You may think after reading my blogs that every day is picture perfect and life in an RV is bliss. And although I will post some pretty pictures at the end, the point of this blog is to give you a realistic view of this lifestyle, especially when you are not retired and doing this while still working and raising kids (or as in our case a man-sized teenager.) I can’t stress enough the fact that we are NOT on vacation. It may appear as though we are, but remember… you are only seeing the highlights. Let me set you all straight by sharing some of our lowlights, especially since we’ve had quite a few lately. I’d truly hate for anyone to embark on this lifestyle with stars in their eyes thinking that this life is easy and fun and that it’s all about the pretty pictures.
Before starting this lifestyle I truly believed that this change would afford me more time to rest and relax. Not only has this NOT been the case (for any of us) for me, my “duties” have increased rather than decreased. Not only do I still have to keep up with the finances (both personal and for our business) everything involved in homeschooling (right now I should be planning our next year instead of writing this blog!), planning meals, grocery shopping, and cooking, I have added to my duties the job of full-time travel agent! In addition to all my other responsibilities, I now am responsible for finding and booking our campsites, in addition to finding the best, cheapest, and most educational things to do in each area. This may sound easy, but the amount of time and research this all requires is significant. For every location I research not only the availability for our size rig (we are considered a “Big Rig” because our 5er is 41′ long and our truck is a long-bed dually which makes our total length right around 60 feet long), but also the cell service for both of our carriers (T-Mobile & Verizon) by utilizing their coverage maps and by calling campgrounds directly to verify service with them. It’s vital for us to have good internet service for my hubby to be able to work. I also research the nearby shopping (or at least how close or far) since Elijah and I have Celiac we have to be strictly gluten free and I have to make sure we have access to good stores, or stock up before leaving an area for the next. I also research the lay of the land, topography (Google Earth) of the campground, compare the costs and amenities of all we are considering that actually have availability and have met all of our criteria and all this before I even book one! We stay at each location from 1-4 weeks so this means as soon as we arrive at our destination (if not before) I have to get busy working on the next location so that we have a game plan with reservations. I can’t book too far in advance since we want to be flexible, so this also means we may not be able to stay in the area that’s our first choice.
After leaving Amarillo we had planned on going up to Colorado. We had promised since we left to fly our 20 year old son, J. Jay, to wherever we are for a visit during his college summer break. We were going to fly him into Denver, so I was on a search for a campground to stay at for a month (or at least three weeks) within an hour of the Denver airport. After researching for hours (and hours and hours) I was unable to find ANYTHING that met all of our criteria. We ended going back to the drawing board (or in this case, the map) and we changed our plans completely. We decided to stay near the Grand Canyon in Arizona instead and fly him into the Phoenix airport. We talked to our son and he was even more excited about the Grand Canyon than Colorado, so I started all over again looking in that area. Hours later, I had us booked for 2 weeks at Homolovi State Park in Winslow, AZ (which is about 58 miles east of Flagstaff), then for 1 month at Canyon Gateway RV Park in Williams, AZ, (which is about 34 miles east of Flagstaff and very close to the Grand Canyon) which is where we will be based during our son’s visit. We aren’t sure where we are going next, probably up to Utah. Figuring that out is yet another thing I should be doing right now instead of writing this blog! Anyway, all this to say there is a great deal of time, effort, and often frustration involved in the process and none of it is as easy as it looks. But hey, after all is said and done we are going to be spending some quality time at the Grand Canyon, so I’m certainly not complaining!
Speaking of booking campsites, we had very little success finding a place to stay here in Albuquerque (where we are as I write) and after Greg helped me out with some of the research, we found an RV Park that said they had “plenty of space”. And although they had some bad reviews, they now had new owners and were turning things around. They wouldn’t let us make a reservation, as they said they always had space. That should have been our first clue. Greg got involved in this booking and felt we should try it out, they have new owners and “how bad can it be?” The answer is BAD! Sunday, June 5th was our “Scenery Swap” day and this is the first time yet that we traveled to a new destination without a firm reservation in place. We had a Plan B, but it was all the way up in Santa Fe and we really didn’t want to pull the 5er all the way up there. We arrived at what Greg tells me looked like a scene out of Breaking Bad. (I’ve never seen the show, but he has and is adamant about the comparison, especially since the show was filmed here in Albuquerque.) It was not only run-down, it was truly awful. All the “trailers” were old and looked like they had been there for years, the only people we saw were very ummmm…. scary looking. Let’s just say it was not at all safe for us to even consider staying there and it looked (okay maybe it just felt like it) as if there was a drug deal about to go down! We turned around and drove out. I got back on my Allstays app and started calling every single campground in the area (all of which I had already called and was told were booked) to see if any had a cancellation, since it was the same day. I finally found that the Albuquerque North KOA in Bernalillo had a cancellation and had ONE space open for five days. We reserved it immediately over the phone and headed there. Even though we needed a place for seven days, we figured we’d figure the last two days out later. We drove about 20 more minutes to a wonderful (albeit expensive!) campground with all the amenities and a gorgeous view out our back window of the Sandia Mountain Range. This is the first KOA that we have stayed at and it has been a great experience. The staff here are super nice and when I checked back with them Tuesday to see if they had a cancellation, they did. We’d have to move to another spot, but we were fine with that. They then called me on the phone about an hour later and said they moved some people around so that we could stay in our same spot for the last two days as well! We hadn’t even asked them to do this. To say we were thrilled is an understatement. I have officially added KOA parks to our got to list when researching campgrounds. Here is are some pictures of our site and the campground:
But remember, it’s not always a pretty picture! Wednesday, June 15th was our 32nd wedding anniversary so I talked Greg into taking the day off of work so we could go up to Santa Fe, just the two of us, to celebrate. It’s only about an hour drive. We were both excited and left around 10:00am. Elijah was happy to be left home alone for the day, and although we’ve never left him alone for an entire day since moving onto the fifth wheel, we have gone out many times and left him alone for a couple hours or so at a time, so we had no reservations about doing it this time. We had a beautiful drive up and headed to Santa Fe Plaza which is in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, to get some lunch and then to walk around and take it all in. We had just sat down to eat our lunch when my phone rang. Elijah was frantic and yelling that the entire RV was flooded! I got him to take a deep breath and explain what happened and it turns out he had left the water on in the bathroom sink after brushing his teeth. Even though we are on full hookups, Greg had closed the tanks the night before to build up water so he could dump the black tanks. So, with all the tanks closed (and already close to full) Elijah was in the living room when he looked up and saw water about an inch deep in the entire upstairs area of our home! The bathroom was flooded and so was our bedroom. So… the rest of that day was spent with us trying to assess the situation and instructing him how to open the tanks, then to use the towels to soak up all the water, wring them out and repeat. Again and again and again. I wanted to go home immediately, but Greg didn’t, so we stayed longer while Elijah dealt with it and kept in contact with us, but at this point my heart was not in our romantic getaway and I couldn’t enjoy anything as I just wanted to get back home and see everything for myself and deal with it sooner rather than later. After a strained couple of hours, realizing that neither one of us could even enjoy the sights in Santa Fe and feeling stressed out beyond words we began the arduous journey back with neither one of us being in a very good mood. By the time we got home, Elijah had cleaned up the water quite well, although the carpet at the entrance to our bedroom was still SOAKED. We got more of the water up and were very thankful that we are in such a dry climate when this happened (the humidity level is in the teens) so it should all dry out fairly quickly and (with much prayer) we shouldn’t have any mold issues.
Living in an RV means dealing with holding tanks. Grey tanks, black tanks, fresh water tanks… they all have their issues and the levels must be checked and kept track of daily. Even when you are on full hookups, you always keep your black tanks closed (otherwise you will form the infamous poop pyramid, which you do NOT want to know about!) and then you close your grey tanks to add lots of water a day or two before you need to flush your black tank. The purpose of this is to provide enough gushing water when dumping your black tanks that it carries all of the solids (aka poop) out as well, else it will just sit there in the bottom of the black tank…. and stink. YUCK! When we aren’t on full hookups we have to dump all tanks once per week, being careful to conserve water usage so they don’t fill up even faster. All this to say… even as sophisticated and easy as they are designed these days, there is no getting around the fact that everything involved in dealing with the holding tanks are one of the major downsides to this lifestyle.
Anyway, back to our anniversary… Greg and I ended up being in terrible moods and being short with each other (and Elijah) for most of the afternoon and evening. We attempted to go out to dinner, but even that was strained. We were so exhausted and stressed out that we ended up just going to the only local place that had gluten free offerings, The Range Cafe. Eating at a “cafe” was not either of our idea of a romantic anniversary dinner, but neither of us were feeling very romantic at the time anyway. I ordered a burger on a gluten free bun, which was good but I was so stressed that my stomach was in knots and I couldn’t even eat half of it. I ended up bringing it home to Elijah. Greg had a “Brinner” plate (their version of breakfast for dinner) of Eggs Benedict (not gluten free) which he said was very good, but was also eaten mostly in silence. I honestly don’t think we said more than ten words to each other throughout the entire dinner. We were simply too frazzled and exhausted and it was way too raw for us to see any humor in the whole escapade. This morning (the morning after) Greg encouraged me to go to the pool and then he brought me over a bagel with cream cheese, lox, red onion and capers so I could eat it poolside. How sweet! He apologized, as did I, and although we didn’t have an ideal anniversary, we both agree that it was certainly memorable! The fact is, marriage is not about the anniversaries, it’s about all the days in between. And even though yesterday was a bad, bad day. The majority of the days in between are good, good ones.
This life also involved lots of chores such as laundry (today I had to do four loads, two of which were the towels used to mop up the water!) and shopping always in areas you are unfamiliar with and never knowing if they will carry food items or brands you are used to. Both of these particular chores are not as easily done on the road as in a sticks and bricks home simply because the facilities change every single time you do them. There are always surprises, and things are rarely as you expect. That said, I do choose to be happy and I always try to look on the bright side, because after all, happiness is a choice!
So, now do you believe me when I tell you that this life (or any life for that matter) is not always a pretty picture? I did promise you some pretty pictures, so I am going to share with you some pictures (okay, so they aren’t inherently pretty, but they are cool and of something we really enjoyed) of the free RV Museum we visited while we were still in Amarillo. We thought we’d check it out for something to do, although neither of us really expected much. It turned out to be quite the find. It was very enlightening to see RVs from the 30’s through the 70’s restored to their original conditions. I definitely recommend you check it out if you are ever in the Amarillo area. It’s at the Jack Sisemore Traveland dealer. When you go inside, just ask them and someone will direct you to the museum in the back. Check it out…
On another good note, I do have some excellent news to share. Our sticks and bricks house is officially (which is better than saying finally) under contract! As long as everything goes smoothly we will be closing the end of July. Woohoo!!!! Now THAT’S a major answer to prayer.
I will be blogging again very soon and this time with lots of pretty pictures of the gorgeous Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas. Elijah and I are going to go back to Santa Fe tomorrow while Greg is working, so he can see it as well and so I can get some more pictures. I just felt like I needed to post this first just to keep it real.
Even with the hard days, it’s all more than worth it. The 18th of this month will be our four month full-timing anniversary and I have ZERO regrets! My health is improving every day (especially with this dry heat) and I can’t imagine ever going back to a s&b house. We also got a new 10″ memory foam mattress as the ones that come with new RVs are terrible and it was getting to the point that my back was hurting 24/7. Our wonderful new mattress coupled with the dry heat has me sleeping like a baby. I absolutely love full timing and the good far outweighs the bad. This new traveling lifestyle seems to be a perfect fit for all three of us. (Four, if you count Popeye.) One thing is for sure, this life is never boring.
Happy Trails and Sunny Sails!