September 3, 2014

The Four "Cs" of RV Travel

We are nearing the end of our 2 month long RV adventure. Safely home (I hope!) sometime early next week, I imagine things will quickly resume their usual patterns and rhythms. Our calendars and to do lists are already starting to fill up with the necessities of life.

What I sincerely hope is Betty and I can manage to take all we have learned about each other and ourselves and integrate as much as possible into our home life. Both of us believe this was a tremendously positive time for us. We are returning with a renewed commitment to each other and the life we have shared for over 38 years.

I will certainly be posting lots of pictures and some stories of the trip over the next several weeks. I have been asked to provide an idea of the costs we encountered, especially for things like gas and campsites. As of today we are about 7% over budget – not too bad.

Before I go any farther with this post, I do want to note that I have decided to continue Satisfying Retirement. Regular readers know I started this trip with a real question about my motivation and desire to maintain this 4 year old blog after our return. Well, I have had over 4,500 miles and 59 days so far to think about my blogging future, and the answer is I do want to keep writing. 

Most likely I will adopt a schedule of a fresh post every 4th day sometime shortly after our return. That is slightly less than the twice a week posting before this trip. But, that frequency feels doable and comfortable.

OK, so back to the subject at hand: what are the four Cs of RV travel? Interestingly, these came to me well over a month ago, and haven’t changed. These points seem to be the essence of a successful trip of this type.

Compromise:

I want to take a nap, or read, or go to a particular museum in town. Betty wants to download photos to the computer or take Bailey to a local park for a long walk. She would like dinner at 6:30pm, I am hungry by 5:30pm. I am content with an afternoon of people watching while she wants to visit an antique store a few miles away. I get tired of movies most evenings, Betty never does.

RV travel is compromise on steroids. Each of us has things we’d like to do at each new town we visit, and things we’d rather avoid. But, like marriage in any setting, compromise is a absolute necessity to make the time together a joy.


Cooperation:

Being inside a 30 foot metal and fiberglass box for an extended period is not the way most of us live our lives. Usable living space is probably 100 square feet. For two adults and a dog that is tight…no, it is dangerous. We have to plan when one of us wants to walk past the bathroom and shower to take a nap….both of us won’t fit at the same time. The kitchen has about 3 square feet of counter space, after we put a cover over the stove top. Cooking and cleanup are difficult. So, it is important that we cooperate to make life not only bearable, but actually enjoyable.

(The) Calendar:

After two or three weeks on the road neither of us could, with any certainty, be able to tell the other the day of the week or the date. In one sense, there is a sameness to this type of trip. After a while RV campgrounds start to look the same and the hours spent driving from one town to the next blend together. But, the important point is that the date of the month or even the specific day of the week becomes unimportant. What begins to matter are the experiences and memories. Except that we have reservations to be at a particular RV park on a certain date, the calendar becomes unimportant.

(Being a little) Crazy:

To spend two months with many of our normal creature comforts no longer part of a daily routine requires an openness that may border on being slightly crazy. Deciding if the shower facility at a particular campground is clean enough to use, putting $100 worth of gas into an apparently bottomless pit of an RV gas tank every other day, taking Bailey out at 6 in the morning, in the cold, to do her business, and wearing the same small wardrobe week after week can become tiring. The dust is everywhere and dead bugs become the new look of the windshield and front of the RV. The menu is restricted to what a small refrigerator ( and even smaller freezer) can hold between shopping trips. When you want to stay in touch with family and friends, Internet connections, even cell phone service, can be frustratingly poor.

It helps tremendously to let yourself go. If you want your regular lifestyle and all that implies, you are going to be frustrated. If you like a vacation with room service, clean sheets every night, and a poolside cocktail, stay away from the RV dealer.

If you want the chance to discover more about your life partner and yourself and if you want to see America and all its wonders up close and personal, the four Cs are your guide.

It may be called the Badlands - but not for everything!


36 comments:

  1. Great post! We just spent two months in our spacious (when compared to your RV) 650 sq ft cabin and we are just beginning to learn these lessons.

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    1. I am quite surprised at our reaction to very cramped quarters. Even on days when we had to stay inside because it was raining (all day, in one case) or too hot or cold to be outside for very long, neither of us felt hemmed in. We understood before we left that space was going to be very, very tight but couldn't allow that fact to upset us. It didn't.

      I am sure, though, that our home, small by Scottsdale standards, will feel huge!

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  2. So glad to hear you will continue to write. Sounds like you have a schedule that will make it enjoyable for you. All of your readers are grateful!

    What a wonderful life experience this has been for you. I love the 4 C's. Reading your description made me smile. I'm not sure we would have fared as well as you and Betty. My husband and I each appreciate a certain amount of "alone time". I'm trying to imagine a rainy cold day in 100 square feet! I imagine a sense of humor goes a long way to keeping up your spirits!

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    1. Frankly, for the first month I was ready to walk away from blogging and move on. By the second month, however, it became clear that writing and interacting with folks like you was still an itch that needed scratching. Try as I might to come up with some other creative outlet, nothing seemed as satisfying as this.

      Betty and I require a fair amount of alone time at home. Why that was a very minor issue on this trip I am not sure. Yes, humor helps. And, the reality that without cooperation and compromise we'd have a tough time, we simply adapted, I guess.

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  3. Thanks Mr.Steinbeck for your "Travels With Betty" journal. Thoroughly enjoy your narratives.I would like to know how much you paid on average each night for your site/hookup accomodations.
    Also, glad you have decided to continue with your writings for this column. You have many followers who take heed from your thoughts.

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    1. Travels with Charley is one of my favorite books, so I appreciate the reference!

      I will have a post that summarizes the expenses sometime in the few few weeks, but I'd guess the average was around $40 night - some lower some higher. I will have a more accurate number when I can look at all the numbers. Interestingly, some of the more expensive campgrounds were not the nicest places, while the more economical often proved to be a real joy.

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  4. I can totally relate to this, as we've been downsizing in strange ways during our transition. The OC house was a little tighter than the city house, and we went from that to a motel *suite* for 3 nights before coming to the rental house for this week. All different sizes and space for both of us and two totally confused dogs! You do learn a lot about each other during these times. Fortunately for us, and for you two, we've decided to stay together! LOL!
    I'm curious to hear your costs summary. I'm kind of a nice hotel kinda girl, so camping of any sort is not in my future, but I'm wondering how the costs compare.
    LOVE the photo!! That is all that matters, isn't it? To come through feeling even more connected. Some people could never do it.
    b

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    1. Your move from the city has had a few twists and turns, hasn't it. I read a few of your Facebook comments about the dogs. Bailey will never relax during the driving part of RV travel, but does fine once we are parked and set up.

      I will have some cost summaries in a week or so. Gas has been the real killer. Towing a car cuts poor mileage to the silly level, something I hadn't fully considered when budgeting.

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  5. I almost got embarrassed looking at that kiss! Way to go.
    It could always be worse: try RVing in a 17ft trailer. With a wife And a dog!
    We do almost everything outside. We only book where we know the campground has good showers and a jacuzzi. Makes a big difference. Thankfully we have a queen sized bed, but an RV short queen sized bed: 60X74 (instead of 60 X 80) Thankfully, one of us is short and I don't mean the dog!
    Glad you are back posting.

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    1. There was a group of motorcyclists at the Badlands National Park who offered to take a picture of us. Betty decided a kiss photo would be best, so there you go!

      Our bed is also a short queen. We have a trick to make it long enough for me: slide the mattress down a few inches and put a spare pillow between the mattress and the wall and, presto, almost a regular length bed.

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  6. Bob, great to see you and Betty still thriving on the road, and no one has yet to take steak knife to the other. And I speak for many when I say we will continue to look forward to your bloggings, whether at four day intervals or whatever you decide works for you.

    I also learned life lessons from being married to Deb, that might mirror your own. For example:

    1. Compromise - it is important that you both take the others needs and wants into account, since we all have feelings and needs. Then you do whatever the wife wants.

    2. Cooperation - as you said, an RV is small and it is difficult to share space. You both need to discuss have best to give and take wherever possible. This one is easy to arrive at a suitable solution - go wherever the wife tells you to in the RV and stay out of her way.

    3. The Calendar - like you said, you want to eat dinner when you do, and Betty when she does. You might want to watch TV until midnight while she wants to read. You compromise here as well and do whatever the wife wants.

    4. Being Crazy - both partners need to hear exactly what would make the other happy, just to keep things active and enjoyable on the road. This is true for destinations as well as things such as chores. You then do whatever the wife wants in all areas of craziness.

    Hope these life lessons I have learned can help some others as well on your blog.

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    1. Honestly, I think both of us as a little surprised that everything has gone as smoothly as it has. This trip has been extremely positive for our relationship.

      And, yes, a happy wife = a happy husband.

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  7. I've really enjoyed your posts. I am retired but my husband isn't. We travel but not like we hope to in the future. Here is my blog if you want to check it out. http://wrinklesandgrins.blogspot.com/

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    1. Lisa, I will certainly take a look when we return. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  8. I had to laugh at the "cooperation" issue...I cannot tell you how many times we told each other to "please get out of the kitchen/bathroom/bedroom" when we lived in the RV. But, you know what, I don't think we ever saw it as a problem. It just was....

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    1. We have worked it out. Your RV was a bigger than ours, but still, the space is unnaturally small and someone has to move!

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  9. My husband and I are planning to retire in the next 3-5 years. I am thinking of a community while it has always been his dream to travel together in an RV. You make it sound wonderful. It is certainly a major decision to make.

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    1. We have traveled about 11,000 miles or so in the 2 years we have owned ours, and it has been great. We have no desire to live full time on the road, in fact 2 months at a time is our limit. Family, friends, and what we like to do at home means the majority of our time will continue to be spent without wheels. But, the freedom and experiences of RV travel have been a tremendous plus to us.

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  10. Bob, I loved your "be a little Crazy" advice. I think that applies in any travel situation. If you think that where you are going will be like home you will stay frustrated. For me, the point of travel is to be open to new things and learn from our experiences - even the negative ones?

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    1. I understand you and Malcolm just played host to the traveling Reddys. I trust you four had fun.

      Travel is certainly eye-opening in both good and not-so-good ways. You appreciate your home even more when you come off the road, but the type of things you see and the people you meet during travel cannot be replicated at home.

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  11. Thanks for continuing to write. Your words mean a lot to us fellow-retirees.

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    1. Thanks. I am looking forward to getting home and starting up a regular posting schedule. I am coming home with lots of topics to explore.

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  12. So glad you enjoyed your trip, but even happier that you will continue the blog.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. Blogging has become too much a part of my life for the last four years to call it quits quite yet.

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  13. Great post. I'm glad you're going to continue to write. Please stay for at least 6 more years so I can post...I'm retired!

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    1. I can't promise six more years, but let's see how close I can get.

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  14. Glad to see you back! The kiss at the end says it all :)
    Happy Blogging!

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  15. Beth from Indiana (formerly Ohio, West VIrginia, Nebraska, California, West Germany--85-87)Sun Sep 07, 08:08:00 AM MST

    As a retired person with MS who needs a wheelchair/walker/cane/scooter to get around, I love to live vicariously through others who travel as I used to be able to do. I long to go back to England, Scotland, and Germany, to Maine again, to Monterey, CA, again, etc., but if I can read about travel from you and others, I can survive and continue to adjust and be content (at least until I win a contest or come into a huge amount of money that would allow charters flights and a personal driver/tour guide).

    Please continue to blog and share your retirement experiences.

    Beth

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    1. I'm happy you find some pleasure and vicarious "ride-along" enjoyment, Beth.

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  16. I'm so glad to see that you are going to continue blogging. Yours was one of the first blogs I discovered when my husband and I began our Encore Voyage, and I sort of look to you for retirement advice! My husband and I just got back from a week long adventure together, and we too found compromise and craziness to be absolutely essential! And on short, carefully planned trips, I will now start leaving a little more "down time." Because we were together 24/7, it would have been helpful to have a little more time for napping, decompressing, reading or writing. Difficult to do when on a short trip, but we too needed some "alone time." Great post. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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    1. "Alone" time is a basic need for all of us, isn't it? Unfortunately, I think we often feel a little selfish by needing that separation, but it really enriches the time together.

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  17. I have long followed your blog and have just subscribed so as not to miss any updates. Thank you for deciding to stay with us.

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  18. Glad you have decided to continue your blog. I just discovered it this week-end while in the process of making a life decision concerning retirement. It will take me awhile to read the past entries but having fresh ones is a good thing.
    Since I have complete flexibility of whether to work from home, set my own schedule; and . . . only a three mile commute with no stop lights; I've decided to 'ease' into retirement.

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    1. Easing into a major life adjustment like retirement is an excellent idea. Welcome and I hope you find lots of ideas and insights in the 4 years worth of posts! Let me know if I can be of any specific help.

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