Tag Archives: fulltime

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 – Farm Island State Recreation Area, Pierre, SD

20170818_145911.jpg After driving nearly 200 miles across the corn and hay fields of the South Dakota Prairie we dropped into the Missouri River Valley and arrived at a beautiful lakeside campground on the outskirts of Pierre, SD. Farm Island Recreation Area is a pretty spot with large, level sites and 50 amp electrical hookups. There is a convenient water and dump station near the entrance. We arrived, happily with reservations, on an August Friday afternoon and the campground was nearly full. There were many families and the kids had a blast swimming in the lake. The lake is fed by the Missouri River. It has a sandy bottom and is pretty shallow for a good distance out – making it perfect for children. Because of the layout of the campground only a fourth of the sites are by the water. Because of that, people pretty much walk through those sites to get to the lake. I know some people get bent out of shape when that happens, but at this campground it’s just the way it is. We smiled and said “hello” and they smiled in return. By Sunday evening, though, that was all over. The place was nearly empty and we pretty much had the campground to ourselves the rest of our stay.

20170818_141312.jpg Here are a few things you might want to know if you plan on visiting Farm Island. In addition to the camping fee there is a South Dakota State Parks vehicle entry fee of $6 a day. Since we were intending to stay four days and then visit Custer State Park later on we got a $30 annual pass instead. There is also a $7.50 out of state booking fee. I had no problem getting satellite TV which is a good thing because I don’t think there was any over the air TV. My Verizon signal was solid. When I tested the water with our TDS meter it reported numbers as high as 1000. That’s really high and at the limit of what is considered fit for human consumption. I suggest you bring drinking water. Finally, the flies are real pests throughout this area. Be prepared to defend yourself unless the wind is blowing.

20170821_123147.jpg Our final day at Farm Island was “eclipse day.” We woke to a severe thunderstorm that was pretty scary – wind, hail, and a downpour. Really, we should have bugged out to one of the shower houses. However, the storm was on us before we knew it. After 10 or 15 minutes of (thankfully) small hail, things let up. We feared the heavy clouds would block our view of the eclipse which was at nearly 90% for the area. However, at just the right time the skies cleared and we had a good view of the impressive display of God’s handiwork.

2017 – Campground Review: Raccoon Valley Escapees, Heiskell, TN

20170421_193013.jpg We’re just finishing up a one month stay at Raccoon Valley Escapees RV Park at Heiskell, TN, just north of Knoxville. The setting of the park is scenic, in a pretty valley with tree covered ridges on either side. Of course, this is eastern Tennessee, home of the stunning Smoky Mountains. Without doubt, this is a great area. The campground itself is basically a gravel parking lot. Sites are very close to one another with one’s neighbor’s utilities in your front yard. The grounds are well kept, the rest rooms clean, and there’s a nice activity center.

The campground hosts a weekly gathering of local musicians who sing and play for a few hours each week. Anyone who plays an acoustical instrument is welcome to join in. The music ranges from pretty good to “not pretty good” (if you get my drift.) However, everyone is having a good time and it makes for a friendly, easy going evening.

The monthly prices here are quite good and that has drawn a variety of residents. There are traditional Escapees who travel in their RV’s full time and there are working people who had never heard of Escapees, but joined to get the discount rate as residents of this park. Most everyone is friendly or at least cordial. Because of price, location, and limited sites the park stays pretty busy.

My Verizon signal was good. Our satellite TV is via Dish Network. There are plenty of over-the-air TV stations but the primary Dish channels are on the Dish “eastern arc.” Since my dish is a western arc one, and since the trees pretty much blocked my western satellites I decided to bite the bullet and buy the replacement LNBs. I found them on Amazon for around $25. After swapping them out and aiming the dish to the eastern satellites I had all my channels again. From what research I’ve done, I’ll be using the eastern satellites for another month or two and in the future I’m sure I’ll be glad to have the option of switching between satellite sets when we travel east.

Honestly, a month was too long for us to be at this park. Had the campsites had a bit more elbow room we would have liked it better but it still would have been longer than we really wanted. I’d return here for a week or maybe two, but that’s about it.

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2017 – Campground Review: Escapees Rainbow Plantation – Summerdale, AL

20170303_130911.jpg We really like this campground. The Escapees club is the largest (maybe only) organization for fulltime RVers so when we are at an Escapees park we enjoy the company of like-minded people. This campground, being in the sunny south and in such an interesting area, attracts lots of folks who maybe aren’t RVing fulltime but are at least “long-timers” who spend the winters as “escapees” from the cold north. Everyone is friendly and welcoming and there are lots of walkers who enjoy stopping for a chat.

20170307_093549.jpg Not only are there many people in RVs, there is also an entire neighborhood of houses occupied by folks who have “retired” from RV travel or at least have decided this would be a good place to put down some roots. There are a variety of houses but nearly all of them have some kind of accommodation for a RV. It’s fun to walk around and see all the innovative ways people have built houses that also provide for RV parking and use.

20170313_183016.jpg The RV area is grassy on packed sand. We enjoyed the spacious site and a nice shady oak tree. In the past we have parked under oak trees in the fall and didn’t enjoy the acorn bombardment on the camper. This being spring we mainly had to put up with leaves falling (the oaks don’t shed leaves until new leaves come in and “push” them out).

There are lots of activities in the park’s activity center: everything from a music group to quilters to a chair “caning” group. Of course, there are plenty of eating opportunities as well.

Let me include in this review a special mention of Robertsdale Church of the Nazarene. We worshiped with these fine folks the past month and enjoyed it very much. Pastor Melissa and her congregation made us feel right at home and I recommend this church to any who visit Escapees Rainbow Plantation.

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