I promised myself when I started this blog I would be as honest as I possibly could. (I made no such promise. Caveat emptor. – Lee) I think many people gloss over any detail that even gives the slightest impression that this life is not the best thing ever, but obviously that’s not realistic. Life is life. It has ups and downs, good and bad. That’s part of the fun. If every day was a perfect day things would get pretty boring pretty quick. So as much as I can I will try to present the balanced picture. One of the things about this lifestyle is it involves many compromises. In our sticks and bricks we had created a life that really suited our day-to-day needs. Obviously it wasn’t good enough or we would never have made the move, but we were comfortable. (I’m never actually comfortable, the best I can shoot for is minimally uncomfortable. – Lee) Going out on the road is an exercise in getting out of your comfort zone and it seems every decision we make involves compromise of one sort or another. Compromise is not bad in and of itself, (yes, it is – Lee.) but you really have to be honest with yourself and each other about what really matters to you. In this post I am going to talk about some of the compromises we have run into in just the first week. Please keep in mind most of these things are definitely “first world problems” and taken individually we would probably not even pause, but so many all at the same time is a little unsettling. Unsettling is good though in my opinion. (Wanna guess what my opinion is? -Lee) It means we are definitely out of our comfort zone. So here are some of the compromises we are dealing with.
Internet – In our seasonal site we had very strong, unlimited internet. (We were using cable internet. Always has been, and always be the fastest and most stable connection to interwebs. – Lee) Now things are different. The campsite has WiFi (No, it does not. They claim to have WiFi, but what they have is something really cool and new where you see a WiFi network, you connect to it, and then it disappears. Every. Single. Damn. Time. It’s like Whac-A-Mole, but there’s no little tickets that spit out that you can redeem for cool little prizes. – Lee) (unusual in a State Park) but they are having issues with it and it has been up and down all week. Luckily we have strong cell signal and have had good luck using our ATT hot spot. We decided to stay with ATT (rather than going with Verizon which most full timers do) because we would have had to purchase a new IPhone and Ipad and sign a two-year contract with Verizon. At this point we really don’t want to get locked into any long-term commitments because we don’t know what life on the road will look like for us. With ATT we could keep our original devices and best of all continue month to month. Plus, we were lucky enough to take advantage of the double data deals in October so we got 40 GB of data a month for around $106. I know that sounds like a lot of data, but if you want to stream movies and/or do a lot of downloading it adds up quick. For example, we have only been on the road for one week and with extremely careless data usage we have already used 65% of our monthly allotment. Now we certainly can throttle back (and will) but…damn. The next level up (60 GB) was almost double in price, so we will need to change our internet usage patterns and really keep an eye on what we are doing and when. Is that a huge deal? Of course not, but when you’ve had unlimited fast internet for $50 a month it’s a bit of an adjustment to have less for more money.
TV – Lee did tons of research and based on what we wanted we purchased $600 in hardware (dish with two channel selector and two boxes) from Wineguard. Lee went to set it up this week and after numerous phone calls discovered he was flat-out lied to about the functionality and what we purchased will do. He was very specific that we wanted to watch one channel and DVR another, and yet discovered that this is only possible if you have a Dish plan associated with a house. The “on the road” month-to-month plan that was so appealing to us does not allow for this functionality. He was livid, and frankly I don’t blame him, because being a TV guy he was very very specific when he put this system together. We could have saved the $600 and spent about $200 instead which is not an insignificant amount of money. Also, despite spending an additional $10 a month for HD channels it turns out only some of the channels are actually HD (essentially the networks and we are already getting a beautiful HD signal for free with our over the air antenna). I know, poor baby right, but in my sticks and bricks I called a guy he came out and setup my cable. (Or, more often, she called a guy, he came out and screwed it up, then I came home and fixed it. – Lee) On the road, Lee spent the better part of a day just getting it all set up and numerous phone calls to discover it wouldn’t work as expected. The situation did prompt a really good conversation about how much we wanted TV to be part of our new life. I want a life that involves less TV and more hikes and bird watching, but we are also being realistic that we are not completely willing to give up all TV immediately. So it will require more research and discussion and some compromise (in this case not necessarily a bad thing), (I beg to differ- Lee) but it was a shock since Lee had done so much research in advance of going on the road. On a positive note I did get to watch both the Patriots game and the Dancing with the Stars finale on local TV (with a beautiful free HD signal) so I was very happy this week!! (Clearly she does not speak for me on this – Lee)
Working from Camper – I worked from the camper all last summer but the last week has been a different experience. As I mentioned before I am lucky enough to be able to do my job from the road. We have 140 office locations spread throughout the United States and as long as I have phone, internet, and access to an airport it shouldn’t matter where I work from. I like a mixed work week with some days in an office and others from home and that is working well here as the Charlotte office is only a 30 minute drive from our campsite. The office days give me great interaction with our field staff, and I use home days for getting lots of “quiet time” work done. So I went into the office on Wednesday to check it out and they were so nice. They put me in a great office and made me feel right at home. Over 15 years with my company I have worked with many people, and Lorraine from Charlotte was one of my favorites. She took great care of me and went out of her way to make me feel welcome. The compromise occurred when I worked from the camper. My desk area is great and the WiFi connection was strong, but in the past when I worked from the camper Lee was never there. After a somewhat frustrating first day on his part, we pretty quickly we realized we were going to need to make some adjustments. We have the Front Living Room model so the TV is up at the front as well as the desk area and because of all the conference calls, Lee couldn’t really do anything at all inside the camper. (And that’s where all the cool stuff is!-Lee) So he was either outside (which was fine) or inside being stuck in 2/3 of the camper and needing to be super quiet.(I’m not so good at being quiet, let alone “super quiet” -Lee) We never thought through what this would look like with two people in the camper and it was different. We will definitely be fine, but it did catch us both by surprise. (What she doesn’t know is that I am planning to move her desk outside. Problem solved. Everyone wins. Well, I win. That’s good enough for me. What’s next? -Lee)
Temperature – The great thing about the rig is it heats up quickly, but it also loses heat quickly as well. The weather here has been all over the place, ranging from 14 degrees one morning to a high of 78 one afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the weather, but we have struggled a bit with regulating the temperature. It was important to us that we find a way to manage the temp using only electric power because propane costs additional money and we would like to save that for the really chilly nights. I also made a mistake during one of our early moves and left the space heater in the bedroom sticking out too far from the wall and crushed the top of it with the slide out. Not good, but Lee was very sweet about it. He found a Hunter 24″ heater with temperature settings and a remote control for $50 at Home Depot which wasn’t awful, and we also bought a small heater for the kitchen area. The nicer unit with the specific temperature setting is really important for the bedroom or it can get really hot at night. The kitchen one we just turn on and off as needed. We use the electric fireplace (which has temperature control) for the front room, so now we have all rooms covered with electric heat. I hear there are campgrounds where they really crack down on electric heaters, but so far we have not experienced that and want to use electric heat as much as possible. The only downside is you really need to watch what you run at the same time or you will overload your circuits and pop a breaker. For example, we can’t run all three heaters and the coffee maker or microwave at the same time, but really that hasn’t been a big deal. I guess it gets trickier when on 30 amp. I also have heard that blow dryers will easily overload circuits but since my hair is so short that’s never an issue for us!! Again, not a big deal but unlike a sticks and bricks you can’t just flip everything on at the same time, you have to think it through a little.
Smoking – We are smokers and yes I know we should quit, but seriously I can only handle so much change at one time. We don’t smoke in the camper at all (that was a hard rule I had before we bought it) and when we looked at our initial budgets we saw pretty quickly that cigarettes was a huge line item. Lee went into action and starting rolling our own. A carton of premade cigarettes in NH costs around $65, and he can make a carton and a half for about $37. Plus, the bagged cigarette tobacco has less additives than the premade cigarettes. So here we come to the Carolinas, the home of Phillip Morris for heaven’s sake, and we can’t find bagged cigarette tobacco anywhere. We looked in two states and called or went to many, many stores. You also cannot purchase it online because of the local state rules so finally we decided we would have to settle for pipe tobacco which is much cheaper than the cigarette cut but much harder to roll. Will we muddle through? Of course, but it’s one more example of something simple that becomes not simple overnight and is taking quite a bit of our time and energy. (Here’s an update on that, I finally found a place that sells what we were looking for, and will order as many bags as I want, so that problem is solved, at least for now. We’ll be travelling with a somewhat ridiculous amount of bagged tobacco when we go from here to Florida, but I’m sure we’ll find a source for it again when we get there.-Lee)
Security – One last thing I want to mention that we never thought much about was the security of our stuff. When living on our seasonal site, it was mostly a non-issue as we had plenty of neighbors who kept an eye on things. But after our friend Deb had her kayak stolen (from a well run state campground) and another friend Jo had her outside rug stolen from her truck bed at rest stop I started to think more about theft. (Who the hell steals a USED outdoor rug from the back of a pickup truck at a rest stop???? People suck. -Lee) Although I absolutely love the State campground we are in there is quite a bit of day traffic unrelated to the campground. It’s on a lake, and there are people bringing in and out boats all day. After talking to Deb I decided the best thing was to keep the bikes locked up and not leave anything out that might present a good target. So instead of putting out our $60 gravity chairs, we have the cheaper models out all the time. Also, I really want to take an overnight weekend to Charleston at some point, but I am not sure how I would feel about leaving the camper unattended. There is a mix here of very expensive RV’s and some people living in pop up campers and even tents. (Not that the type of camper or lack of one in any way reflects on the type of person camping, but these are definitely sketchy people. One in particular started right away with “can I bum some cigarettes from you” and “can I get a ride to the store, my car isn’t running” and that sort of thing. Ick. – Lee) I don’t feel unsafe physically, but I don’t think I would want to leave my stuff lying around. So for the time being, I will have to play this by ear. The ranger said the campground really clears out after Thanksgiving weekend and I will see if we feel more or less safe with less people.
So, those are a few of the compromises we have been working through over the last 10 days. None are major and the benefits by far outweigh the irritations, but it definitely is part of the story. I want to end on a positive note though so I am going to share some bird pictures I took this week. I have wanted to have the time (and a nice enough camera) to start taking bird pictures for years. I finally was able to start that so here are some pics. Eventually I will be adding a new page with the birds I have identified so I can keep track of what I have seen. I am also using a great website called What Bird.com to help me identify the birds, but I am super new at this so if I get one wrong I would really appreciate a correction note from anyone so I can change it.
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I think you two are doing very, very well. It can definitely seem like a lot of change at once, but you’ll figure your own flow. After several moves, most of that flow seems to just come. Other times it doesn’t. ex., today I had to go back into the trailer 3 times because I somehow missed, closing 2 windows (2 separate trips) and something else (that I can’t remember right now). I was soaked by time we pulled out and it took us about 20 more minutes (steps down, steps up, lock/unlock door, move handle – blah blah). I have it down pat, but not this time 🙂 At least you put it out there for those that perhaps have not headed out yet. There’s always something isn’t there? Bummer about the TV though (sorry Lee).
I love the variety of birds you get to see and photograph. I also love the comments from the “peanut gallery!”
I love how you add Lee’s comments. You had us cracking up! Like you said, compromises but worth it. That is what we keep saying to each other!
Hi! I am really enjoying your insights and Lee’s humor! Your chickadee is a Carolina Chickadee; up here in MA we get Black-capped Chickadees. Your “flycatcher” is actually a Pine Warbler. Nice photos and we’ll help you with your birding ID skills!! Try downloading a free app called Merlin (from Cornell Lab or Ornithology). It allows you to enter different characteristics of the bird to help get an ID. Happy trails and thank you for your chronicles!
Have a happy Thanksgiving too!
Dinar thank you so much !!! Really appreciate the bird help and I will definitely download the app
Was going to say it was a Pine Warbler but your friend beat me to it. You really have to check out the Cornell Ornithology site. I do their Project Feeder Watch during the winter and being a novice to birds have learned a lot.
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