September 12, 2012

Retirement RV Adventure Part Two



After 6 days in a Flagstaff RV park Betty and I packed up and headed for Show Low, AZ, about 140 miles away. I wanted to see how comfortable I felt in driving a 25 foot long, 12 foot high vehicle over both Interstate and mountain roads. I am happy to report there were no problems. Aside from various rattles, which I gather are common to any RV, the vehicle handled well. It was necessary to stop for a bathroom break at one point but there no need to find a rest stop. I just pulled over and used the on board facilities. I'm sure RVers wouldn't find that unusual, but Betty and I thought it was the ultimate in convenience!

Frankly, I am kicking myself for waiting so long to try RVing as part of my satisfying retirement. For quite some time I had thought this would be a fun experience but had never committed to doing it until last week. Like many things in life, we lose out on great experiences due to simple inertia. I just had to finally take the steps to make it happen.

The first seven days of this trip have been everything I hoped it would be. Using a rental RV to see how Betty and I would react has been the perfect first step. While I have heard horror stories of folks who have had nothing but problems with rentals, our experience has been virtually flawless.We quickly figured out how to drain the gray and black water as required, flush the hose, adapt to a different type of refrigerator and make dinner on a three burner propane stove. Our decision to use the shower facility at the campground meant the waste water tank never became full. I will admit I tried the shower in the RV once, but it is a tight fit for someone 6 feet tall.

We quickly settled into a very nice routine of waking up later than at home, turning on the furnace to warm things up a bit, and heading to the nearby shower room. Breakfast took place at the picnic table outside our RV door followed by some work on the laptop, reading, and talking about our day.

Then, we'd go to one of a dozen nearby trail heads for a easy hike to stretch our legs and allow Betty to indulge in her true passion: photography. At this time of year the fields around Flagstaff are blanketed in yellow and purple wildflowers. As you can see, the sunsets are amazing.

After lunch at the RV afternoons would be spent in walks, reading, a nap (yes!), wine and cheese, and then dinner. Evenings included movies on Netflix or a trip to downtown Flagstaff to window shop, share an ice cream cone, or listen to street musicians.


One day we decided to go to the Grand Canyon. It had been probably 15 years since we had been there. Only a two hour drive from our RV park, we simply jumped in the car and heading north. The day was perfect and the park spectacular. Because it was a weekday in September the crowds were almost non-existent.

We noticed tremendous improvements in the visitor center area plus the resort and shopping districts since our last visit. The trails that hug the actual canyon rim had been fully paved with several extra overlook areas added. Of course, we drove through both RV facilities located at the park for future reference!


Last Sunday we stumbled on a Route 66 festival in one of the parks downtown. Dozens of old cars, all restored to mint condition, along with a large farmers' market, and street fair filled our afternoon.

One of the joys of  travel is to find events like this festival and make it a part of your day. It wasn't planned - we weren't even aware it was happening. But, seeing the tents, people, and cars, we just had to stop.

The RV park is Show Low in about 50% larger than the one in Flagstaff and contained many more seasonal or permanent trailers. Some of them had front porches and small storage sheds. We had a spot near the office and shower rooms so our plan to not use the on board shower was still OK.  This park didn't have WiFi available everywhere but luckily we were within range of the system in the office. One thing I have determined: WiFi is a requirement of any parks we frequent in the future, for both blogging and entertainment options.

We will end our adventure this Friday and head home. But, this will not be our final RV trip. Both of us found something that fits us well and gives us pleasure. We are already planning our next trip: California in February, with Bailey our dog. Because of that I will reserve a 30 footer and see if that extra room makes for an even better living arrangement. Adding a dog to the RV we had for this trip would be just a little too snug.

What lessons and insights has this trip given me? Enough to fill another post or two. Look for those thoughts sometime in the next week or so.


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32 comments:

  1. Hi Bob, I am going to have to share this post with my wife; maybe someday I can convince her that RVs are a pleasant way to enjoy America. Yeah, you are like me in that I just can't stay away from my blogs so I must have wi-fi around. It seems that just about everyone is now providing it so should not really be a problem.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences...

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    1. I think both Betty and I are surprised on how quickly we fell in love with this type of vacation. The small space isn't really been an issue at all. I'm finding using the campground shower facility no problem and noise has not been an issue. In fact, when I practice my guitar at night I'm sure to keep the windows closed so I don't bother others.

      After we set up the RV here in Show Low we drove about 10 minutes to a state park, Fool Hollow Lake, that has not only a beautiful lake, but picnic tables that overlooked a canyon. There are hiking trails around the rather large lake. And, now that we think about these kind of things, incredible RV sites that overlook the lake, have full hookups, and almost complete privacy between sites. We have been to Show Low several times but have never found this lake before. If it hadn't been for this trip and the ability to explore we would never have found it.

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  2. So glad to see you decided to jump into the RV lifestyle, at least to get your feet wet. That's the best idea, to see if you really like it before going all in.

    One reason we want to travel by RV is so our dogs can go-lol. My husband retires next spring and we too will hit the road.

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    1. Yes, the dog being comfortable in this type of environment is the next test. Dogs are very prevalent at RV sites and are a great conversation starter. Virtually all that we have experienced are very well behaved and create no problems at all.

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  3. Were you towing a car? You mention that you jumped in the car for the 2 hour drive to the Grand Canyon.

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    1. For this trip Betty drove a car while I drove the RV. We have discussed bikes or scooters as nice to bring along. But, a car seems rather essential. At some point I will try traveling with a tow dolly and bring our smaller car.

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  4. Glad you're having a great time.
    b

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    1. Hi, Barb. Yes...so far so good. Kind of like your beach home, except on wheels and with no sand.

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  5. I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying reading about your RV journey. You and Betty are quickly discovering all the little joys and nuances of traveling this way, and reading about it reminds me once again why Mike and I enjoy doing it so much.

    You'll have no issues with the 30 ft rig I'm sure. The eternal struggle for motorhome RV'ers seems to be whether or not to tow a vehicle behind - there are definite pros and cons either way. As with everything in life of course!

    Continued happy travels to you both in the meantime.

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    1. The car towing is a biggie. Already we can see how not having a car would be too restrictive. But, towing seems dangerous and adds a lot of weight. For the next few trips we will continue having one of us drive a car and the other the RV.

      Getting a truck or SUV large enough to tow a trailer just isn't in the budget, so a Class C is really our only logical choice. Do you and Mike have any experience in towing?

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    2. Prior to purchasing our first trailer, we would regularly borrow my Dad's 27 ft motorhome to go jet skiing, meaning we always towed a jet ski trailer behind the motorhome. I drove as well, and as long as we were going forward, we experienced no issues whatsoever.

      I can tell you, however, we lived in fear of having to go backwards! Flash forward to today, and it seems to be common practice to unhook the tow vehicle prior to entering any RV park, driving the two vehicles in separately. If you need more info, my neighbor tows a Jeep regularly behind his 38 ft motorhome. Email me privately and I'll put you in touch. He loves to share info.

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    3. That is excellent insight. Yes, I'll contact you "off-line" for more information.

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  6. I am so happy to hear that you are enjoying the RV. While I may never move to RV travel I have been reding up and did see some horror stories about cleanliness and other issues. So am I right that you drove the snake river canyon in an RV?? Good for you. Last time I drove down the thing was after a snowstorm.

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    1. Keeping it clean is important. But, the space is so small that doesn't seem to be an issue. Upkeep and maintenance are important. I will have to become familiar enough with the basic systems to fix minor problems.

      No, we avoided the canyon. We took I-17 from Phoenix to Flagstaff and picked up the RV there. After our time in Show Low, we will drive back to Flag and drop off the RV. Snake River Canyon is dramatic but no place for an inexperienced RVer!

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  7. Wow, you make the RV lifestyle sound like fun! Maybe I'll have to try it ... er, no, wait a minute, I don't think so. I'm not much of a traveler anyway. But glad you had a good time.

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    1. You can do it, Tom. Travel an hour away, park the RV, and write a few posts in the quiet of a forest or by a lake. It can do wonders for one's creativity.

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  8. pasopamela@charter.netWed Sep 12, 09:53:00 AM MST

    So glad you tried RVing.....as a new retiree I seen to be in another space (not my idea of fun right now) but as I get a little more comfortable with retirement, travel of some kind is definitely an option.

    Yup, WiFi is important....I'd miss your blog----so remember always to get WiFi.

    Where will you go in California? or do you know yet?

    pam

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    1. Early Retirement Tamara is supplying us with a list of RV parks in southern and Central California that she and Mike have stayed at and recommend. For the next trip with the dog we'd like to do a combination of parks along the ocean and further inland near wineries.

      I imagine we'll stay somewhere between Santa Barbara and the Monterey area.

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    2. My husband and I have twice driven through the Pismo Beach State Park campground and really liked what we saw there. You may want to look into that. The sites seemed large, there was plenty of grass for our 3 beagles, trails over the dunes to the beach, and several pull-through sites.

      We haven't yet started RV'ing but hope to sometime soon. That park would be a regular place for us, if we get that far.

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  9. Glad your experiment was successful. We owned an RV for several years in the 90s. On our trips we always had six kids in tow - some ours, some not. The kids slept in tents outside, we got the bed. It was a major hassle traveling with all those kids!

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    1. Heavens...six? Just the thought of one or two grandkids bouncing around in here is scary. Even a small dog is going to take some adjustments.

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  10. We have 3 grandkids on the East Coast (we live in Iowa) and I'm trying to get my wife interested in the RV thing, I shared your post and will continue to, ha. Oh by the way, how's the D chord coming on the guitar? (and the F chord?)

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    1. If I get a questioning email from Iowa, now I know why!

      The chords are coming along, though I am not able to change without looking. That is frustrating. Thanks for asking. I brought the guitar on the trip but haven't practiced as much as when I am home.

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  11. Thanks for sharing your trip with us! I'm headed to an RV show on Friday to start 'shopping' for one. I don't think I'll jump into fulltiming just yet, but I do want to start taking more extended trips.

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    1. Let me know how the show goes. I plan on going to the next one in the Phoenix area.

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  12. So, what about gas? I mean with the price and size of the tank....yikes. How often did you have to fill up?

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    1. Excellent question. On this trip we will only drive the RV a total of 300 miles over the 9 days. Figuring 10 miles to the gallon the gas should costs around $110. Since we also had our car with us and put about 600 miles on it, add another $80.

      The RV we rented has a range of about 550 miles. If I ran it dry I am guessing about $200 for a fill up. Scary numbers that must be figured into the cost of this type of vacation.

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  13. So happy that you guys had a successful outing first time around. Betty's pictures are just beautiful. Congratulations!

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    1. Betty takes so many beautiful photos. If I could just convince her there is a market for her stuff we could afford more trips! I'll be doing a recap-type post about this trip sometime next week and I think I should highlight several of her efforts.

      She also suggested a post about RVing from the woman's perspective. That sounds like a great idea. She'll write something up and I'll post it later in the month.

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    2. I'd Love to hear about this from your wives pov. We generally rent apartments or cottages when we travel so we have a kitchen. Even the extended stay motels are ok sometimes. You can save a lot of money not eating all of your meals out. But honestly, sometimes the cooking and the washing up and the bed making and all that....well it doesn't feel that vacation like. I'm sure you pitch in though Bob! I'm curious about your total budget for this trip too. How would it compare to driving just your car and staying in housekeeping accomodations?

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    3. Excellent idea! You've just given me the focus for another post. I'll ask Betty to answer some questions about her experience and feelings and put together something for next week.

      I know she does remind me it was a "working" vacation with some of the same chores as being at home. We share all the cooking, shopping, and cleanup chores, but even so it isn't like staying at a resort where everything is done for you.

      The newest post that went up today (Monday 9/17) gives our cost of this trip at $2,200. Almost $1,300 of that was the cost of renting the RV (equipped with kitchen and personal supplies that added $300 on top of the normal rental cost of $1,000. Obviously, $2,200 for 9 days is a lot. But, if we had stayed in nice hotels and eaten all our meals in restaurants the cost would have been about the same. The real difference was the simplicity, the quiet, and the private time together that we experienced.

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  14. Well, a big part of retirement is doing extensive traveling. However, it can be expensive to some people. The solution? An RV! And from the looks of it, you’re wonderfully living your retirement life! Your RV adventure certainly sounds amazing! I bet your next one would have loads of fun in store for you, not to mention new experiences!

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