Monday, October 10, 2016

Our First RVenturous Year On The Road

As we traveled on I-80 to Kearney, Nebraska this past week, the photo of us leaving Rochester a year ago popped up on my Facebook feed. (Yes, I realize that the co-pilot should be focused on assisting the pilot at all times, but Doug and the Wildebeest seemed to be doing well on their own.) 

Whoo-Hoo!! We have survived our first year of full-time RVentures!

We pulled out of Rochester on October 2, 2015 just as the leaves were starting to change colors and the temps were giving a hint that winter would make an appearance in Minnesota soon. 

As we traveled down the Interstate, we reflected on all we have seen and done in the last year ... and thought about the challenges, the changes, and also about the FUN! 

Our first year on the road: the "Numbers"

Number of miles driven: approximately 5000 ... unfortunately, we did not note the Wildebeest's odometer when we left Rochester, but Doug has since developed a spreadsheet to keep track of the Wildebeest's performance. Best miles per gallon = 7.5 and lowest diesel price = $1.99/gallon which still puts us around $1400 in fuel costs for the year.

Number of miles that Chris drove: less than 1 ... still working on building my confidence in maneuvering the 40 foot Wildebeest and a tow vehicle down the road. I did drive it around a very empty parking lot a few times ... baby steps!

Number of different "homes" ie: campgrounds we have enjoyed: 37 which gives us an average stay of just under 10 days in each spot. We have had "homes" in ten different states over the past year.

Number of "boondocking" nights: 3 ... boondocking, for those unfamiliar with the term, means spending the night in a open space of land with no electrical or water hook-ups. We found that our Harvest Host membership (which allows us to "boondock" overnight in the parking areas of certain wineries, tourist attractions and farms) was not as useful for us, so we will not be renewing our membership. We still haven't spent the night in a WalMart parking lot yet, but we have to save some new RVentures for year two!

Number of RV repairs: many ... but only the repair of the generator required an outside professional. I (and our bank account) are very happy that Doug has been skilled and patient enough to fix and/or replace:

  • Window leaks x3
  • Gray tank switch malfunction
  • The electric heating element on the water heater
  • The motor of the door step
  • Washer/dryer door handle ... broken by his wife ... oops!
  • RV door handle
  • RV leveling jacks x2
  • Water pump replacement
  • Slides in the drawers in my "kitchen" ... once again, wife-operator error ... fixed!

Number of RV "Improvements": also quite a few ... Doug always seems to find some fun gadget to make our lives that much better! A few of the major upgrades included:

  • LED lighting
  • Cell phone signal booster
  • Stereo sound system
  • Shower head
  • EEZ Tire Pressure Monitor system

Number of Habitat for Humanity builds: 4 ... and hoping to increase that number in the coming year. I have loved getting my hands on some serious power tools and learning new skills from my ever patient and always knowledgeable teacher, Doug!

Number of National Parks Visited: only 1 - Hot Springs National Park, but we have learned that we love exploring the smaller and just as beautiful (but often less crowded) state and county parks. 

Number of State Capitals Visited: 6 ... St. Paul, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin; Des Moines, Iowa; Jefferson City, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Jackson, Mississippi.

Our first year on the road: the "Favorites"

Favorite RV App Used: AllStays ... very helpful for finding diesel stations, rest stops, campgrounds and low bridge warnings ... but only as good as the co-pilot's ability to figure out the program!

Runner up: Duolingo as we both are attempting to learn Spanish.

Favorite temporary "Home": Fort Pickens Campground on Santa Rosa Island, Florida ... beautiful beaches, forts, airshows, sunsets and friends ... what more do you need??!!!

Another runner-up: St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach, Florida for the beautiful beaches, sunsets, and even more beautiful friends!

Favorite Brewery: Lost Forty in Little Rock, Arkansas ... Lots of wonderful craft beers, but their limited edition Cabernet Imperial Stout received a thumb's up from both of us! Actually, Little Rock kept Doug so entertained with its numerous breweries that we had to make a stop there on our migration south and back north again!

Favorite Restaurant: The Freezer in Homosassa, Florida ... shrimp, crab legs and cold beer under the palm trees overlooking the harbor in February ... need we say more??!!

Favorite Natural Area and Activity: Watching and swimming with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida. They are such magnificent gentle giants! This should be on everyone's "bucket list"!

Favorite Church: Our Lady of Guadaloupe in Wimauma, Florida. It was our first "all Spanish" Mass. We loved the gathering of many generations of families and the message that "Somos el cuerpo de Cristo!" It also made us realize that we still have a long way to go before we can hope to be fluent in Spanish ... we will keep working with the Duolingo app!

Favorite Biking: The bike trails around the lakes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. From our site at Baker Park Reserve, we could hop on the trails and find ourselves in downtown Minneapolis 26 miles later ... with easy access to Twin's games, parks, restaurants and breweries!

Favorite Tourist Attraction: Disney World. From our "home" at Fort Wilderness, it was an easy connection to all of the Disney parks. Everyone needs to do this at least once!

Favorite Place to "Drop in and Stay awhile": Tami and Billy's "farm" near Panama City, Florida. The Wildebeest enjoyed socializing with the horses and farm cats, while we savored fun times with dear friends ... and all the yummy grapefruit I could pick and peel!

Runner up: Baker Park in Medina, Minnesota where we experienced our first "camp host" position during the month of June. We enjoyed working with great people, easy access to bike trails, and ability to spend time with our sons who live in Minneapolis!

Our first year on the road: the "Surprises"

Surprise! Things will occasionally go wrong ... like the braking system that locked up as we were towing our car. Thank God for the quick detection and skilled maneuvering from our pilot ... and a tow truck and WalMart nearby in order to replace our two front tires.

Surprise! We still are drawn to our long-time "home" in the north ... during the summer months. It is wonderful to reconnect with our sons, other family, and friends while enjoying summertime "up North".

Surprise! The 2-2-2 Rule works wonderfully for us in regards to travel days. We have found that the perfect travel day is one that involves less than 200 miles of travel, less than 2 hours of drive time and being able to arrive by 2pm into our new destination. And during this year, we have been able to stick to this travel plan fairly well because ... we like exploring our new "home" locations for a week or two.

Surprise! Despite hard work and sore muscles, we REALLY like the Habitat for Humanity builds ... the people we meet, the cities we explore and the families we help!

Surprise! We enjoy seeking out local microbreweries ... as they give us a unique "taste" of the local culture. Sometimes, however, it can be so hard to choose just one ... we may have to come back tomorrow!

Surprise! Full-time RVing can be a relatively inexpensive way to "vacation" all year long. Our first year living expenses, including normal expenditures (food, campground rent, diesel, healthcare, etc) as well as the "extras" (sightseeing, entertainment, restaurants, etc) came in just under $60K.  And our favorite activity ... daily walks around our always-changing "neighborhood" are very easy on the budget!

Yes, looking back at our first year on the road, we realize that we continue to enjoy the people, places, and activities of RVentures. Yes, there have been challenges ... and days when we drive each other crazy, but we just continue to trust God to keep us on the best "life path" ... together.

Until next time ...  Embrace the life-path that God has given you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

PS ... We are also pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoy sharing RVentures with you through our Facebook page and this blog ... And hearing from YOU! We would love to know:

  • Which of the blog entries of the past year was your favorite??
  • What questions do you have about the full-time RV lifestyle??
  • Suggestions for future blog topics??
  • What advice can you give us??

As always, we would love to hear from you and appreciate any and all comments and advice!

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  1. Congratulations on your first year of RVentures! Your list of top faves makes me want to follow your footsteps (tire tracks?). Thanks, too, for sharing your numbers! I wish as we approach our anniversary that we'd kept such good records. Good luck with Year Two!

  2. Year two will take us to the southwest US this winter ... new territory for us ... so much to see, but somewhat unsure about the mountains and weather. Have fun as you head south!