One recurring theme I see on the RV Facebook groups is the behavior (or better, misbehavior) of fellow campers. As ironic as it may be, going to many commercial RV parks is a poor way to get away from it all.
The worst crowding we’ve experienced was on the coast of Washington where people were parked next to one another as they would be in a parking lot. The beautiful Pacific was a short walk away and people were willing to be packed into a campground to be in such a prime spot near the beach. The house and city lot we sold a few years ago was just a modest place on an average property. I think, though, that in that Washington campground there were six RVs packed into a spot the size of that city lot.
Not only is spacing an issue at many campgrounds, but RVers want to be outside so there are lawn chairs and campfires everywhere. Thinking about the house we sold, imagine what it would have been like if day after day my five closest neighbors came to my back yard to each build their own campfire and, while being cordial to one another, didn’t want to spend that time together with their other neighbors. And, of course, each would bring their dogs who would be out of their element and tending to bark at one another and the other folks in my yard. Meanwhile their kids would be having a great time, riding their bikes up and down the roads and sometimes through where other groups are sitting.
So, people put themselves into the crowded conditions of the typical commercial campground and then complain about the behavior of others. Of course, they are right – people are being noisy and rude, acting as if they are at home with plenty of space to call their own. At the same time, if you pick a crowded campground for your get-away weekend you might want to remind yourself that you aren’t at home. If you don’t want to hear barking dogs, slamming doors, yelling kids, and even quiet campfire conversations next door you might want to avoid crowded campgrounds. If you do go to such places, well, remember that you aren’t at home where you can get away from all that kind of stuff.
No one knows just how many fulltime RVers there are. For one thing, there’s no official definition of just what a fulltime RVer is! It’s obvious that there are a lot of us who are, as it has been called, “living the RV dream.”
Since I post a lot of fulltime budget information my blog has attracted folks who are still in the “dreaming” stage and researching information on the lifestyle. While I’m no expert and there are lots of people who know more about this stuff than I do I’m glad to share what we are learning. This post is directed to those dreamers who want to sell everything and hit the road in a RV. (It isn’t for people who have jobs that require or allow them to travel or people who have lost their jobs and are thinking of getting a RV as a source of housing, etc.)
Recently one of the better known fulltiming couples had a health emergency. I’m glad to have received good news on the immediate prognosis but this crisis will quite likely change the rest of their lives. Some folks have concluded that one lesson to be learned from this is that they should stop dreaming of going fulltime and jump to it while the jumping is good. On one hand, I agree that for some people this is a good takeaway. For instance we met a couple who actually retired and went fulltime. However, his previous employer made the man an offer he couldn’t refuse so he went back to work for a short stay. That short stay has now lasted three years! It’s their business but I can’t help but wonder if the day will come when they will wish they had returned to the RV dream rather than stay in the 9:00-5:00 environment.
Frankly, though, I’m not sure “just do it” is the right message for everyone. Again, these remarks are in reference to those who see fulltiming as pursuing a dream and not for those who are considering the RV life as alternative housing and such so please read this from that point of view.
- First, “now” isn’t the right time for everyone. There’s a right time and a wrong time for all the stages of life. While I’m not saying that you need millions of dollars socked away before you go fulltime you do need an income that will support the lifestyle and that includes a source of health care insurance. Put more directly: if you can’t afford to go fulltime then don’t. Instead, continue working toward a fulltime RVing retirement by planning, preparing financially, and taking care of yourself physically.
- Second, don’t get in if you don’t have a way out. Don’t mortgage your future for the present. You may not have an exact plan but have a way to conclude your fulltime life and move to the next phase of life. Aside from those who suddenly pass away, sooner or later everyone has to hang up the keys. Hopefully, that will come as the result of the decision that you’ve “been there and done that” but it may come in the form of a trip to the emergency room. As you contemplate entering this lifestyle be sure to include at least a basic framework and capability for leaving it. Also, related and worth mention, is that your vehicle(s) and RV have a limited lifespan. While you don’t need money to replace them hidden under your mattress there needs to be at least some thought given to what you will do if and when your need to upgrade these vital items.
- Third, remember that life is uncertain but is also a blessing. Don’t squander today dreaming only of pie in the sky. Appreciate what you have right now: family, friends, health, and other good things. Make planning for the future part of the joy of this day.
- Fourth, know that real life continues even out on the road. Hitting the road in your RV means leaving a lot of things behind. However, a lot of stuff will follow along too, some things good and some things bad. Fulltime RVers get sick, as did the person I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Vehicles break down and accidents happen. If you think that pursuing the RV dream means everything will always be wonderful you are in for some big disappointments.
Don’t get me wrong, we love being fulltime RVers. It’s our chosen retirement lifestyle and we would do it all over again if we had to choose. If this life appeals to you then we’d say come on in, the water’s fine. Still, remember that part of moving to this lifestyle is preparing for getting into it, maintaining it, and then leaving it. Don’t forget that being a fulltimer doesn’t exempt you from real life problems. Beyond all that, remember that life is precious. Appreciate the blessings of each day even while dreaming of the next big thing coming down the road.
There’s an interesting thread on the Escapees Forum about backing a 5th wheel. Here’s a synopsis along with some of my own thoughts on the topic.
- If possible, always back from the driver’s side – doing it the other way puts more pressure on the spotter to give good directions
- GOAL: Get out and look – at the beginning of the backup for sure – then anytime you have any doubt whatsoever about where you are and what is behind you
- Look up – don’t get so focused on the ground that you forget tree limbs, etc.
- Your spotter needs to know that if they can’t see your face in the mirrors that you can’t see them – if you lose them, stop and wait until you can see them again.
- Your spotter’s responsibility is what is happening at the rear of the rig, the driver is responsible of that is happening at the nose of the pickup – watch out for other vehicles, etc. as you swing the nose of the pickup around to line up the 5th wheel.
- Remember that the “superior” people who seem to be the most entertained by your backing in are likely some of the worse drivers in the campground and need you to have problems to make them feel better about their own shortcomings (after all the worse golfer in the foursome is everyone else’s best friend).
- Pull forward far enough – with my shortbed/slider hitch combination that’s putting the rear of the 5th wheel 5 to 10 feet past the campsite
- Watch the camper tires and turn just tight enough for them to clear the edge of the campsite driveway as you begin backing into the site
- Once you get the tires on the side you are backing from into the edge of the campsite stop turning and start “following” the camper into the site with the pickup – imagine the camper is pulling the pickup
Feel free to add your tips in the comments to this post!
Posted in Scott
Tagged advice, camping
Chuck Woodbury nails it in this video:
One of my lessons learned this summer has been that I need to make peace with water/electric only camping. As Thousand Trails members we’ve had to decide between sites we liked for one reason or another and sites that offer sewer hookups and not much else. Of course, beyond that we’ve been in several campgrounds (Thousand Trails and others) where full hookups are simply not available. My earlier feeling was that not having full hookups was going to be fairly unusual and it wasn’t necessary to make any special plans for that possibility. These days, I’m thinking it’s more common, especially in the west, and that I need to have an approach for dealing with partial hookups on a somewhat regular basis.
Our stays are generally 10-14 days. Our black water tank is plenty big enough for that, but our gray water tanks tend to fill quicker and need to be emptied during our stay. One could tow a blueboy through the campground to the dump station, but in some parks the dump station is unreasonably far from the campsites. Some campgrounds offer honey wagon service but it can be rather expensive.
We opted to get a macerator pump. Using it the blueboy can be left in the bed of the pickup and the macerator used to pump the waste water using an old water hose. Then, I just drive to the dump station, attach the 3″ sewer hose to it and dump in just a few seconds. I actually own two blueboys: one is 15 gallons and the other is 40. I opted to carry the 15 gallon one for my 2014 adventure but now that I have the macerator I’ll be carrying the big one in the future.
My approach has been to dump once daily (and it can be done as we leave the campground rather than part of a special effort). Then, as we get closer to moving day we just let the tanks begin to fill up.
I bought my pump from a fellow camper who had used it very little and paid less than half what a new one would cost. Either way, I think it’s a good investment. Others may have solutions that work better for them and I’m interested in seeing those solutions posted as comments to this post. At this point, though, I’m pleased with this approach and recommend it to others who do longer stays in two-point hookup sites.
June 27, 2015 followup:
Here’s a quick update on the macerator/blueboy approach…we’re now on the road with our 40 gallon blueboy aboard. I was pleased that I could stand it up on it’s side and have room for it in the 5th wheel bay. We’re in a CoE campground with water but no sewer hookup so we’re using the macerator/blueboy combo (and likely will be for our next few stops). It’s working exactly as I hoped. When we arrived we ran our R/O machine to make some drinking water. It creates a lot of “brine” water. We filled our kitchen tank doing that, so I dumped it using the macerator. Then, since we’ve been in this campground we’ve done three small loads of laundry (“small” is the watchword using the washer/dryer combo we have). The three loads plus bathroom sink usage filled the front grey water tank to 3/4 so I dumped again. I ended up making two trips to the nearby dump station to empty the two grey water tanks. I’m quite satisfied with this approach. It saves dragging the blueboy through the campground and is easy enough to do. One thing I like is that when I pull the dump valve the waste water stops at the pump until I turn it on. Then, when the blueboy is full, I can just turn off the pump and the water stops. This works great for multiple trips.
Let me add that I’m not planning on using this approach for black water unless it is absolutely necessary. Since the macerator does it’s thing for solids I think it would work, but the idea of holding the water hose as it pumps the “stuff” into the blueboy sounds rather yucky to me. I’ll stick with pumping shower/kitchen water.