April 29, 2013

It's Good To Be Home


After 20 days and 2350 miles we are home. Betty, Bailey, and I arrived back on Friday after a tremendously enriching RV trip. Regular blog readers know we ventured from our home base of Scottsdale, through southern Arizona, across southern New Mexico, and ended as far east as central Texas. Our return took us through Big Spring and Amarillo, Texas, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Flagstaff, Arizona before returning to the Valley of the Sun. 

We spent $1,100 on gas, or about 45% of the total cost of the trip. We rented a car for a week in Fredericksburg, Texas and one day in Santa Fe. That $256 was some of the best money spent. It allowed us to explore without having to maneuver a 30 foot monster in and out of small parking spaces and on narrow mountain roads. Enterprise picked us up at the RV parks and returned us after each rental.....loved it!

Along the way we battled almost continuous winds. Most days, gusts as high as 45 miles per hour were not uncommon. The shorts and T-shirts rarely made it out of the suitcase. Temperatures stayed in the 50s or 60s during most days and in the 30s overnight.

As I noted in RV Travel and Lessons Learned I am spoiled by Scottsdale's warm weather and mostly calm winds. For many parts of the country April is a month of violent contrasts and weather extremes. Frankly, when we picked the dates for this trip we had no expectations that the weather would be the way it was. Live and learn.


We began this trip with high expectations but a realistic understanding that our ideas would be tested. Living in such a confined space, with a nervous dog that tended to bark at any distraction, and having to adjust to a rather substantial change in how we normally live, might work..... and it might not. There was a chance the money we spent on the RV might turn out to be a huge mistake. Even the vehicle itself was going to be put to the test. Previously we had never traveled more than 90 miles from home.

With a great sense of relief I can honestly report this was a positive adventure Betty and I won't soon forget. We have proven to ourselves that we truly enjoy the freedom RV travel provides. The simplification of life and the changes in daily routine are very attractive. The ability to be self-contained and to go where and when we want is a joy.

Betty was able to take thousands of photos which she will turn into a tremendous memory of this trip for us to enjoy for years to come. We both were able to read several books each. I wrote posts and had time to think about the blog's future direction. I even came up with a business idea that will allow us to write off many future trips. Even Bailey began to learn that the world isn't as scary as she thought and maybe every other person and dog isn't something to be afraid of.

We have just barely unpacked and started to scrub the RV inside and out and are already thinking of our 7 day trip to Payson and Show Low, Arizona in June and our three week trip through California in October. Add to that a non-RV month in Portland in August and 2013 is shaping up to be a very good year. We have discussed spending at least two months next summer in Flagstaff. Betty and I seem quite committed to avoiding as much of a Phoenix summer as we can from this point forward. 28 summers is enough. 

Over the last week of the trip I began to put together a list of what I had learned about RV travel. Three weeks on the road should produce something more lasting than good memories and 3,000 pictures. Here is what I have come up with:

...It is just as easy to over pack on an RV trip as for any type of vacation. Lots of heavy canned goods and too many clothes complicates things.

...A good Internet connection is important to a blogger, e-mailer, and Netflix watcher! WiFi is widely available but varies in quality tremendously. I am going to spend the extra money to turn my cell phone into a WiFi hot spot.

...It is important to have at least one goal a day. Otherwise, it is too easy to spend hours just reading and napping. Of course, that "goal" could be something as simple as working with Bailey for 30 minutes on her social skills, or rearranging the storage bins underneath R.T. It could be visiting a nearby park for a picnic and hike. The point is, something should be on the agenda.

...RV parks rarely look like the pictures on the web site. Even so, most are quite acceptable. During this trip we stayed at 12 different parks. Only two were really substandard. Both were rated well by Good Sam Club which makes me question their standards.

...It is very important to put things away after use. An RV is too small to allow any clutter. What you can get away with at home won't work in 200 square feet.

...It is too easy to slip up on personal hygiene and basic health maintenance, like washing often enough, flossing and vitamin-taking. I have discovered, though, that in cooler climates it is OK to not shower every day and still be allowed in polite society. 

...Once a week, we need to perform a major cleaning of the inside of the RV. Wash the sheets, wipe every surface down, sweep out every corner, disinfect the kitchen, and spend extra time cleaning the bathroom.

...Betty and I need private time, even on an RV trip. It could be a long walk alone, or one of us in the back bedroom while the other stays in the living area. In Fredericksburg, Betty had a tremendous time alone one afternoon after I dropped her off downtown. She went into virtually every store, took all sorts of photos, and spent time on a bench just people-watching. When I picked her back up later that day she was completely refreshed.

...Don't plan a trip that involves changing location every day. At least once every 3 days, it is important to stay put for two or three nights. Setting up camp, tearing it down the next morning, driving five hours, and setting up again can become exhausting and cause unnecessary tensions.

...Some of our future trips will be best taken without the dog. Bailey can spend 3-4 hours alone in the RV without a problem. But, if we have a full day planned away from camp, having a dog along limits what can be done.

...Three weeks on the road is not too long...quite the opposite. I don't think we fully relaxed and started to completely enjoy the change of pace until the start of the second week. Betty and I are giving serious thought to least two months in the RV next summer and a two month trip to the upper Midwest at some point down the road (pun intended).


 




Even so, Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz had it right: there is no place like home.

For lots of pretty pictures be sure to click on the link at the top of this page that says: Some Recent Photos From Betty's Camera: Wildseed Farm in Fredericksburg, Texas


   

20 comments:

  1. Bob, Congratulations to you and Betty. Sounds like you have been truly initiated into the RV life. Deb and I were looking on-line this weekend and some RV sales sites, and prices appear to be attractive. Starting to think more and more about it. Regardless, glad to see the three of you made it back safely, and enjoyed yourselves in the process.

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    1. Hook a small trailer to the back of your motorcycle and hit those Tennessee hills, Chuck!

      I'd suggest a rental trip first. It is a good way to see how you two feel about the experience before a major commitment. Betty and I rented twice before the plunge and those experiences were very helpful.

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  2. Great write up Bob! Sounds like you two did a great job on your first major trip, and learned a lot of small lessons that will serve you well in the years ahead. I can tell you with confidence that almost all of the RV wisdom we've gained after 8 years was a result of doing it wrong the first time!

    For future spring trips - keep in mind that California is absolutely beautiful in April. Our spring fog doesn't roll in till mid-May.

    I've never done Good Sams, but the KOA franchise is a pretty safe bet for sight-unseen stays. They are family friendly, meaning sometimes a bit noisy, so we tend to stay away if there is a better alternative, but I always know I can count on them to be clean and attractive if not.

    We prefer adult only parks whenever possible, and as I've mentioned already - RVParkReviews.com is an excellent source of unbiased information.

    And yes, a daily goal/activity is critical for us as well. It's one of the reasons I spend so much time on the internet doing research before each trip. I'm sure its not a coincidence that we rarely ever get bored as a result.

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    1. I have left 12 review on RVParkReviews.com since you told me about it. It appears to be an excellent resource. I agree about KOA. The quality does vary but that seems to be based as much as locale as on the local management. The Holbrook KOA is not very attractive while the Flagstaff KOA is. But, that has to do with the reality of Holbrook's location.

      The best parks we stayed at were 55+ maybe because they were half full timers and half transients. Overall, they seemed neater.

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  3. Sounds like you had a great trip. Show Low will be nice, my dad still spends the summers at the Juniper Breeze I think it is called in Show low. I went last summer to check out his summer park model. Nice.
    It dawns on me that much of what you said rings true for retirement in general.
    Stay cool going to be about 102 today in Sun City. Bob went golfing with the guys about 7am. Ahhhh there is that alone time you were talking about. Cindy :-)

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    1. Yes, it will be hot today in Phoenix...about 14 degrees above normal. 7am is about the only time to start a round.

      We will be staying at the beautiful state park on the north side of Show Low. In a late change, we have added three days in Payson before Show Low. The more time out of Phoenix heat this summer the better!

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  4. It sounds like you had a great trip, and it's as camping should be. We've done a few longer trips similar to yours through BC and Alberta. We have also done some shorter trips of 2 weeks or so through Wash. and Idaho, all were lots of fun. No pet though.
    I found all your points valid and in particular I agree that you need to frequently stop for at least 2 days, preferably 3 or more. The constant drive, stop, setup, eat, sleep, tear down and drive again become wearing in a short period. It did for me at least. Mind you we did not have predestined places to stay and at times had to spend a few hours finding a place to pull into.
    I'm also curious what you find with regard to using a smart phone to provide wi-fi. I've done this a few times here in Canada, as my plan allows for it, but I've been reluctant to do it in the States because of exorbitant roaming charges. I'd be very interested to see what direction you go with regard to carriers and plans etc.. Not all carriers provide the same coverage in every state. I've seriously considered getting a US phone just for this purpose.
    Anyway, good article.
    Cheers

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    1. I am a Verizon customer so the coverage is excellent. Of course, in more remote locations I won't get 4G speeds, but even 3G will be as good as most campsites. The cost is $20 a month with no roaming or extra charges.

      On our way back from Fredericksburg we did not have any reservations ahead of time. I looked at the map and decided how far I wanted to drive. Then, I pulled out the Good Sam directory and picked a few possibilities. Next I went on-line to look at each park's web site. Finally I called to reserve a spot.

      What really surprised me was that in two of the locations (Big Spring and Amarillo) we got the last available spot for that day, and in Santa Fe we could only stay two nights because they had a large group coming in on the third day.

      I wonder if this is common. My impression was, during non-peak times, there is never a problem getting a last minute reservation. But, maybe.

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  5. It sounds like a lovely trip. Isn't this a great time to travel? You did mention you encountered some wind. But, weren't those flowers great? Here's my tribute to the spring flowers of central Texas, along with a few words of wisdom. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCIlUfssaE4

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    1. Some wind? Yes, we were at the perfect time to see the wildflowers in bloom. Thanks for the video link. The music fits the photos perfectly.

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  6. Glad you had a good vacation. I myself just got back from an 1800-mile trip to Savannah, GA, in 9 days. We had fun; but I will never get back in an automobile for the rest of my life!

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    1. Funny, I will finish washing the RV tomorrow, Tuesday, and can't wait to get it dirty again! But, traveling with your second home is a bit different than long distance in a car.

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  7. I'm sure it's good to be home. I don't know if I could take being that close for that long with another human or even canine. Glad you enjoyed yourselves!
    b

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    1. If you had asked me a few years ago if I wanted to live in such a small space, shower in campground showers, and eat off paper plates I'd have questioned your sanity. I'm as surprised as anyone!

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  8. There's something wrong with spending hours reading and napping??!!

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    1. For 3 weeks? Maybe a long weekend at your cabin!

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  9. For us the RV experience started out as a thrill and then we just stopped heading out in our fifth-wheel for various reasons. We had a 28-foot fifth which was towed by a way too large truck. We probably would have been better off with a small motorhome and a toad.

    Hopefully, Bailey will calm down as he leaves puppyhood behind.

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    1. I am fighting the idea of towing a small car. It just seems to complicate all aspects of driving an RV, choosing camp sites, or maneuvering in and out of parking lots. I'm also afraid the tendency is to use the car too much and miss the solitude and experience of being still for awhile.

      I am quite sure Bailey will adapt. Her biggest problem now is with other dogs. She just can't quite grasp the concept of socialization with them.

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  10. Cari in North TexasMon Apr 29, 07:37:00 PM MST

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time! Thanks for sharing your 'lessons learned' - it's always interesting and educational to get other people's perspectives on RV travel. I was wondering what you would think about the length of your trip once you got home at the end of your journey.

    My plans changed a bit and I'll be renting a 22 ft Class C in June for a week. I'm still debating about whether I want a self-contained Class C or get a trailer and tow vehicle, so this upcoming trip should help me decide. I've always had this dream of getting an RV once I retire, but I realize I need to try out the lifestyle before making a major purchase.

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    1. Hi, Cari,

      Yes, try out various options if you can before buying. Every choice has its advantages and disadvantages. For me at this stage of my life and RV savvy, the self-contained Class C is best. But, if Betty and I become even more committed to the lifestyle then I can see a 5th wheel being something we consider down the road.

      One thing it is important to understand: no matter which style you chose there will be maintenance and costs associated with an RV that you must budget for. An RV depreciates so you will never get the money you put into it back out again. But, you are buying experiences and freedom. I look upon it as an investment in me that pays non-financial dividends.

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