Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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

Read Full Post »

Lunch Time
Lunch Time

“Lunch Time”
Photo of the Week #18, selected in September, 2019

This photo included a pleasant surprise indeed. In Alaska a few years ago, I took several dozen shots of bald eagles, but only a couple of them were striking. One was my “Alaskan Eagle Taking Flight” and the other was this pic, taken during a remote cruise stop.

I had spotted a nest with a bald eagle sitting patiently in a tree a couple of blocks from us as Nadyne and I walked along Harbor Drive in the small, rustic town of Hoonah. As we approached we found that the nest was about 60 feet up, far too high to see it very well. I switched cameras to use a large telephoto lens and snapped several photos from various angles. We had asked the locals if there were any eaglets in the nest and they all said that nobody had seen any, and we hadn’t either. Lo and behold, when I got back home and began going through my 1,300 or so Alaska pics, I found that a couple of shots of this nest showed a little eaglet’s head, the chick evidently waiting for lunch. I never saw it with my bare eyes.

Here’s my photo on Imagekind:

View all of my Photos of the Week here on Imagekind:

Read Full Post »

Weather aside, the quick answer to this ponderance is two-fold – midweek/midday and if you have a stroller or wheelchair.  I’ll explain.

The San Antonio River Walk is a city park in San Antonio, Texas, winding along sections of the San Antonio River, below street level, in and around the downtown area of the city. The River Walk curves and loops under downtown bridges with sidewalks on both sides of the river, much of it lined with restaurants and shops, while connecting the various tourist attractions in the center of the city.  You can reach the River Walk from street level entrances along the sidewalks of dozens of city blocks, as well as from San Antonio’s five Spanish historical missions and from some of the popular museums and galleries in the area.

San Antonio’s River Walk, created as part of a floodwater control plan after a disastrous flood in 1921, is open 24/7/365 and has inspired projects like it in other cities, such as the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte, Denver’s Cherry Creek Greenway, Oklahoma City’s Bricktown Canal, which we have visited, and Santa Lucía Riverwalk in Monterrey, Mexico.

We first descended upon the City Walk in the first months of the pandemic, but San Antonio’s downtown was mostly locked down and tourist stops weren’t open.  We were very much looking forward to returning post-pandemic to enjoy the many food and beverage venues along the Walk, especially the brewpubs that have popped up recently.  With the pandemic waning at the beginning of winter and restrictions being relaxed, plus the fact we are both fully vaccinated with boosters, we decided to visit downtown when we had a free Wednesday.  We brought our two small dogs with us, along with their doggie stroller.

So, tip number one is that midweek is not a great time for a visit, especially in the winter.  Most of the bars and restaurants don’t open until late afternoon or evening, and some aren’t open midweek at all.  It’s still a pretty stroll along the river’s sidewalks, but food and shops just aren’t an option.

So, tip number one is that midweek is not a great time for a visit, especially in the winter.  Most of the bars and restaurants don’t open until late afternoon or evening, and some aren’t open midweek at all.  It’s still a pretty stroll along the river’s sidewalks, but food and shops just aren’t an option.

Tip number two is that if you plan to use a stroller or wheelchair, you’ll need to scope out the available ramps or elevators to enter or exit from the city street, even to enjoy a just few blocks of the river.  Like I mentioned, we had the doggie stroller and had to carry it up and down stairs several times over the mile-and-a-half we walked the river’s sidewalks. 

At one point, there were so many steps up and down over a river arch that we had to take the dogs out and walk them across the bridge.  This wasn’t a big deal for us, but it begged the question, what if one of us had been confined to a wheelchair?

During our walk we found a QR code on a sign that directed our phone browsers to an ADA-supported map of the River Walk, but those maps were very difficult to follow, and it highlighted even further that the Walk doesn’t seem to be very handicapped-friendly.

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that we dislike the River Walk.  On the contrary, the tourist walk along the river is usually beautiful, clean and an enjoyable experience for able-bodied pedestrians.  The next time, however, we’ll leave the dogs at home and make sure we time the visit for a weekend evening.

Here’s a nice guide for planning your trip there:

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

For the past several years, I’ve been watching my calorie intake and managed, at least until my retirement, to lose several dozen pounds. One problem when dieting, even when it’s a permanent lifestyle change, is what to do when you are hungry but limited in food intake.

A decade ago, as I closed in on my target weight and the one year mark since I began limiting calories, I thought about my go-to snacks, such as frozen lemonade, low-cal pumpkin bread, slow-churned vanilla ice cream and trail mix. Trail mix, in particular, seems to be nature’s perfect concoction. Peanuts and mixed nuts, raisins and M&M’s give both the salt and sweet I crave, seemingly without adding a single pound to my weight. At least, that’s the way it feels.

When I searched the Internet for trail mix articles, I found that some strongly railed against both M&M’s and craisins in trail mixes as unreasonable sources of sugar. My own results seem to contradict these reports. Sometimes a little sugar keeps me from eating a lot of sugar. Finding go-to, low-calorie snacks is vital to a successful weight-loss program. As a thoroughly non-professional in nutrition and dietary matters, I highly recommend this perfect food.

So, I began using Mountain Trail Mix as my go-to munchie and found that my weight changed very little due to this incredible snack mix. One day I thought that the mix could use more cashews and started adding them to the pre-packaged mix, then some craisins, and finally decided I might as well make my own trail mix from scratch. I don’t think it’s any cheaper this way, but I get exactly what I want in the mix. I’ll include costs so you can judge for yourself.

Here’s what to purchase (2020 costs):

Mixed NutsGreat Value- 26 oz container $8.98
Cashews- Halves and PiecesGreat Value- 24 oz container$10.25
Craisins​Ocean Spray- 24 oz bag $5.88
RaisinsGreat Value- 20 oz container $2.94
Chocolate CandyM&M®/Mars​- 24 oz bag $4.86

These represent the brands and sizes I normally purchase for one batch of Huberville Trail Mix, and there will be leftovers from the craisins, raisins and M&M’s to use in future batches. I find that store brands work fine for the nuts and raisins but the name brands are worth springing for on the other ingredients. Feel free to use whichever brands you like.

I start by gathering my largest mixing bowl, a 2-cup measuring cup and a 1-gallon re-closable plastic storage container. I have found that the mix will last longer in a hard plastic container than in a zip-lock bag. Here is the process:

Wash your hands

Place the full contents of the mixed nuts (26 oz equals approximately 6 cups) into the mixing bowl.

Add the full contents of the cashew halves and pieces (24 oz equals approximately 6 cups) into the mixing bowl.

Measure 3 cups of craisins and add into mixing bowl

Measure 1-3/4 cups of raisins and add into mixing bowl

Measure 1-3/4 cups of M&M’s and add into mixing bowl

With clean or gloved hands, mix the contents together, repeatedly bringing the ingredients on the bottom of the bowl to the top and turning the bowl several times

Using the measuring cup, pour your trail mix into one or more storage containers

I find that this recipe makes a little over 18 cups of Huberville Trail Mix, which fills a gallon container with almost three cups left over. Go ahead, fill and store the gallon container, then pour the remaining mix into a serving bowl and enjoy the snack!

My best guess on calories would be approximately 300 per 6 tablespoons, or about a third of a cup of trail mix. That’s about how much I eat in a single sitting. Because of the sweet, salty, chocolaty and fruity aspects of the mix, I find a small handful easily tides me over until my next regular meal. I even keep a small container in my headboard for a late night snack.

The total cost of this 18-cup mixture is around $28.00, or about $1.50 per cup (again, 2020 costs), a very affordable goodie, and one that just may save you from devouring many more calories between meals.

One last thought- I will sometimes add different ingredients to change things up, such as dried bananas or fruit, semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, chocolate-powdered or flavored almonds, and so on. I only do that on occasion… and I always come back to this recipe, unmodified. Enjoy!

Read Full Post »

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)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Note: I originally wrote this pre-pandemic…

A lot has been written about how great it is living the good life of retirement in an RV, but now that we’re into our second month, I’d like to suggest some reasons it’s not so great.  Mind you, I’m not advocating turning back and selling the 5th wheel, but it hasn’t been all wine and roses either.  Here are my top 9 reasons NOT to become an RV nomad:

9.  You don’t have a garage.  Or car port.  Wherever you are camping, there’s probably shelter for you and your spouse from tornados, large hail and the like, but probably not for your RV, pickup or tow vehicle. No garage also means limited storage options.

8.  Local news is… well… local.  Even when we find stations from far-away cities, local TV news has become trivial.  Do we really care that there was a car accident in Davenport, Iowa, or that there’s a marathon being run in Rockford, Illinois?  Not really.

7.  Limited night life.  Ever try to find a karaoke bar in the middle of rural Missouri or Illinois?  I tried to many times.  No luck.  Even if I find one, I hesitate being an outsider at a “locals” establishment.

6.  No neighbors from Monday to Thursday.  This might be a good thing for someone living in the city, but when you are hoping to meet other nomads and share some wine or other beverages, the middle of the week sucks.  

5.  Crowded parks. The opposite is also true on the weekends: tons of families (and children) camp from Friday to Sunday, and we’re way past dealing with kids.

4.  Fuel cost.  When you think about it, it makes sense.  We sold our high-gas-mileage Kia because we couldn’t take it with us —  we’re pulling a 5th wheel with our Ford F350.  But that also means that sightseeing is done using diesel at 12 mpg instead of gas at 30 mpg.  Our only drivable vehicle is a gas-guzzler, or, I should say, a diesel-guzzler.

3.  It feels like we’re on vacation, but we’re not.  The temptation is always there to eat out at the local hangouts, do all the tours, drive everywhere.  However, we’re on a tight budget in order to sustain this lifestyle and often we have to stay put in the campground instead of spending all of our time — and money — as tourists.

2.   Guilt.  Let’s face it, when you have to get up at 4:45 am every morning for years because you have a job to go to, sleeping in until 8 am feels great but comes with unexpected guilt.  Ditto with not going to work and collecting a nice paycheck.  Intellectually we both are all-in on our budget, but emotionally, we feel like we should be more productive.

1.  Cleaning, fixing, prepping — there’s always something to do.  When you have a 1,700-sq.-ft. sticks-and-bricks house, you have room to spare, possibly even a storage or clutter room.  That is a luxury we don’t have in our 360-sq.-foot 5th wheel.  Set a glass down on the wrong surface and the whole place looks a mess.  Things break on the road, and you can’t wait until something becomes serious before fixing it, since you don’t want to be living in your rig while it’s parked in a repair facility.

There are other reasons not to partake in this lifestyle and we’re sure to learn many more of them.  But, after a few years on the road, these are my impressions.  Feel free to add your reasons in the comments.  You’ll feel better. 

Read Full Post »