I’ve written before about Second Wave Expenses – these are expenses that arise from equipment wearing out, etc. and needing to be replaced. While you can’t anticipate all of this kind of stuff it is wise to leave some wiggle room in your budget to update or replace items. If you aren’t ready the unexpected expenditures can put a real crimp in your traveling lifestyle.
In our case, the latest Second Wave expense is the untimely death of our Splendide 2100XC. One of the first things we bought in preparation for fulltiming was the Splendide. In fact, we bought our used 5th wheel, went straight to a tire shop and had new tires put on it and then we dropped the new-to-us rig off to have the Splendide installed.
If you haven’t used one of these machines let me describe it’s use. This is an all-in-one unit that washes and dries in the same drum. It is made for tight quarters so it is nothing like a big home style washer and dryer set. The loads are small and it washes a bit bigger load than it dries. As a rule of thumb, you wash a load a day.
Because of that, the Splendide gets used a lot. My estimate is that our Splendide did 2500 loads and served us for seven years before it died of bearing failure. This failure was telegraphed to us as the poor machine began shaking the rig even more than usual during it’s spin cycle.
Really, no complaints.
We found that a local dealer had these washer/dryers on sale and decided to just bite the bullet and get a new one. Frankly, if the new one gives us the same service we’ll be satisfied. Still, these kind of Second Wave expenses do tend to bring pain to the bank account.
The coronavirus outbreak is a fluid situation. Today’s guidance from officials may be outdated by this evening. To some extent we are all just waiting for the next domino to fall. Fulltime RVers aren’t exempt from all the uncertainty. The other day I saw a meme on Facebook picturing a class C parked alone on a peninsula overlooking a pretty lake. The caption, meant to bring a smile, said that they were practicing social distancing. Then, in less than a day I saw a news article that New Mexico was closing its campgrounds. I couldn’t help but wonder if that RV was being evicted from that isolated spot.
I see that FMCA and Escapees have announced changes in their rally schedules. No doubt that leaves some fulltimers looking for a place to land now that they won’t be attending their rally as planned.
In our case, we’re still at our winter campground. In fact, we had already planned on a longer than usual stay while I serve as interim pastor at a local church during their pastoral search. A few days ago I mentioned to the campground management that we just might be staying into the summer – not because of the church assignment but because our summer plans might be disrupted by the pandemic.
At this point I think fulltimers might be wise to find a campground they like that will allow longer stays. Many of us are in the higher risk group and it makes sense to take advantage of our more unstructured lifestyle to land in an acceptable spot and wait for the storm to blow over. Of course, everyone has their own particular concerns: family needs, events, appointments and the like. If possible, though, I’d be looking into suitable long term parking.
And, while I’m writing, I’ll switch to my pastoral identity for a moment. From a health point of view, we’re urged to wash our hands to protect against a virus infection. From a spiritual point of view, I urge you to spend time with the Lord – maybe whispering a 20 second prayer each time you wash your hands – pray for our world and for ourselves and those we love. Ask the Lord to protect you against the infection of fear and anxiety that is sweeping across the world. Also, you might include a prayer of thanksgiving for running water and soap. Oh yeah, also pray for our President and other national leaders; maybe health care providers and medical researchers too.
Come to think of it, you might need more than 20 seconds for those prayers.
We spent a few extra days in Jackson, MS waiting to get into a shop that does front end alignment service on bigger motorhomes. I wanted to use this particular shop because the owner has a motorhome very similar to ours and also he gets great reviews. I think we made the right choice and recommend Shipp’s Truck Specialist in Florence. However, the 3-4 hour job turned into a 2 day job. We spent one night in the shop parking lot. They finished on Wednesday at about 5:00 and we wanted to find a spot with hookups for the night before getting back on the road again the next morning.
Roosevelt State Park in Moran, MS is just a few miles east of Jackson so we decided to go there. The entrance to the park is very close to I20. The “new” campgrounds, though, are a couple of miles in. The road is about a lane and a half wide, with lots of twists and turns. We didn’t meet anyone coming in – won’t be able to report on our exit till tomorrow. If we meet another motorhome it will be a tight squeeze.
The state park features a pretty lake with a big water slide that must delight the kids. There are cabins, a motel, and other nice facilities. The park hosts various community events throughout the year.
The roads in the campground are just one lane with no shoulders. Many of the sites are too short for us at 39′. I was also concerned about being able to make the turns in and out of the sites while keeping the front and back tires on pavement. There are some premium sites right on the lake that look inviting. I eased through the campground looking for the right combination of level + long enough + reasonable back in/pull out. It took a few minutes but I found a nice spot across from the bathhouse parking lot and backed in. Site 73 is just right for us and, in spite of the many sites that slope, this spot is nicely level. There is no room for the car but the parking lot across the road is fine.
I can see that locals who get to know this campground really like it. However, for an overnight stay the long narrow drive in and the even narrower campground roads with ditches making it a challenge to make some of the turns make this State Park a less than desirable short stop of us. For a longer stay it might be worth it though.
One of the few things we don’t like about RV Fulltiming is dealing with severe weather and the other night we had a big thunderstorm come through. For a few minutes we had nickle sized hail. Tell you what, having hail beating down on the RV is attention-getting! Our motorhome has three roof vents/exhaust fans. One is covered. The other two, one in a hallway and the other in the bathroom, have no cover over the lid.
We were already aware that one of those lids had a small corner crack so replacing it was on the agenda. The hail storm, though, moved that project to the front burner. The hail broke through that lid, knocking holes in it. The other lid cracked but held. As the storm continued, I grabbed some gaffer tape and taped the broken lid from the inside the best I could. The next morning I got on the roof to survey the damage. Happily, the only damage was to the two lids. I taped them both up some more and ordered replacements as well as new vent covers.
The project was easy enough and in an hour or so I had the new lids plus new covers installed. The covers will not only protect the lids in rough weather and against sun damage but will keep the rain out if the vents are left open. They can also be cracked open when we are traveling to create airflow through the camper.
This is an easy upgrade and I recommend it to anyone who has a RV that doesn’t have the covers.
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.
We only intended on spending three nights at Shenandoah Valley Campground, Verona, VA. It turned out that our stay was shortened by a day. The campground is reasonably near I81, nestled in the Middle River valley. The campground is all about that river, which is a gentle stream, perfect for tubing most of the time. Then, near the popular tenting area is the real gem of the campground: a beautiful waterfall dropping in from the higher ground opposite the campground. Again, our stay was brief and in the week following heavy rains from what was Hurricane Florence. With the river running high (and it was flooding the campground in the days prior to our arrival), the waterfall was stunning.
There is a camping area on the plateau above the large camping area on the river; that’s where we stayed. Really, we were glad to be a bit higher, knowing that the river was pretty full and that more rain was forecast. My thinking was that even if the river overflowed its banks again we would be high enough to be clear of any danger. After the Hurricane Florence related flooding the campground staff worked many hours putting fresh gravel down throughout the large water-front area of the campground which is all gravel – roads and campsites.
This is a destination campground with a large, heated pool and several hot tubs located indoors. There’s also a nice fishing lake and a couple of playgrounds. The kids have a blast bike riding, fishing, tubing, swimming, and feeding the many mostly-tame rabbits.
WiFi is slow and only available in the campground store. My Verizon signal was poor to zero. I got a satellite signal but not many people would. Having a homestyle dish on a tripod let me set up in the only sweet spot, just peeking over the trees to the south of us. The sites themselves are pretty tight with neighbors very close in on both sides.
As I said, our stay was supposed to be three nights but after a night of rain on Saturday night a staff member knocked on our door telling us that the entire campground was being evicted by the sheriff’s office. The issue wasn’t flooding in the campground. Rather, it was the county road leading to the campground that was in danger of going underwater. We were told that we needed to be out within the hour.
So, we skipped breakfast and gave up on attending church and began preparing to move. It usually takes us a bit less than an hour to be ready to pull out. In this case, we were ready to go in around 40 minutes. The road out was fine, but there is one section that dips down right beside the river for a 100 yards or so. Water was lapping against the pavement as we came through.
For us, it was more of an inconvenience than anything else and we just moved down the highway to our next scheduled stop. I do feel sorry for the campground especially in light of all the work they did to get open again following the flooding.
We’ve fulltimed in our 2007 Hitchhiker II for five years now and have been pleased with how well it has held up. Last year we decided to keep it for a few more years and upgraded to a Bigfoot hydraulic leveling system. We love it. This year we had a couple of bigger repairs to do so we made our way to Chanute, KS, where our NuWa Hitchhiker was built, for factory service. We dropped the camper off early on Monday morning and moved into a nearby motel for the duration. While this isn’t a review of the motel, I will mention that we were very pleased with the helpful service we received at the Chanute Knights Inn and recommend it.
The big ticket item on the 5th wheel was the big slide out that had some water damage and needed to be completely removed and basically rebuilt from the floor up. Another job was replacing the rider’s side lower-front panel that had an unfortunate run-in with a big boulder in North Dakota last summer. Also, it was time to replace all the slide seals on the camper; a bigger job than you might think. All that plus a few other minor projects were on the schedule.
On Thursday the service center, true to their word, reported repairs complete. Happily, no other big problems were found during the work. After deflating our bank account we were ready to move back in. All in all it was a positive experience and we are pleased with the service we received. When I thanked the service manager for their work I commented that I hoped not to see them again for a long time. He laughed and said he hears that a lot.
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.
In spite of Texas late September summer-like temperatures, we enjoyed our stay at Lake Texoma Thousand Trails, Gordonville, TX. We were last here in May, 2013 and the campground is about the same as it was then. We appreciated the ranger giving us a list of vacant full hookup, 50 Amp sites that were available, I think there were 8 or 9. We picked the one that looked good to us and settled into a large, level, gravel site. There’s a $3 a night surcharge for 50 Amps – in fact, the power pedestals for those sites are padlocked until the surcharge is paid. This Thousand Trails has both a large “family” pool and Activity Center and a smaller Adult pool with spa and Adult Activity Center. There are many annual campsites that have been improved in various ways by the residents. A surprising number of the residents light their sites at night with “running lights” whether or not they are present. However, if a person arrives looking for a 30 Amp full hookup site they would have many nice spots from which to choose. The roads in the campground are typical Thousand Trails: read rough and pothole filled.
We had no problem getting a satellite signal and our Verizon signal was a solid 4G.
Our arrival day at Lake Texoma was a difficult travel day for us in which a tire on the pickup came apart, doing considerable damage to the pickup. As a result the pickup was in need of repairs and we needed to travel to Houston to pick up our car so we would have transportation during the repairs. The campground management worked with us as we dealt with these unexpected, unwelcome circumstances. We did shorten our stay by a few days as we needed to time our relocation days with the repairs.
One strange coincidence is that the last time we visited Lake Texoma Thousand Trails we had a tire begin to delaminate as we traveled. We had to stop and buy two new tires. Here we are four years later and, as we traveled to the campground we had a tire (likely one of those bought on that day in 2013) come apart, forcing us to stop and buy four new tires. It almost makes us afraid to schedule Lake Texoma Thousand Trails again!
We had an unexpected stay at Holiday RV Park in North Platte, NE. As we traveled across I80 our F350 pickup had a problem that needed attention. We spotted this campground and decided to stay there while our pickup visited the local Ford dealer. This campground is very convenient to those traveling I80, located right on the frontage road. In spite of its nearness to the interstate, the highway noise wasn’t especially objectionable. All the sites are pull-through with full hook ups, including cable. Park WiFi was pretty good. There’s a pool that looks nice. The campground is sandwiched between some commercial buildings and a motel. Walmart and most any business you need is just a few minutes away. The sites are close but not tight. I felt that it was overpriced, in fact, the price I paid matched our highest nightly stay of the year. However, in this case it was all about location. Happily, our after a few hours in the shop and a swipe of the credit card our pickup was road ready again.