I’m currently working on a new photo and descriptive text book subtitled 33 Cities Across the USA in an RV.
I’ve always been a traveler, starting with the Air Force life until I was in high school, then following graduation, I set out on my own. Although I moved a lot, it was mostly between two states, Oregon and California. I took a few trips to Mexico and Florida during that time. Then, I retired, sold my house and set out in my motor home and really let loose.
All along, I’d been planning to write reviews of the places I stayed and how amenable they were to travelers with pets. That blog is called Animals Aboard and has about 68 reviews of RV Parks, state parks, and even a little boon docking (camping without hookups). When I realized that I’d seen a number of sites and taken dozens of photos that weren’t RV park related, I began my sightseeing blog.
This new book will be an update of the sightseeing blog, full of descriptions, reviews, and photos of places you can see while on the road, with or without a recreational vehicle. In fact, some of the places were more easily accessible for me after I got a small tow car and I include information in the descriptions about parking availability, no matter how you are traveling.
My plans last year had been to add six new states, the mountain states, but, of course, that didn’t work out. Not in the original plans was settling down but that’s exactly what I did, acquiring a full time RV lot in New Mexico. I still have plans to add reviews and photos to both blogs though. Fingers crossed, I will be able to do my mountain states this year. Toying with the idea of heading to Florida next year. But as we all know, things can change. That’s what makes life interesting.
Look for Sightseeing In Twelve States on Amazon Kindle this spring.
Or all the things I’ve bought since I got my RV that I no longer use
I wish I could give some advice to new motor home owners or those getting excited about their first foray in the RV world. There were so many, many items that I thought for sure I really needed and ended up not using. These items were given away, sold or indefinitely stored. To be honest, at this point (my MH is almost five years old), I’m not even sure I can remember everything. So, just to give you an idea and maybe help you in making your own decisions, I’ve listed the ones I can remember.
There was an inexpensive plastic container from Camping World, $20, that is used to keep your fresh water hose all coiled up nice and neatly and conveniently ready to use at a moment’s notice. The only problem was that my hose didn’t go in to it nicely like the picture. All the fighting with the hose just made my back more sore. I ended up gifting it to a young couple at Percy Quinn State Park in Mississippi who were camping with their brand new travel trailer. I now use a Home Depot bucket for my hose.
Then there was the more expensive folding bicycle and cart attachment for the dogs ($300 total). I guess I thought I would get exercise while camping and take the dogs with me at the same time. The trouble was, the bicycle was hard to handle and didn’t really fit in the outside cargo storage of the motorhome. The cart was a little easier to manage but also took up most of the storage and was difficult for me to get in and out.
We only camped at a few places where there was smooth sidewalk or road to use these. I’m not very good at riding a bicycle (I had forgotten over the years) and so I ended up using the cart for my senior dog who had trouble walking far while we rambled along behind. In the end, I realized this set up was impractical and cumbersome. It was much easier to just walk and to take the oldest dog in a little stroller. I was able to sell the setup to a young father with two children who was happy to inherit my buying failure.
Probably the most expensive not used purchase was the electric three-wheeler. Before I left California for the full time life, I was concerned that I would be traveling in a motor home with no car and how would I get around for laundry, shopping, and the like? My brilliant idea after researching mopeds, tow cars, etc. was an electric bike. Remember, I can’t ride a bike. So I had to get a three-wheeler. Also, it wouldn’t have done me any good if I couldn’t take the dogs with me so it needed a large basket.
I did my research on brands, reviews, and my price range and found a good deal on a bike with the specs I needed. I don’t remember the name of the company now but the bikes featured at Ewheels is the model I got. You could not imagine how heavy and unwieldy these are until you are trying to load it onto a cargo carrier on the back of your motor home. It was physically impossible for me. I ended up spending money on a ramp that was long enough to give me a fighting chance. Even then, I often needed assistance to get it loaded. And for some reason, it would take me about an hour each time to ratchet all the straps. Total spent approximately $2000, with the bike, ramp, and carrier plus the straps, the tarp, the locks, and stuff.
I used the Ebike for about six months and then advertised it and all it’s paraphernalia for sale. A woman responded, liked what she saw, and offered me $500 for everything. What could I do? I let it all go.
Also right before I went full time, I decided to get some work done at Camping World. In addition to routine maintenance, I had them install a tire minder system for me ($400) and a back up camera ($170) to go with the Garmin GPS I’d previously purchased. Total bill with all the installations and stuff was over $1000.00.
Wanna know what’s funny? I quit using the tire minders because they kept giving me false readings and heart attacks. When you’re driving down the highway on a Sunday afternoon in Georgia when nothing is open, you don’t want a red light beeping at you saying “losing pressure! Losing pressure!”
I bought a heavy duty air compressor at Lowe’s and it’s one of the first things I pack into the outside storage when taking a trip now. And I check my tires manually before leaving and on the road.
I never used the back up camera either and it actually hasn’t even worked for a while now. I spent some money at Camping World a few years later to see if they could diagnose the problem while I was there for annual maintenance and they were unable to fix it. What do I use instead? The best way to see what’s behind you when backing up is a Fresnell Lens from Amazon, less than $20.
Off the top of my head, here are some things that are no longer used:
Level Mate Pro — $140; a bubble level does the trick just fine
Three different bird cages ( trying to find the right one for parrot comfort and to fit in the motor home — $250; the bird traveled with us for 6 months and then went to live with a friend.
Cat playpen — $60; cat never used it.
Outdoor 8 panel play yard for dogs — $62; gave away to a senior couple with little dogs in Myrtle Beach. It was too difficult for me to open and close and too heavy.
Expandable rainproof cargo bag — $46; didn’t need after I sold the Ebike.
NOAA weather alert radio — $35; never worked properly and I discovered a phone app that I can use. I’m rarely parked somewhere with no cell service.
Suction cup window mount cat perch — $25; cat was too big
Rand McNally deluxe motor carriers road atlas — $40; practically every single road is highlighted in yellow and it’s very difficult to use easily.
External dvd drive for my laptop — $35; I just never watch my old DVDs anymore
Collapsible laundry baskets (2) — $40; they were too big and too heavy
Four step pet steps — $40; too steep for my poodle mix. I got the same brand in 3 step and he’s still using them to this day. NOTE: sometimes it’s more expensive to return things through Amazon than to just keep them!
Some of the things I’m still using that were bought for the RV:
Command caddies and shelves
Camco heavy duty leveling blocks
Kobalt air compressor
Bissel cleanview mini vacuum
You get the idea. Too bad new RVers can’t try stuff out for a while and then return what doesn’t work for them. Or maybe I should not buy everything that everyone else has until I’m really sure it’s going to work for me?
It’s pretty funny when one considers a thirty-five foot travel trailer as expanded quarters. But when I first moved in to my new trailer in September, it felt HUGE to me. That’s because I had spent the last two years and four months living full time in a much smaller motor home. I don’t need a lot but I was starting to feel the frustrations of constantly stepping over stuff or having to climb to get something. Having no floor space, especially when you are sharing with two pets, could eventually wear on the nerves of even the most strident minimalist.
If you look at the floor plans of the 24 foot motorhome vs the 35 foot travel trailer, you may at first not see a lot of difference. However, one of the major differences is the slide outs. Take a look again at the floor plans and now look at the floor space itself. The beds, toilets, dinettes are approximately the same size, but in the travel trailer, I actually have real floor space that I was lacking for over two years.
Now that I’ve been in my travel trailer for a little over four months, I began to make lists in my head of things that were different for me. I think it was one morning when I was standing near the heater by the queen bed and getting dressed. The thought occurred to me that I couldn’t stand up in the bedroom before and take my time getting dressed, with my clothes laid out neatly on the bench at the end of the bed. That’s because the motor home bedroom has no floor space! I felt quite indulged at this thought and revisited the appreciation of my new floor spaces.
Now here’s a funny difference. I was never able to use the toaster oven in the motor home without the smoke alarm going off, even when I had windows open and the stove fan running. That’s because the only counter space in the whole motor home is a little pop up shelf that is right under the alarm. Smart design, you’all.
In the travel trailer, I actually have enough floor space that I was able to buy a little kitchen shelving unit that matches the decor and holds my toaster oven, Instant Pot, and Vita-mix. I’ve used the toaster and its oven numerous times, with or without the fan running, and never had any problems at all. I’ve gotten quite spoiled and it will take a real re-adjustment when I go back to motor home living in the summer.
Finally, I never realized how much of a difference there is between 30 amp and 50 amp power supplies. I got in the habit quickly with the motor home of turning one thing off when needing to turn another thing on. For example, I was never able to run the AC at the same time as the microwave. And when I was running an electric heater (more efficient than the propane heater that comes with the RV when I’m hooked up to shore power and don’t want to keep filling a tiny little propane tank), I had to be very careful what else was turned on at the same time.
I even melted my power cord to the surge protecter one time when I’d been hooked up for many months during a hot summer and when I went to leave, couldn’t get them separated because the rubber was all glued together. I’m not sure if that was because I was running the AC almost 24/7 or because there was a malfunction with the power box.
I’ve become almost spoiled in the travel trailer. I still want to be mindful of my usage and I have a really nice, heavy-duty surge protector, but still, I can cook while the AC is running. I can do my laundry (yes, there’s a built in W/D) while running the electric fireplace. And while those are running, I can even go make some popcorn in the microwave without fretting about being conservative. I might have to be careful not to develop some bad habits but it’s so nice not to have to worry about all the little things.
So even thought the travel trailer is only a little under 36 feet long and 8 feet wide (with slides in), it still feels like a mansion to me. How have you embraced tiny living?
This essay was written in the summer of 2019 after I’d been on the road full time for a little over one year.
There’s something to be said for driving at a leisurely pace. Now that I’m retired I really don’t have any deadlines and I’m finding that, at 61, I’ve started driving like an old lady, which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always enjoyed bird observing and seeing the sites but before I bought the motorhome, I was always on my way to somewhere else. I would slow down as I passed an interesting lake full of migratory birds or tiny waterfalls along winding mountain roads but then I was back up to speed limit, maybe a little faster even, feeling annoyed at slower drivers in front of me, especially if it was a trailer or large RV.
Then I bought the motorhome. That was in 2016. It’s not a large motorhome, only 24 feet, about the size of one of those small specialty busses you see driving around town or to the airport. My motorhome was actually smoother to drive than my little Hyundai car, with a powerful V10 engine and cruise control. And you can really see all the traffic up ahead unless you’re blocked behind a semi. I was very cautious at the beginning. But driving it soon became second nature and I found myself realizing I could go the speed limit, even on the freeway, with no issues at all as long as I had put all my stuff away properly.
When I retired mid-2018 and headed out after selling the house, all of a sudden, I found that I didn’t want to drive the speed limit anywhere. How can you drive across New Mexico at 75 mph when there is so much to look at everywhere? As I started getting in the habit of driving more leisurely, I found that all those little cars and semi-trucks in such a big hurry would just pass me and be on their way like they’d never even existed. I felt like I was in my own little world traveling down the highways in a different dimension from everyone else and that other dimension changed me mentally too. I noticed that the anger I used to have often in traffic was gone and my concerns for what other drivers might think of me had also dissipated. It was a really freeing feeling.
Sometimes, my son will call me early in the morning when he’s on his way to work and while we’re talking, he’ll start cussing out the “stupid” drivers next to him and I can feel him getting really worked up. I don’t like him to be in that position but he always brushes it off later as “that’s just the way it is.” I’ve mentioned that there are several country roads that he could take all the way to work and avoid the freeway. It might add fifteen minutes to his commute but it would save a lot of merging, cussing, and aggravation. He does not agree with me. We shall see if things change when he retires.
I was in a hurry once with the motorhome. It was a week before Thanksgiving and I was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I told the folks in Sacramento I would arrive for Thanksgiving, even though I hadn’t planned to be back until closer to Christmas time. They were missing me and my dad even sounded a little depressed on the phone. It’s the least a daughter can do I felt, as they had been very supportive of my taking off and wanting to travel the country. So I allowed myself eight days but was hoping to make it in less.
It was November so I didn’t want to take I-40 back due to high elevations in parts of the country that might see snow and ice. I decided to take I-10 which follows the border to Mexico. I did 3,076 miles and arrived on day eight of my journey. The longest day’s drive was 518 miles which was my second day traveling across Texas.
I was in such a hurry to get the whole week over with, I left by 8:00 a.m. every morning and didn’t stop until 5:00 or 6:00 every night, which included at least two stops per day because of the dogs. All I have to say is that I will never do that again. I think it took me a month to recover. From now on under 200 miles per day is my goal and I will take ten days to get somewhere that is 1,000 miles away if I have to.
Recently, things changed again. I am now towing a car. Even though the towing is pretty much seamless, you can’t even feel it and it turns like a dream, I find myself driving very cautiously. It says on the Oklahoma Turnpike (I-44) that the speed limit is 50 to 75, “no tolerance” they add on the sign. So I picked 60 mph, set my cruise control and drove 130 miles no problem. People didn’t get mad at me, they just passed me and I was left alone to enjoy my own little world of scenery and peacefulness.
I’m sure as I get more bold with the towing situation, I will start to feel more comfortable going faster, except maybe on city interchanges, but why go faster? I’m not bothering anyone, I’m not breaking the law, and I’m enjoying a blissful, stress-free retirement.
So when you are behind a slow moving motorhome towing a car and starting to get steamed because you can’t pass, don’t get mad. Think about those retired people in front of you enjoying the scenery and not having a care in the world. And hope that one day, you can be like that.