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Reflecting on our 2018 Adventure

Schoodic Woods Campground – Acadia National Park, Maine

Our 2018 Adventure included lots of travel. We towed the 5th wheel over 5100 miles, visiting 34 campgrounds in 17 states. Our average travel day was 150 miles and our average stay was about 11 days (although that is skewed a bit because of two longer winter stops).

We had lots of opportunities to enjoy our upgraded Thousand Trails membership, spending 120 nights at their properties. Our membership saves us a lot of money and much of my travel planning consists of stitching together a route that includes these campgrounds.

We also stayed 45 nights in Corps of Engineers campgrounds. These are our favorite campgrounds: almost always well laid out, spacious, and in beautiful locations. With our America the Beautiful pass we average paying $11-12 per night. Really, the CoE campgrounds spoil us for staying in tighter, urban campgrounds. If there is any negative at all it is that these campgrounds often offer only water and electric hookups and are generally rather out of the way, off the beaten track.

Generally speaking, we like alternating our stays between campgrounds right in the middle of the action and quieter, more laid-back spots. That approach was really evident during our two weeks at Acadia National Park in Maine. The first week we were in a commercial campground located in the heart of the action on Mt. Desert Island. The second week we were at Schoodic Woods campground located in the “quiet side” of the National Park. That week was our favorite week of the entire summer. In fact, we enjoyed our month in Maine very much. It is a beautiful state with friendly people.

We also spent quite a bit of time in Pennsylvania.  We had been there before, but this stay was longer and we had time to get acquainted with more areas.  It is a great state to visit with lots to see and do.

One change for us is that after volunteering at Battleship Texas and San Jacinto Monument the past several years, including the opening months of 2018, we decided to take a break upon our return to the Houston area. Instead we settled into a residential RV Park in Dickinson, TX for a few months.

This year, in spite of the enjoyable travels, wasn’t trouble free. Right off I knew I needed to take the 5th wheel in to the factory for service. It was a major repair and rather expensive. Then, in Indiana I had the pickup in the shop. I knew the repair was coming, but there was another big hit to the bank account. A couple of months later the pickup was back in the shop not once, but twice, for both maintenance and work again. All in all, this was our most expensive vehicle/5th wheel year to date. These expenses will be obvious when I release our 2018 expense sheet in a few weeks.

We’ve been reminded in unwelcome ways that traveling in a RV doesn’t take us away from real life as we’ve had our share of doctor’s visits and expenses. Happily, the outcomes to this point have been reasonably good although the final chapter hasn’t been written on some issues. One silver lining to these clouds is that we’ve had a chance to affirm that traveling fulltimers can walk into most any Urgent Care and get help. Another is that all the money we spend on insurance actually gets us decent coverage. Still, I’d rather just buy the insurance without needing it!

We still enjoy the nomadic RVing life and hope to continue for the foreseeable future. With both 5th wheel and pick-up being in the shop this year we’re thinking about doing some trading, likely to a motorhome. However, at this point we’re just thinking about it. Stay tuned on that front.

Reflecting on our 2017 Adventure

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.

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.

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.

Downsizing in preparation for fulltiming

garagesaleA lot of people ask for advice on downsizing in preparation for fulltiming.  Given that everyone’s specific circumstances are unique, there’s no one size fits all approach to this but I can tell you what we did.

Related post: What does it cost to start full time RVing?

Early on in the process we just did a more thorough than usual spring cleaning.  It’s amazing how much stuff we accumulate through the years that just needs to be put on the curb.  For us the focus was on the shed and the garage.

As we moved forward, we picked a little used room in the house and emptied it out.  It became our “sorting room” where we began to put things we knew we didn’t intend on keeping.  We also cleared a wall in the garage for stuff we didn’t want in the house, but intended to get rid of.  We worked through each room of the house, moving items into the sorting room, more or less putting them into boxes with similar things.  That room got surprisingly full.  One key to this process is, I think, at first, if you don’t know what to do with an item, just leave it and move to something you do know you don’t want.  That stops you from getting constantly sidetracked.  It’s kind of interesting, but as the house began to empty, some things that froze us in our tracks were much easier to deal with when they were all that was left in a closet or room.

We also invited family to put their claim on items they wanted.  Those items stayed in place, but we knew they were spoken for.

As we got to a more serious level, we began to put larger items on Craigslist.  I also created a custom group of local friends on Facebook and posted those items there.  Being in a metro area probably helped, but a lot of stuff went out the door.  Usually, items sold for about half what they would have cost new.  We were much more interested in downsizing than we were in making money.  Our bicycles, couches, and dinette made some people quite happy.  Selling them made us happy too.

At that point we took another room, now empty, and made it our “holding room.”  Items we knew we were going to keep (plus those promised to family) were moved into that room.  The house was starting to feel pretty empty.

It was now time for the big garage sale.  All the items in the “sorting room” were priced at yard sale prices and we staged everything for the sale.  A LOT of stuff walked out the door over those two days.  We concluded the sale by loading all that was left and heading for Goodwill.

Family was given a deadline for getting their stuff, a few items (winter clothes, photo albums, and the like) went to a family member’s attic. We moved into the 5th wheel and our new, less-cluttered-with-belongings life began.