Monday, July 30, 2012

Living full-time in a motorhome? Questions abound from our hometown friends

marilyns roses
Beautiful scented roses from our friend Marilyn's garden
July 24-July 29, Corvallis, Oregon

The last five days we were able to park our motorhome at our friends’ home in Corvallis, just a few miles from where we used to live. After staying at a park a half hour away, we enjoyed being close to everything we love about Corvallis: the riverfront walk, good coffee shops, twice weekly farmers market, our favorite walking routes, the amazing summertime weather, and most of all, the special relationships with friends we have created over the years.

Our motorhome tucked into a sweet spot near the garden at our friends 's home--thanks Ann and Don!

My pretend garden at Ann and Don's. I love zinnias and these two pots of ours are in their safekeeping. 

Before we arrived, Vic took the motorhome to a weigh station and was able to weigh the front and rear axles as well as the right front wheel and right dual wheels separately—something he had not done in six months or so. It turned out our load was balanced (within 100 lbs.) and we are about 2000 lbs. under our maximum weight, so that was good news. Nevertheless, this little interlude provided a perfect opportunity to go through our belongings in the motorhome and pack some unneeded things away in our storage unit. Since we are underweight, I had fun “shopping” in the storage unit for some “new” clothes and a few other items to add to our travels like a pretty wool area rug for the bedroom and some different linens (but nothing near 2000 lbs. worth!). While we were cleaning out the storage areas, we decided it was high time for some polishing too. Vic was able to wash the motorhome when we were at our last campground, but now he wanted to take on the “no fun” job of polishing the rims. He uses an aluminum polish cream and soft terrycloth rags, and lots of elbow grease. Each rim takes him about an hour to do! I would help but his perfectionism let me off the hook.

With only a few days in town, we also found ourselves with a pretty busy social schedule, trying to get in as much time as possible with friends and my youngest son. We also had thoughts of holding a puppy reunion for our dog Jetta’s two litters, but we only managed to see Rico’s sister Kai, owned by our friends Jan and Butch. Fortunately, we plan to be back in Corvallis in a couple weeks for another five day stint so we have another chance to see those folks (and former pups) we missed this time.

Sitting on a bench together, sister Kai and brother Rico patiently await their picture being taken.

Kai shows us her best pose
kai stretched out
Kai all pooped out after a play date with her brother 

Whoops--our dogs chased Sam, Ann and Don's cat, up into a tree.
Fortunately, Sam was pretty wily and escaped all on his own when the coast was clear. 

One of the biggest challenges of being on the road full-time is missing good times with our close friends. And, of course, not being closer to family, but most of our family is spread out across the country, so we actually have more opportunities to visit everyone while on the road. Vic and I feel blessed to still feel connected to such a vital community and yet we are also grateful for the special relationships we have started to discover in the RV world.

toms cappucino
A perfectly brewed and frothed cappucino made for me by our friend Tom

Coming back to one’s hometown after traveling for a year brings on many questions about how well we like this new lifestyle. I  remember reading our friend John’s blog when he and his wife returned to their hometown after full-timing for a year. He ended up creating a special post in response to the most common questions friends asked about their first year of travels. We fielded similar questions about our experience this past year. The conversations often went something like this:

Do you miss living in your house? I missed the Christmas holidays when I like to decorate, entertain, and spend wintery mornings in front of a blazing fire. Vic, not so much, as his goal in the winter is to be in cargo shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops with no demands of hanging the annual Christmas lights. I also miss the flowers and garden but not the work or expense that went along with them. We both agree that we do not miss the mortgage payments, property taxes, water and power bills, yard work, and constant upkeep of a house. 

Is it hard to be in the same small space together 24-7? This was my greatest fear because I just retired last summer when we started out and had never before experienced being home every day with my husband. My friends tell me the main reason we get along in such a small space is that it is our second marriage—there may be some truth to that! Mostly, we are on the go when we arrive somewhere. When we are in the coach, we find ways to spend time alone just by being in different places sometimes outside or in the back bedroom, or taking a walk or bike ride on our own. We also each have our own smart phones and laptops, so we can get lost in our own virtual worlds. Having four televisions (twice as many as we had in our 2300 sq. ft. home) provides another way to escape from each other. Vic can watch all the What Not to Wear shows that he wants and I never miss an episode of Ice Road Truckers.

Is the coach hard to drive? Well, I can’t answer this one! Vic makes it look easy. Sometimes I freak out as the passenger when there are steep grades, high bridges, long tunnels, or massive traffic. Probably the most challenging time we had was in high winds in South Dakota. A crosswind pushed us into the passing lane on the freeway; fortunately, there was no one beside us. When that happened I read three tips: fill up with water, fill up with gas, and if that doesn’t help, pull over and watch a movie.

How is traveling with two dogs? They are part of our family and we wouldn’t have it any other way, so we are biased toward making it work. When we are actually moving down the road, they just sleep so that kind of traveling with them is easy. We have also raised them to be crate-trained. We have collapsible metal crates that fit beside our bed when we are not using them. At night they sleep in their crates out in the main living area. When we leave them for the day or shorter periods, we also put them in their crates with water and make sure the air conditioning is set when needed. We have been concerned about what would happen in an emergency if we were gone. Some RVers post a sign on their door saying that their dogs are inside and include their cell phone # to call. We do lock the coach, so it would require someone having a key (not a bad idea to leave an extra one at the office or with a friend in these cases) or--better yet—have a key pad at the door. (Wish we did, but we don’t.) The longest we have ever left them is about ten hours. We have looked into boarding them if need be for a few days, but so far we haven’t gone off without them for too long. Probably the biggest plus to having the dogs with us is they give us lots of love, entertain us, and keep us from getting bored with each other.

Isn’t the cost of fuel just too much? Yes and no. Yes, if we think about each mile we travels costing us about .50 cents; however, even though we traveled as far east as Quebec City and as far south as Key West, we stayed in Florida for more than four months. We put 12,000 miles on the coach so far, bringing our average cost of fuel down to about $500 a month. One way we rationalize the cost of fuel is to compare it to what we spent on energy costs in our home where we were tied to just one place. Basically, we made a decision that this experience was something we wanted to do and we weren’t going to let the cost of fuel deter us. I also like the point that an environmentalist friend made that living full time in a motorhome vs. a house results in making a much smaller ecological footprint.  

How about the cost of campgrounds? The cost of campgrounds on a per night basis exceeded what we anticipated. We were not too savvy when we started out about taking advantage of weekly or monthly rates.  We only had Good Sam and FMCA memberships to start (10% discount) and we never boondocked anywhere so we paid an average of $30-35 a night for the first few months along with some premium rates to stay right on the ocean or to stay at real RV resorts. (Many places call themselves this, but few meet the criteria for our vision of “resort.”) In December, we joined Passport America and made an effort to take advantage of a 50% discount at their parks, but we also discovered that the discount is not valid certain times of the year or days of the week.  We also joined Harvest Host which allows members to boondock at affiliated wineries, farms, and orchards. Harvest Host locations have been our only experience with boondocking. Because we never have traveled long days, pushing through from place to place, the idea of pulling into a Wal-mart at two or three in the afternoon just doesn’t work for us—but stopping at a winery in mid-afternoon is an entirely different story—and, Vic likes to point out, more expensive than staying at a high end campground.

What have been your favorite places to visit so far? Livingston, Montana; Old Quebec City; Camden, Maine; Charleston, South Carolina; the Florida Keys; Sanibel Island, Florida; Sarasota/Bradenton beaches of Florida; Florida’s Emerald Coast—Panama City Beach to Pensacola Beach; Fort Collins and Breckenridge, Colorado; Bryce Canyon National Park. Nota bene: Vic says he can’t think of anyplace that we have visited that he didn’t like. All right then. . . .

How long do you plan on traveling full-time? Until we no longer feel inspired to do so. . . . I told Vic from the start that I would give it one school year. Well, we have passed that deadline and have plans for the next year already. I tend to think one to two more years and Vic can easily envision three to four more years. One thing’s for sure: it’s too early to tell. I think we both have learned that we like staying a month or two in one place and that we definitely don’t want to spend anymore winters in Oregon. Unless we win the lottery, we won’t be able to have this motorhome and a house as well, so when the time comes to “settle down,” we’ll probably rent a casita in Mexico for the winter months and give up life in the Big EZ. (Good sign: I don’t like the sound of that last sentence at all. . . .) 


We are off to the Oregon Coast for three different venues with family and friends for the next two weeks and we just made a one month reservation in Bend, Oregon, for mid-August through mid-September. Vic is having fun penciling in possibilities for the road that leads from Bend back to Florida. I made sure to point out that the Pendleton Round-Up just might fit into those future plans, something on my bucket list that will allow me to wear those cowboy boots I have been toting around since last summer. 

Happy trails to you and may you laissez les bons temps rouler or for our Spanish-speaking amigos: que los buenos tiempos sigan.

1 comment:

  1. What a nice little moochdocking spot you have there! I enjoyed the question and answer section. People that aren't full timers just don't quite get it, do they?


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