Tag Archives: planning

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 – Volunteering at San Jacinto Battlefield and Battleship Texas

battleshiptexas2.jpg We’re just concluding our third winter of volunteering at San Jacinto Battlefield and Battleship Texas.  Honestly, my previous reviews pretty much say it all.  Once again we’ve enjoyed spending most of our volunteer time talking to people about the Texas – the only remaining battleship that served in both WWI and WWII.  We’ve also enjoyed working with other volunteers who, like us, fulltime in RVs.  Some are have come here year after year, so when we return it is a bit of a homecoming.  Others are new friends and it has been fun getting to know them.  The park staff are a pleasure to work with too.  If you haven’t gotten the message: we like doing this and plan on returning next fall for another winter of volunteering.

As has already been described, 2016 was a non-traveling year for us.  Because of that, we’re looking forward to a return to our touring fulltime RV life.  Our stationary circumstances left me with even more time to plan our 2017 Adventure than I would have had otherwise.  We have a potential route planned and several reservations have already been made.  No doubt, we will end up making adjustments, but if you don’t have a plan it’s impossible to change your plans!  Also, we’re headed for some popular areas in the coming months and without reservations we’d end up struggling to find a suitable spot or end up paying premium prices somewhere.

One change we’re making this year is adding a couple of extended, one month stays.  The idea is to spend extra time in interesting areas, save a bit of money by paying monthly rather than weekly or daily rates, and stay in southern states till warmer temperatures arrive in northern states later in the spring.  Time will tell if we like this strategy and will include it in future planning.

We’ve had a good stay at our winter quarters of San Jacinto Battleground and Battleship Texas and we’re looking forward to great days on our 2017 Adventure.

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2016 – End of the Year Expense Report

doing-the-budgetEvery year since we became fulltime RVers I’ve posted an expense sheet, but 2016 wasn’t a typical year. As I’ve written in previous entries to this blog we took an unexpected break from traveling to serve as interim pastor. That assignment lasted six months. Add to that around five months (January-March and then November-December) volunteering at San Jacinto Battlefield/Battleship Texas and there’s not much of the year left!

Our campground costs this year, as you can guess, have no connection to what anyone else would pay. Also, our F350 pickup has been mostly parked. We have a small car that doesn’t travel with us when we are on the road, but this year we ran the wheels off of it. In other words, our camping and travel costs in 2016 wouldn’t be of much help to anyone.

Basically, our expenditures are just living costs and don’t have anything to do with fulltiming. Because of that I’m not publishing an expense sheet for 2016.

A few months ago I did a blog entry on Second Wave Expenses. This was a terrific year for us to take on several replacements and do some upgrades. We also had a couple of major unwelcome expenses: a new air conditioner for the 5th wheel and a major repair on the car. These two items amounted to several thousand dollars. The fact that we weren’t traveling enabled us to absorb these biggies.

And, as I said, we had some other, more voluntary, expenses. They included stuff like:
• A new backup sewer hose
• Two-Way Radios
• Wilson WeBoost and antenna to replace our worn out Wilson Sleek
• Replaced all incandescents with LED Lights
• Two new Recliners
• Heated Mattress Pad (nice on winter nights)

All said and done, even with the major repairs plus all the voluntary purchases we came out on the positive side of the spreadsheet. Had we traveled as planned, I think we would have been about on budget but maybe a bit behind on the year.

Our plans are to return to touring in the early spring and to make our 2017 Adventure a good one. Stay tuned!

Reflections on our 2016 Adventure

Things didn’t go for us as planned in 2016. Our intention was to head west to Moab, Utah and then north to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and then east to the Black Hills of South Dakota before turning south again in the late fall.

Instead, we left our winter volunteering position at San Jacinto Battlefield and Battleship Texas and drove less than 100 miles to Conroe – and then right back to the Houston area, having accepted an interim pastor position at our home church, Clear Lake Church of the Nazarene in Webster, Texas. Our stay was an enjoyable and blessed six months of ministry during the pastoral transition. We also were glad to be close to family through some challenging days. Once our time of ministry at the church was finished it was back to San Jacinto to begin another winter of helping out on Battleship Texas.

As you can guess our 2016 travel map isn’t very impressive and our expense sheets wouldn’t be especially helpful to anyone who is looking into the fulltime RV lifestyle.

One of the neat things about this life is that we have wonderful flexibility. In small ways it is seen when we decide to change our travel plans to stay an extra day or two in a spot while we wait for better travel weather. In a big way it showed up as we scrapped an entire year’s worth of travel plans to do what we felt the Lord wanted us to do.

Moving on to a less lofty discussion, I’ll mention that not having campground fees or big diesel costs this year allowed us to spend money on several extras. Some were unwelcome, like a major repair to the car; and some were purely an extravagance, like the cruise we booked. We spent money on the 5th wheel, taking on projects both large and small, including buying two small recliners.

We’re looking forward to a return to our touring RV lifestyle in 2017. In the early spring we plan on heading to the southeastern part of the country, then we’ll head north looking for cooler summer temperatures, and then we may try for the Black Hills again in the fall.

Those are our plans. That is, unless the phone rings.

The more things change the more they stay the same

camping

It goes without saying that moving to fulltiming from a traditional “stix and brix” life is a major transition. We made the move and have never looked back. While the many changes are obvious, I’ve concluded that more stays the same than some might think. In spite of the downsizing involved, I think most people morph to a life that is similar to what they lived before. Now, let me hurry to say that if the move to fulltiming is connected to retirement or a new livelihood lots of major changes are baked in, RV lifestyle or not.

P2248680.JPG If, for instance, you enjoy watching TV, there’s a good chance that you’ll want a decent TV solution in your RV – probably satellite TV and a nice TV to watch. If you spend a lot of time surfing the Internet, you’ll want the best cell Internet package you can afford.

P2248685.JPG I see people on forums debating whether or not to have a washer/dryer in their RV. The answer is actually pretty easy: if you had a washer/dryer in your house you’ll probably want one in your RV. If you enjoyed going to a laundromat before, you’ll probably want to keep going to one. Admittedly, this approach has its limits – for instance, while dish washers are available, they aren’t all that common so you might have to surrender to dish washing in the RV even though you always used a dish washer in your old life.

Without doubt, living as a fulltimer means that some things will be more challenging than they were in your pre-fulltiming days. There will be times when you won’t be able to get the satellite signal or when you are camping without a sewer connect, thus limiting your use of the on-board washer. It’s all part of the adventure and you will have to find ways to accommodate such things.

Still, though, thinking that one is going fulltime and that once you are “out there” that everything will be different is probably mistaken. Lots of things will be different – hopefully, in great ways. However, you will still be the same person who wants oatmeal for breakfast most mornings, wants to do your laundry “at home,” and wants to watch the evening news on TV. Knowing this will help you make decisions about stuff like whether or not to sign up for a big data cell plan or buy a combo washer/dryer or get a fancy satellite setup.