Reflecting on our 2017 Adventure

IMG_6081.JPG Our 2017 Adventure had both ups and downs.  It was a year with several unexpected expenses that included a broken windshield and various camper repair projects.  Later on we decided it was time to put new tires on the camper.  At four and a half years they still looked good but camper tires are notorious for failing at about that age.  We also ended up putting new tires on the truck, but, sorry to say, that came after a major tire failure that did damage to the truck.  Not long after that the truck ended up in the shop for a bigger repair.  After working through the issue with the warranty company, the repair ended up costing us hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.  Still, it was an expense that hit the bank account pretty hard.  The lesson learned wasn’t a new one, but still hit us in the wallet: when it rains it pours.

2017 also brought some medical issues our way, some are still ongoing.  That reminds us of another old lesson made new: life happens, even when you are living the RV dream.

20170319_175836.jpg During the year we tried a bit different approach to travel.  Rather than moving every 1-2 weeks during the months when we aren’t volunteering we decided to slow down in the early spring while we waited for warmer temperatures up north.  We spent a month on the Alabama coast, then another month near Knoxville, TN.    The result was mixed.  The month in Alabama wasn’t bad at all.  We were in a park that had lots of winter people and lots of interesting activities.  The month in Tennessee, so close to the month in Alabama, seemed longer.  The campground was crowded and the weather was wet.  All this added up to a less than enjoyable stay for us.  Lesson learned: be careful when scheduling longer stays to be sure the campground/area is worth the lengthy stop and don’t schedule longer stops too close together.

While we were in Indianapolis we were joined by our son and family for a few nights.  The camper was really crowded.  Still, it was fun seeing our loved ones and accommodating our “guests.”  None of us would have enjoyed this set up for a longer stay, but for a few nights it was great and we would happily do it again.   The lesson learned is that changing things up for a special occasion can be fun even if it is inconvenient.

We enjoyed family a couple of other times during the Adventure, spending a week near Jackie’s brother and his wife, Jim and Phyllis. This was followed by a couple of stays near Jackie’s family in Iowa.  Then in the fall, my sister Susan joined us and traveled with us for a couple of weeks.  These family times are a real bonus and make traveling even more fun.  Same lesson: it’s a real bonus being with family and friends.

We always enjoy worshiping with the various congregations we visit in our travels.  This year we especially enjoyed the Church of the Nazarene in Summerdale, AL.  Being that this was one of our longer stays we got to know the folks a bit rather than just being one or two Sunday visitors.  Then, we finished the year by filling in for a month for a pastor friend of ours in Denison, TX and then accepting an interim assignment (still ongoing) at Baytown, TX.  A good lesson is that while being a perpetual church visitor is always interesting, nothing takes the place of being part of a worshiping community.

20170511_122726.jpg During 2017 we towed the camper nearly 5000 miles, visited 17 states, and stayed in 34 different places.  This year, when we arrived in South Dakota we completed visiting all 50 states (although not all in the RV).  We started and finished the year volunteering on Battleship Texas.  This marks our fourth season of wintering in this unique location on the Houston Ship Channel.   We are still working on our 2018 Adventure and expect to continue our journeys in this New Year.

2017 – End of Year Expense Report

doing-the-budget
Here’s our 2017 end of year Expense sheet…

I’m listing the camping related expenses as line item monthly averages. Then, I total everything else up and give just a general dollar figure. If you are researching fulltime RVing you already know what you pay for food, health insurance, etc. (or even if you don’t, my figures for such things won’t have any real world connection to what you spend on them). Also, by combining the non-RVing expenses I feel I’m better able to maintain our privacy.

During the year we spent four months volunteering and receiving a campsite at no charge. For the purpose of this report, I’ve estimated the value of these months at $325 each. Also, we own a small car that doesn’t travel with us.  We have it 4-6 months a year.  That lowers our diesel use and adds a gasoline line to our expense sheet.

During 2017, in addition to our months of volunteering, we spent a two months paying monthly rates. The rest of the time we were traveling, moving an average of once a week.

2017 was a good year for us, but we had some extra expenses including replacing a windshield, buying new tires for both camper and pickup, and a couple of bigger pickup repairs.  These costs are included in the figures below.  We did one major RV upgrade.  However, since it was completely discretionary I’m not including it in these figures.

Because our travel was very limited in 2016 I can’t compare this year’s figures to last year, however, these numbers track pretty well with other years, although they are drifting upwards, primarily, I think, due to inflation rather than any big changes in our lifestyle.

I have to brag just a bit here.  At the beginning of the year I did an estimated budget.  To my surprise, my end of the year figures are within $30 for the entire year!  I’d say that was mostly luck and not skill at budgeting!

2017  Monthly Expense Averages
Camping fees (Value of volunteering + out of pocket + pro-rated annual memberships*) $478.06
Cell/Internet/TV $226.15
Diesel (During the months in which we have a car the truck doesn’t get driven much) $204.35
Gas (note: we only had the car with us about 5 months but this is a 12 month ave.) $23.89
Misc $38.50
RV Maintenance and upgrades $149.81
Vehicle Maintenance (had a couple of big repairs on the truck) $257.75
Registrations/Vehicle Insurance (pro-rated to monthly) $178.48
Propane $1.81
Mail Service $12.08
TOTAL $1570.88
Non RV expense – food, medical, “just living”**                                    TOTAL $1727.28
MONTHLY GRAND TOTAL AVERAGE
$3298.16

*Note 1: Like Thousand Trails, Good Sams, etc. – prorated to monthly cost -but NOT including original buy in costs, if any

**Note 2: These expenses include items like: Groceries & Dining Out, Clothing, Hair, Medical & Dental Expenses, Charity, Health Insurance, and Entertainment – but not Income Tax and a few other expenses

PS: If you find this information helpful, please leave a short comment so I’ll know it is worth the effort needed to provide it. Thanks.

2017 – The Year of the Dog

Some full time traveling RVers set out to visit all the National Parks. Others plan their journeys to see as many minor league ball parks as they can and more than a few focus on seeing the grandkids who are scattered around the country. I think, though, that we have a corner on doing animal highway sketching! At least this year, we did a pretty good drawing of a dog.

Honestly, it was only after I began planning our 2017 Adventure and I started mapping it out that I realized we were drawing a dog. Next year we’ll likely go back to drawing nondescript maps of amoebas.

Check out our 2017 Adventure Map page for links to reviews of all our stops during this “year of the dog.”

2017 – Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, Willis, TX

20171116_095441.jpg We have enjoyed many stays at Lake Conroe Thousand Trails in Willis, TX.  Since I have written several reviews of this, our sort of “home” campground, I think I’ll forgo writing yet another.  I will, though, mention that this campground continues to receive impressive upgrades.  As I understand it, the plan is to make one property in each state into a showplace.  Thousand Trails promises that other campgrounds are going to see improvements as time goes by, but for now, the focus is on just a few properties.

20171109_163152.jpg Another project that has been going on during our stay was leveling and resurfacing the pull through sites.  Those sites have been the worst in the place for a long time now.  The work that is being done will result in considerably better sites.  However, they are still back to back parking and, even though they are no longer rutted and rough sites, several are still downhill, either side to side or front to back (or both).  I think many people will be disappointed that leveling boards, etc. will still be needed in these pull through sites.

All in all, though, the improvements to the campground are really nice and will do nothing but make this already popular Thousand Trails even more popular.  Since we often begin and end our annual adventures here I’m glad for the work that has been, and continues to be, done.

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2017 – Eisenhower State Park, Denison, TX

20171001_181755a.jpg We have had a nice stay at Eisenhower State Park, Denison, TX.  We came to Denison so I could fill in for a pastor friend while he took Sabbatical leave.  The park is located on Lake Texoma and features a large marina and multiple camping areas.  However, only the Bois D’Arc Ridge loop has full hookups.

We enjoyed the beautiful wooded campground with its herd of deer and other assorted wildlife.  The neighborhood roadrunners are comical birds that are especially fun to watch.  The campsites in this area are all pull-throughs, which each site a small loop off the road.  That means everyone’s back is to the road, creating a sense of privacy even when the campground is full.

20171024_165840a.jpg The biggest negative is that many of the sites are rather unlevel both side to side and front to back.  Some are so bad that only a small camper has any reasonable hope of getting level.  Also, in addition to bringing along plenty of leveling blocks be sure to bring extra sewer hose as the connection is seldom in a spot that will let you get level and be close to the sewer connection at the same time.  And, even though the lake is very close by, there are no lake views to speak of.  Toward the end of our stay the trees had dropped enough leaves that the lake could be seen through the forest from a few spots but there was nothing like a real lake view from this camping loop.

20171024_104727a.jpg I really should mention the hedge apples.  Some of the sites have trees with this softball sized fruit on them.  You certainly don’t want to park your RV under one of those trees in the fall!

I really don’t mean for this to be a negative sounding review.  We like this park a lot.  The staff is friendly and easy to work with.  Unless you arrive on a busy weekend, they will let you drive around and pick a site rather than stay in the one assigned.  Also, if they know you are in a bigger rig they will try to assign you one of the longer, somewhat more level spots.

The campground is just a few minutes from Denison with its restaurants, Walmart, and about any other business you might need.

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