise, it was quite foggy but it was starting to lift.  However about a half-mile from the parking lot, cars were parked on both sides of the road.  This didn’t bode well and, sure enough, I had to drive through the jam-packed parking lot and back down the road to the end of the parking line.  There must have been 500 vehicles parked in and around the mountain peak’s visitor center.  

By the time I got my gear and began the hike, time was starting to worry me.  I eventually made it to the viewing area and there were hundreds of people on the ridge, many with tripods set up, some with their smartphones out, several laying on sleeping bags on the bedrock.  

I hiked through the crowd carrying a camera backpack and my own tripod, stepping down several levels of rock shelves, and I was able to get to a large stone block with no other photographers in front of me.  I set up just as the sun poked out of the fog.  If you have never taken sunrise or sunset pictures, it’s difficult to understand the excitement of the time limit you’re given.  The sun is moving with or without your readiness or the equipment’s cooperation.

I mounted my camera with the 55mm lens on the tripod and held the other, which sported my 500mm telephoto lens, in my hand.  I alternated snapping shots between the two and kept it up for about 30 minutes.  I remembered to take a couple of photos with my smartphone and posted them nearly live on Facebook so that friends, family and followers could enjoy the sight right away.

By the time I got back to my truck, 90% of the vehicles were already gone.  Satisfied, and with my bucket list reduced, I climbed back in and took advantage of the blue sky to explore more of the Maine coastline.  Blue is usually much prettier than gray.

One of the exciting aspects of our full-time RV’ing adventure is that these bucket list opportunities have availed themselves with some regularity.  In a sticks-and-bricks home, it’s just too difficult (and expensive) to take the time to do it all. 

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