Saturday, January 5, 2019

That was Us

About six years ago, Pattie and I were beginning to seriously consider the full-time RV lifestyle.  I was doing research on the types of RVs suitable for full-time use and the financial aspects of the lifestyle.  We traveled to a few RV shows to look at RVs and attend seminars.  As we traveled along the highway, we would see large motorhomes towing a vehicle and we would say, “That could be us.”  Seeing such a large rig with a TOAD vehicle made us curious about where they were going and what adventures were they having.  After three and a half years of full-timing, we now know what it is all about.
This blog entry brings us to a close in our full-time RV lifestyle.  I accepted a job in a large corporation and we are moving to the Boston, MA area.  In the past 90 days, we have gone from living in a church parking lot performing disaster relief operations to living in a Boston suburb townhouse wearing suits to work. We squeezed in time with family over the holidays in there somewhere.  Just thinking back over the tasks accomplished in the past 90 days is astonishing.
            Phone interviews, designed new accessory for Jeep, Built Mike’s Metal Fab web site, Interviewed with Army CoE for campground Host position, face to face interview in Washington DC, disaster relief work in Wilmington, NC, received corporate job offer, Thanksgiving visit in Atlanta, accepted job offer, retrieved and installed original motorhome couch from storage in Auburn, advertised motorhome for sale, planned for storage or consignment for motorhome, flew to Boston to look for new home, began work, flew back to Alabama for Christmas, packed motorhome items in U-Haul and transport to Auburn, met movers in Auburn to pack and load items from storage, searched for Pattie a car, sold motorhome, bought Pattie a car, visited Atlanta for New Years, traveled back to Auburn for medical appointment, drove to Boston, MA, received goods at townhouse.

Whew!  Talk about going from a make it up as you go lifestyle to full throttle into a new lifestyle.  It is amazing that so much was accomplished in such a short period of time with many events happening at perfect (if not last minute) timing.  Selling the motorhome was one of those events.  I placed an ad on and called a few places to discuss consignment selling.  I hated the idea of leaving the motorhome with a dealer to consignment sell it. I wanted to be able to meet the new owners and tell them The Bus’ history and teach them how the systems work. As time grew short to move, I had resigned myself to this option although I was getting quite a few calls from potential buyers.  Finally, a couple from Mobile, AL called and said they had been looking for a coach like ours for several months.  I told them of my time constraints and they came immediately to see it.  It was a Pastor and his wife who were looking for a coach to use to use in a travel ministry.  We hit it off immediately and I agreed to sell it to him for the same price I would have received had I sold it on consignment and $1,000 less to cover the cost of replacing the batteries which I would need to do this year anyway.  It was great to have a couple days with them to tell them about the coach and our adventures.  I am on their speed dial for questions and have received several calls that I enjoy.
Transferring to new owners
In our initial planning for full-time RV living, we had discussed various exit strategies.  It was one of our top concerns.  We expected to full-time for 3-5 years and calculated the costs involved keeping a nest egg saved for starting our next lifestyle. When we hit the 3-year point, we agreed to continue until an opportunity presented itself.  The job offer seemed to be that opportunity so we took the exit ramp at 3 years 7 months.  How did we fair over that time?
            Depreciation on a 7-year-old motorhome:  ~$10,000 per year
            Maintenance: $3900 per year
            Tires: $4100
            Insurance: ~$1400 per year
            Tags (Alabama): $1100 per year
            Times towed: 0
            Nights Unable to sleep in it: 0
            Windshields replaced: 0
            Flat tires: 0
            Air Bag failures: 1
            Slide issues: 2
            Satellite antenna issues: 2
            Water Pumps (house): 1
            Electrical gremlins killed: 3
            Injuries: 2
            Days sick: 0 (think about that!)
            Memories together:  1,000,000+
            Do it again:  YES

So this brings us to a close on this chapter of our life.  As Dan Wilson wrote in the 1998 song Closing Time, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” Now as we travel down the highways and see those large motorhomes towing their dinghy vehicles, we say, “That was us” and smile at the memories we shared.

Thanks for keepingupwiththejonesrv.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Questions About Going Full Time in an RV

First time we saw our home on wheels
In June 2013, we began seriously thinking about living the full-time RV lifestyle.  Several life events with sons in college out of state, job transitions, and other things seemed to propel us to change from the typical sticks and bricks lifestyle.  To help determine if this was something we really wanted to do, I made up a few questions and we answered them separately then compared our answers. Here is a combination of those questions and answers and how we view them today for anyone who may be considering full-time RVing.

Questions and answers
Thoughts after 3.5 years
1.  What are the top 3 reasons you want to do this?
a.  Freedom to make our own schedule.
b.  Explore places at a leisurely pace and spend time together

c.   Eliminate stuff that ties us down (mortgage, home maintenance, excess stuff) and decide what we really need vs what we want.
2.  What are your top 3 concerns about full time RV living?
a.  Finding a RV that will not give us problems and having our own spaces when we want to be alone.

b.  Finances and exit strategy.  How will we get back to a bricks and sticks lifestyle when we are tired of RVing.
c.   Security of not owning a home, physical security of being in unknown places.
3.  What are the top 3 things you will miss most about living in a bricks/sticks house?
a.  Gardening, swimming pool, outdoor spaces, projects. 
b.  Deep personal connections with friends and neighbors

c.   Full size appliances and stuff

4.  What are the top 3 things you will miss the least about living in a bricks/sticks house?
a.   Projects, something to always clean and repair
b.   Cost pressures of maintaining a home
c.   Responsibilities to groups and organizations
5.   What specifically are the things you want to do while full time RVing?
a.      Visit family and provide support

b.    Make new friends 

c.    Visit Yellowstone, Glacier, Giant trees, Crater Lake, Maine, Niagara Falls, Mt Rushmore, Key West, Alaska, Grand Canyon.

d.    Visit old friends and places we have lived

e.    Attend Jeep Jamborees

f.     Boondock where we can see stars

g.    Participate in disaster relief ministry

h.    Take time to learn US history

i.      Go where the wind takes us

Making it up as we go and spending time in places many people only get to experience on short vacations was the best part of full-timing.

You really don’t need much stuff. Minimal living has a quality all its own.

All RVs will have some problems.  We chose an older higher end motorhome and the more robust systems served us well.  We were always able to find our own space.
Still unknown how we will get back and not sure we want too.
We stayed aware of our surroundings and did not have any serious issues with man or beast.

We carry an herb garden with us, some campgrounds have pools, and there is always a project on the RV.
Kept up with old friends on social media and this blog.  Made many new friends.  
Installed a residential refrigerator and got use to the other small appliances.

Can’t escape these things in an RV.
Can’t escape maintenance costs either.
Responsibilities changed to more family focused. 

Our family is spread over a 1500-mile area.  We have been able to help five family members move, responded to health issues and attended events all while sleeping in our own bed.

It was easy to meet people and make new friends in the RV community.

We saw most of these and many more places that we did not know existed.  Still hoping to visit Alaska and see the Grand Canyon again.

We were able to visit old friends in Maine, Florida, Arizona, California, Idaho, Oklahoma, Maryland and Alabama
We attended Jeep Jamborees in Pennsylvania and South Dakota

We saw the heavens from some dark remote places and were amazed.

We participated in Disaster Relief operations in LA, PA, MD, and NC.

We were fascinated by the history in each part of the country.  Seeing the revolutionary fortresses, standing in the Oregon Trail ruts, seeing Petroglyphs, Teddy Roosevelt’s cabin, and so much more. 
We made most of it up as we went along. We tried to stay south during winter and north during summer.  We never had a designated place to go and the longest we ever stayed in one place was about 60 days.

These were some of our thoughts when we first began planning and it has worked out well.  We know people who tried the full-time RV lifestyle and didn’t like it after a few months and others who have done it for 15 years or more and have no thought of quitting.  If you are adventuresome, able to deal with issues as they arise, somewhat mechanically inclined, very adaptable, and physically mobile, full-time RVing will be more enjoyable.

Thanks for keepingupwiththejonesrv!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Busy November

Events require that you need to return to your legal domicile every so often.  Well, I guess you could work around most things, but for us it is close to family.  We departed Tuscaloosa, AL and headed to Ft Benning, GA near Phenix City, AL our legal domicile shared with our oldest son.  This trip was necessary to pay the annual taxes on our motorhome and to vote in the mid-term elections.  We were able to accomplish these things and visit with our son.  I always like camping at Ft Benning’s FAMCAMP. It is a flat peaceful setting in the woods with frequent machine gun fire, roaring aircraft engines, and explosions in the distance.  Having trained at Ft Benning and served many years in the military, the sounds of friendly forces training are music to my ears. 
It was while we were at Ft Benning that I received an email from a fellow I use to work with asking for my resume.  I sent it to him and the next thing I know, I am on a jet to Washington D.C. for an interview.  Wait…what am I doing?  Should we return to the corporate world?  The RV lifestyle is a great way to live if you can afford it. We figured we should explore our options and see where we are led.

Disaster Relief Operations:
The day after we voted, we took off for Wilmington, NC.  Hurricane Florence passed through there about 45 days earlier and many people were still in need of help recovering.  We linked up with the NC Baptist Men as part of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization.  They were conducting recovery operations from a local church that allowed us to park on one side of the parking lot.  One of the men was an electrician and he quickly rigged up a 50amp RV box for us to plug in.  We told them we could give them about 2 weeks of work and they quickly accepted.  They needed an experienced husband and wife to treat homes for mold using a chemical sprayer and fogger.  We loaded all the equipment in our Jeep Grand Cherokee, got our work orders each day and headed out.  Other groups of college kids, high school kids, corporate work groups, and others were assigned the task of tearing out the soaked interior of the homes or cutting up downed trees.  We would go in after the tear out and treat the homes for mold.  Sometimes, we caught up with the tear out groups and were able to jump in and help them as well.  It was a rewarding experience and we made some good friends getting dirty and showing the love of Christ.

We said our goodbyes to the disaster relief friends and headed to Sawnee CoE campground on Lake Lanier north of Atlanta.  We set up here to be able to visit with Pattie’s side of the family for Thanksgiving. Her sister and brother in law are always very gracious to open their home to family and friends.  We enjoyed our time visiting and stuffing ourselves with some great traditional dishes. 
Where are we going next? Where will we spend Christmas? We received an offer for a job, do we accept it or not?  There are too many questions without answers right now.  Like Eugene the jeep in the Popeye comic strip we can go anywhere at anytime.  Lord guide us!
Thanks for keepingupwiththejonesrv!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Six-Month Tour

Mom bouncing back after surgery

We arrived back in Tuscaloosa, AL about six months after we left on our westward journey for the summer of 2018.  It was good to visit with my mom who was recovering from some surgery and tell her about all the things we had seen on our trip and give her a few gifts we picked up along the way.  She remembers traveling to some of the same places when she and my dad retired and traveled the country in their motorhome.  
Mom and Dad enjoying their motorhome
On the way back from Utah, we stopped off in Colorado and spent a few nights exploring the area around Creede, CO.  We had camped at a small NPS campground in a pop-up camper back when our sons were little then again when they were teenagers.  Each time, we took a photo at the same spot.  We hiked to the now closed for the winter campground and took an “Empty Nester” photo with the same backdrop.  
They grow up so fast...Empty Nesters now.
From Colorado, we stopped off for a night in Kansas just to say we camped there and earn our sticker. OK, enough about Kansas.  Next, we headed to Oklahoma to visit some old friends. We met with Mike and Kathy Houlette in OKC and had a great Mexican lunch with them.  Mike owns a metal fabrication business there and we have worked together over the years designing custom off-road accessories.  I told Mike I wanted to add a electric winch to my Jeep Grand Cherokee, but with the tow bar set-up nothing was compatible.  We started looking at it and decided we could design and fabricate a front receiver hitch that would be compatible with the tow bar set-up.  With a receiver hitch up front and one in the rear, I could use a portable winch from either end of the vehicle.  In a few days, we had a prototype built, then adjusted it to a final product and had it powder coated.  It works great and is hardly noticeable when the winch is removed.  Mike asked me to work on updating his web page, so I am working on that.  For now, you can find his business at:
Receiver hitch up front provides mounting point for a variety of accessories
We also had time to have dinner with Ed Wright an old Air Force buddy who is still in the area.  It was great to get a chance to talk with Ed and catch up on the areas of the USAF where I use to work.  He even suggested I go by the new Air Force Flight Standards office near Tinker AFB and say hello.  I did and was happy to see more old friends and people I served with still working hard to keep America free.

From OKC, we traveled to Red Bay, AL on our way to Tuscaloosa.  We didn’t need anything major, just wanted to pick up a few parts and get a couple drawers fixed.  So in six months, we covered over 8,000 miles and were blessed not to have any major mechanical issues.  We have been very happy with our 2007 Tiffin Allegro Bus.  

The summer of 2018 is over; but, we were able to see our great country and camp in states we have never been to before.  We want to do it all again.

Thanks for keepingupwiththejonesrv!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Utah – Wow!

The Great Fisherman
We have been to Utah before and seen some of the amazing rock formations in Arches Park and near Moab. This time we went to the southern part of the state to visit Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.  The structures are so different and beautiful. We made camp in Panguitch, UT and took the Jeep on explorations to the sights around the southwest corner of the state.  Our first stop was at the Dixie  National Forest Visitor’s Center in Red Canyon. After orienting ourselves to the park, we walked through the gift shop and I heard Pattie say, “David, quick catch” as she threw a stuffed trout in my direction. I reacted by catching it at which point she exclaimed “Congratulations, you caught a fish today.” I was stunned as this is the type of corny jokes I always pull on her.  We bought a book on backcountry roads in Utah and headed out to visit Bryce Canyon.  

We visited the Bryce Canyon Visitor’s Center to learn about the area and plan our visit.  There were forest fires burning on one end of the park so the main road was closed a few miles from the end of the drive.  We drove in and stopped at some scenic areas, but it was Friday afternoon and the park was getting full of tourists.  We decided to leave and explore other areas and come back next week after the crowds diminish.

The next day, we used our new backcountry road book and drove a parallel off-road path to the Bryce Canyon scenic drive.  This took us out to a peak where we could see other rock formations and look across at the tourists in the park looking in our direction probably wondering how we got up there.  We had a nice picnic and returned to camp.

On another day, we visited Zion Canyon National Park and hiked back in to the “Narrows.”  Well, we hiked the 2.5 miles to at least see where the Narrows Trail really begins, but opted out of wading into the river.  We did a couple other hikes and marveled at how different this was compared to Bryce Canyon only a couple hours away.  

Back at Bryce Canyon, we studied the geography and were convinced there must be a way to get to the canyon floor other than climbing down the steep trails.  We drove around to Tropic, Utah and headed north along a dirt road toward the canyon.  We arrived at a boundary fence for the adjoining wilderness area and donned our hiking gear. We hiked two miles through the wilderness area along a trail that gradually sloped upward before reaching the boundary for Bryce Canyon Park.  We entered and were amazed at the beauty of the Hoodoos when you walk among them on the canyon floor.  In total, we probably hiked over 7 miles.  It might have been easier to just take the steep trail down, but hey, we are different.

We left the Bryce Canyon area and began heading east.  Some friends we met our first year of full timing have a motorhome similar to ours were stopping in Bluff, Utah for a few days and we made plans to join them.  It was great to spend time with Bruce and Laura. We took day trips to places like Four Corners where four states touch, Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods.  All very cool and enjoying them with fellow full time friends made it even more special.
Four Corners

We said our good byes and they headed west and we headed east.

Thanks for keepingupwiththejonesrv!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

It’s Always Something

If you remember the Roseanne Roseannadanna character the late Gilda Radner played on Saturday Night Live back when it was worth watching, you will recognize the phrase “It’s Always Something!”  When you decide to live and travel in an RV full-time, you just have to embrace that it will always be something and you are going to need to deal with it.  

We departed Oregon and headed east toward Idaho on a clear September day.  Along the two-lane highway we were traveling at about 60mph when I noticed in the side mirror that the rear passenger side slide had come out about 6 inches.  We pulled into a rest stop and were able to coax the hydraulic slide back in and cut a board to place on the inside of the slide as a manual lock to keep it in place. 
Rest stop repair generator provides power for tools
Well we needed routine service on the generator and AquaHot systems anyway, so I found a place in Idaho Falls, Idaho that could get us in a couple days.  In the mean time, I did some research online and contacted friends who had experienced this slide issue before.  The most common cause was a leaking hydraulic solenoid.  I checked everywhere I know to check and found no leaks or low fluid levels.   Further research revealed a note from HWH Corp. the maker of the hydraulic slide mechanism that instructs owners to hold the slide switch for 3-5 seconds after the slide is fully retracted or fully extended to ensure it is properly locked in place. This note was not in our owner’s manual, but we tried it anyway.  The next leg of our trip toward Idaho Fall was filled with curves, bumps and hills. The slide stayed in nice and tight. We concluded that this new technique worked and is now part of our checklist.  
In Idaho Falls, we set up adjacent to the “Eagle Rock RV” repair shop where they had a 50 amp plug to provide us power.  That evening we had a nice dinner downtown and walked along the river park enjoying the manmade waterfalls.  The town founders exhibited great vision in community planning and have made this a very welcoming place to live and visit.
The next morning, the Eagle Rock technicians got to work on the AquaHot and Generator and I was able to talk with the owner.  He is a retired Navy Chief and runs his business like a well-run ship.  Since we did not need them to work on the slide issue, I asked them to help track down and fix an electrical issue I had with the wiring going to the TOAD (out Jeep we tow).  This took quite a bit of time, but they stuck with it and found where a wire was grounding out causing a fuse to blow.

We left that evening and went a few miles to a city park and camped there before heading south to Utah.

Thanks for keepingupwiththejonesrv!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Crater Lake, Oregon

 When I was about 6 years old, my parents took our family to see Crater Lake, Oregon.  I never forgot its beauty.  Three years ago Pattie and I were planning for full-time RVing and listed places we wanted to visit.  Crater Lake made the list and this summer we were able to visit the area for a week in early September.  The weather was pleasant with highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s at night.  It was Labor Day weekend and we reserved one of the last campsites in the area at Diamond Lake National Park Campground.  Crater Lake Park was a short drive south and we enjoyed driving the 33-mile loop road around the lake in both directions.  There are numerous pullouts and we took advantage of them to take pictures and read the interpretive signs.

 Our timing was very good as just days before, most of the lake was obscured by smoke from regional forest fires.  We took advantage of the opportunity and hiked the steep mile long trail down to the boat launch area for a boat tour around the lake.  The clarity of the water has set world records (over 100 feet) giving it a hue of blue like no other.  The water is so pure; the guide stopped the boat and allowed everyone to fill his or her water bottles.  The boat ride was worth the steep hike down and back out of the caldera.  

We had already seen the sights before the crowds descended on Crater Lake for the Labor Day weekend. We took this time to explore outlying areas of interest like the Pinnacles (an area formed by the river eroding the ash fields), the fisheries at Lost Creek Reservoir (where we saw the salmon jumping up the ladders by the dam), historic Union Creek and Knob fall.  We also took time on Saturday to visit the campground lodge’s sports bar and watch the Auburn Tigers play the Washington Huskies in college football. Auburn won so it was a great day for us.

 Thanks for keepingupwiththejonesrv!

RV Tip:  Leveling the RV is critical notably for comfort; but also for the slides and other components to work properly.  The Diamond Lake NP Campground listed this site as 70 feet long.  It did not say that it was curved and peaked in the center.  Being a holiday weekend, every other spot was taken, so we had to make this work.  Pattie guided me into the tight spot with only inches to spare.  We placed our wood blocks and rubber mats under the tires to level The Bus then dropped the jacks to stabilize it.  This was a dry camping spot (no hook up to services), so we had to run the generator for a couple hours each morning and evening to top off the batteries since the solar panel cannot keep-up.  Unfortunately, the generator began shutting down and we were afraid we would need to leave.  I explained the issue on the Tiffin web page and someone suggested adding oil.  It was only a little low, but as soon as I added a quart, it began running perfectly.  Apparently the oil sensor can become oversensitive and shut down the generator even if it is only a 1/2 quart low.  Good to know.  
The campground host and ranger were amazed that we got this size rig in that spot.