One of the things most full time RVers eventually settle on is where to spend their winters. Don’t get me wrong, if you have the right setup you can winter anywhere, but most of us are more comfortable somewhere in the south. And since even the south can get pretty cold, as a group we tend to push into the southernmost portions of Florida, Arizona, California, or Texas. Yes, there are other places to go, but those seem to be the most common choices and when we started we decided to try all of them and see which one we liked the best.
When we first started out we spent our first winter in Clearwater, Florida, and coming from 15 straight years of New England winters we loved it. The weather was amazing, we both loved the ocean, and there were lots of new places to explore. But for us, the benefits were outweighed by the relatively high costs (gas, food, etc) and the crowds. Monthly RV campsite rates were over $650 and reservations needed to be made way in advance, and yes we loved our evening trips to the ocean but we didn’t like the traffic we had to fight to get there. All things being equal though I would I have liked to spend more winters there, but finding seasonal jobs that paid well was tough. There are some camp host jobs, but most are volunteer jobs since they are in high demand. Even the ones that pay are on the lower scale and many of them want a longer time commitment. We know lots of people who winter in Florida though and are perfectly content, but for us, the combination of those factors have never made it the best option.
So, the next winter we decided to try Quartzsite, Arizona. In many respects Arizona is the antithesis of Florida. It is mostly desert terrain for one thing, and unlike Florida there is hardly any rain. Also because there is so much public land, you can find numerous places to stay for free (if you are set up to boondock) which keeps the monthly cost of most RV parks in the reasonable $400 range. Initially I didn’t feel like there was much to do there, but there are lots of activities, you just need to search a little harder for them. And if you are a person who travels with a four wheeler or is a rock hound, there is plenty to keep you busy. Plus of course, during January Quartzsite is the mecca for RVers, and tens of thousands gather in a relatively small area to hang out together. For us though, once again, how to make money was a factor. You can find paying jobs in Arizona and paying camp host jobs are relatively abundant, but again they pay on the lower end of the scale, and are designed to supplement an income rather than fully replace it. But if you have money coming in (or in the bank) and are looking for a place to hunker down and keep costs low (food and gas are relatively cheap and Mexico is close by for dental, prescriptions, and vision needs), it really can’t be beat, but ultimately it wasn’t really for us, but we know lots of people who make this their winter choice.
Southern California is the one place we have not spend the winter in, but our good friend Rick Raab is starting his second winter there. From talking to him the weather seems absolutely amazing and there is lots to see and do there. He volunteers at a park so he has a place to stay, but food and gas are on the high side. Paying for an RV site is more in line with Florida prices and similar to Florida, if you are close to cities you are dealing with crowds. It’s an option though, and one I would love to try if your financial circumstance was a little different, but for right now, not the best choice for us.
Which leaves us with Texas. The two best things for me in Texas are that the costs for food and fuel are really low. Diesel is currently $2.83 here, which is way better than anywhere else (driving here from Oregon we saw it as high as $3.93 per gallon) and food costs are low as well. It’s also a huge state with a wide variety of terrains so you can be in desert regions, near the ocean, or the hill country. One of the downsides is there isn’t much public land here to stay on for free, but lots of RV parks have low monthly rates and there are lots of them. Plus, for me at least, the state is really RV friendly. The roads are flat, there are places to get fuel kind of everywhere, and if you stay away from the big cities it’s not too crowded. I also really like the weather. It may not be as warm as Florida or as dry as Arizona, but there are lots of days in the 70’s and because there is some rain it is usually green. It also has trees, which I am a fan of, and the hill country in particular is really beautiful. And of course there is work. The camp host jobs are again mostly volunteer or minimal pay, but there is other seasonal work here. We sold Christmas trees here (which we hated) but we have also gate guarded, which we liked a lot. Finding a decent paying job is reason enough for this to be our winter spot, but for me at least it is more than that.
I grew up in a small town in Ohio, and the culture down here is similar enough that I feel comfortable. And yes, I am completely aware that my experience would probably be different if I was a person of color, but for me the level of courtesy is refreshing. Initially when we started traveling here, I was a little uncomfortable with all of the Ma’am’s I received, but now I really like it. The general level of service in restaurants and stores is pretty good and the friendliness of people you encounter is also very nice. Don’t get me wrong, Texas definitely has an edge to it, and at times a sharp one, but so did the small town I grew up in. And mainly people just leave you be as long as you don’t start talking about politics or religion. It’s hard to explain but I feel comfortable here, at least as a visitor. I’ll never be a Texan, not trying to be a Texan, and as long as I behave as a polite guest in someone’s home that’s how I am treated. I’m totally fine with that.
It’s a combination of all these factors that finds me saying “I really like it here”, at least once a day. I love the sunsets and sunrises, I like the wide open spaces, and I like the green. Plus our friends Cori and Greg winter down here, which is icing on the cake. Wherever you decide to winter it’s good to be near friends! For most of us, winter has long stretches of downtime, and it’s great to spend that time reuniting with each other. We are like migrating birds in a sense, where we cluster together in the winter time and then spread out in the spring flying all over the place. Come to think of it our travel patterns are exactly like birds, which is kind of interesting.
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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks You can preview the kindle version on Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes. It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.