Tag Archives: observations

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.

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.

Planner or freelancer?

compassPlanner or freelancer, which will it be?  That’s a question I come across fairly often, and I’ve written about it before.  Should a fulltimer create a travel calendar, make reservations, and follow a schedule?  Or should a fulltimer go with the flow, setting sail in the morning, not worrying about where they will spend the night till closer to the end of each day?  I think there’s room for individuality on both sides of this issue (and certainly some compromises to be made on either side).  A lot, though, depends on your travel style and budget.

If you don’t mind a bit of uncertainty and enjoy the adventure of dropping anchor in an unknown port, freelancing can be a lot of fun.  You’ll have some misadventures along the way, especially if you try to be a pure freelancer who doesn’t even plan for  summer holiday weekends.  However, that will become part of your story.  After all, there’s most often a Walmart or a grocery store in the area that allows overnight parking.  Also, people who like to boondock on public lands are especially suited for freelancing.

Other than the boondockers, though, freelancers often end up paying more than their planning counterparts.  There are some great camping deals out there, but they generally go to planners who research campgrounds in an area and make advance reservations, sometimes months in advance.  For people on a tighter budget this is a bigger deal that it is for others.

Planning has it’s advantages but lacks the spontaneity some people associate with the RVing lifestyle.  Still, many of us simply enjoy working with maps and researching – looking for the perfect campsite and the best route to get there. They are able to land in some of the more popular spots on busy weekends.  Such travel is generally easier on the expense sheet; not only because you aren’t at the mercy of the campground owner who has the last available spot in the area but also because you tend to travel point to point rather than wandering between undetermined destinations.

If you’re on vacation, you most likely want to be a planner.  No one wants to waste precious vacation camping nights parked at a truck stop.  I think fulltimers are more likely to be planners, although there are a lot of fulltime freelancers out there.  Even then, though, most fulltimers make reservations for holidays, planning to arrive early and then stay on a day or two after all the poor weekenders have to return to the daily grind.   Even fulltimers who do a lot of freelancing tend to set a few hard dates and then freelance between them.

Fulltimers, more than most people, tend to march to the beat of their own drummer so there’s lots of wiggle room on this one.  Really, there’s no right or wrong way to do it – just “your way.”

2016: A different sort of Adventure

2016 - Lake Conroe, TX Thousand Trails

2016 – Lake Conroe, TX Thousand Trails

A funny thing happened as we began our 2016 Adventure: it got sidetracked to an entirely different sort of Adventure. Our plan was to head for the high country, specifically, the western slope of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. We said our goodbyes and made the short drive to Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, the place where we’ve always started and ended our big Adventures. However, we already knew the alternate Adventure was a possibility. Then the phone rang with the invitation to stick around for a while and serve as interim pastor at our church. Again, we knew that our good pastor had resigned to accept another assignment in Tennessee and we had been asked if we would consider filling in for a while. We prayed about it and decided that, while we sure wouldn’t mind just heading north that we were willing to serve for a while if asked.

Being travelers as we are, I haven’t been asked to do much preaching since retirement after 40 years of fulltime ministry. Many pastors stay busy filling in here and there. However, I’ve usually been on the road and unavailable when people called. This time, since we’re just finishing up our winter volunteering gig we’re still in the area. Also, since we’ve called this church our home church for nearly three years now I feel more of a responsibility to help where I can.

2016 - Clear Lake Church of the Nazarene, Webster, TXSo, in a couple of weeks I’ll be back on a Sunday preaching schedule at Clear Lake Church of the Nazarene in Webster, Texas for a couple of months, maybe longer.

Honestly, we’ll miss the travel. After all, that’s what we retired to do and we’re having a great time doing it. Still, my life’s calling is ministry and I’m looking forward to this different sort of Adventure – doing something both new (being an interim pastor) and old (pastoring). Also, this church already has several terrific leaders who are ready to step up and accept various pastoral responsibilities. I’m looking forward to working with this leadership team.

So – for those still reading – our travel blog won’t be as active as it normally is during our Adventures. Next week we’ll add a quick update to our Lake Conroe Thousand Trails entries and then, over the next couple of months we may take on a minor camper upgrade project or two. Otherwise, our 2016 Adventure is on hold as we begin an entirely different sort of Adventure.

Reflections on our 2015 Adventure

We enjoyed our 2015 Adventure very much! It took us to the northern Midwest with an emphasis on Wisconsin and Michigan and included some great stops along the way, both coming and going.

100_4806.JPG Our favorite campgrounds are Corps of Engineers. They almost always offer great campsites in pretty settings. Our America the Beautiful pass gives us half-price camping at these parks, making them not only great spots to camp but also provide a real savings too. Some of these campgrounds only offer water/electric hookups but others offer full hookup sites. You probably need to plan ahead and make reservations if you want to stay at these popular campgrounds on busy summer weekends.

Topping our list this year in order of our visits are these Corps of Engineers Campgrounds:

PHOTO_20150727_142048.jpg We also found some great city and county parks like Castle Rock, Friendship, WI (people kept asking us how we found this local, but out-of-the-way camping gem), Holtwood Campground, Oconto, WI, and Finn Road Campground at Essexville, MI. While these campgrounds don’t offer us the great America the Beautiful pass prices, they are still economical, great campgrounds that beat most private campgrounds we visit.

IMG_4220.JPG Our membership in Thousand Trails is our best choice when it comes to finances and we stay in them whenever we can. However, we don’t want to limit our travels to only Thousand Trails. Depending on the parts of the country we visit they are more or less a part of our plans. This year we were in areas where there aren’t as many Thousand Trails so we didn’t use our membership as much. Also, these campgrounds are generally not our favorite places to camp. Some are quite nice and others aren’t nice at all. We are glad we have our membership and plan to use it a lot in the future, although there are a few Thousand Trails we would likely skip all together.

P8129962.JPG I think the sightseeing highlight of the year for us was Pictured Rocks National Seashore at Munising, MI at Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The natural beauty is amazing. Running a close second was Mackinac Island, MI, just a couple of hours east of Pictured Rocks. This is a world class tourist destination that shouldn’t be missed.

I think Michigan in general, and the Upper Peninsula specifically was our most pleasant surprise of the Adventure. The area is interesting and beautiful. I don’t know what I expected, but the UP was a fun place to visit and I’ll happily return in years to come.

2015 - Cundiff Family on a rainy day at Silver Dollar City - Branson, MO.jpg One lesson learned in this Adventure is how much fun it is to rekindle old friendships. Since Jackie and I met while in college at Olivet Nazarene in Illinois, and thanks to Facebook reconnects, we were able to visit with people from those days. It was so good to get together in person. Also, we met up with RV friends, both old and new, as we traveled. We even enjoyed a weekend with Jackie’s brother and sister-in-law plus time with my sister. Our son and his family joined us for a fun, if wet, time in Branson, MO. While we love traveling, there’s something special about these friendship connections that does nothing but add to the joy of our journeys.

20150327_142949.jpg We have yet to have a full-scale mechanical breakdown while on the road but this year we came very close, not once, but twice. Both times Good Samaritans came to my rescue and repairs were made. I’m very thankful for help beyond the call of duty. Also, I was reminded this year of just how much I dislike threatening weather while in the 5th wheel. We had multiple instances of severe thunderstorms with rain, wind, lightening, and hail. I try to not overreact to these storms, but I spent too many nights watching weather radar and listening to the weather radio.

100_3734.JPG In 2015 we decided to try out volunteering at the San Jacinto Monument Texas State Historical park in the Houston, TX area. We spent the first months of the year there, helping out at both the Monument and on the Battleship Texas which is on the same property. In return for volunteering 25 hours a week we were given “free parking” there. We enjoyed the experience enough that we signed up for another stay in the new year. For us, this is a great win: it is interesting and fun, close to family and many friends, and a real money saver. We also enjoyed being part of the community of volunteers and staff. That’s not to say there are no negatives, but overall, it’s a positive experience.

As you can see we had a good 2015 Adventure and, yes, we’re already working on the 2016 Adventure. We plan to head for the Rocky Mountains – Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and then across to the Black Hills of South Dakota!