Original Expectations Versus Reality

As we start Year Five of our journey I thought this might be a good time to look back and talk about how the lifestyle is different than I thought it would be.  Despite (or perhaps because of) the amount of research most of us do before we get started, we all have preconceptions prior to becoming full timers, and I was certainly no different.  The oft repeated “There is no one right way to full time,” certainly holds true, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t all individually have expectations, and like most things in life those expectations aren’t always met.  Sometimes that is a good thing, and sometimes not, but in my mind it’s always a good idea to periodically take stock of the reality versus the expectation.  So here are some of the biggest surprises for me. (As always, your mileage may vary, batteries not included, some restrictions may apply, not valid in all areas. – Lee) 

Some friends and family will never accept the lifestyle – That more than anything else has really surprised me.  I knew it would be a tough sell for some people, heck it was a tough sell for me!  But even after all this time, there are a few people in our lives who either think it is a “phase” we are going through, or they flat out just don’t honor our choice.  In our case, those people don’t come to us and tell us that, but there is a “cooling” of relationships, and ultimately in some cases we have drifted apart.  In a select few cases, people have been overtly judgmental, and those people really aren’t part of our lives anymore. Thankfully, we haven’t had much of this, but it has happened and the reason it caught me off guard is because most people I know are doing whatever the hell they want with their lives and it surprises me that they think they would get a vote in how we lived ours, or that we don’t have the same right to live the way we want to.  Those folks are definitely a small subset though.  A few people are really into it, and some are even inspired to change their lives as well, but most fall in the interested spectator category, which is just fine because I think I would have been the same if the situation was reversed. (My advice is do what makes you less unhappy. There will always be naysayers and people who tell you to get back in line. They are free to bugger off. Life is short. – Lee) 

The “success rate” is much higher than I thought it would be – I would have bet money that 50% of the people we went on the road with would have been off the road by now, and that is nowhere close to being the case.  We meet very few people who take on this lifestyle on a whim, and consequently most are pretty happy with their choice.  Even the people who do go off the road eventually are happy that they took the time to travel, and so far at least I haven’t met one person who says they made a mistake trying it.  It’s more than possible some full timers think that, but if they do they aren’t sharing it with me.

We haven’t gone broke – Another thing I would have placed a 50/50 bet on was the fact that we would have gone broke.  The math didn’t add up to me, and I thought there was a good chance we wouldn’t be able to control our spending.  It turns out a combination of living more frugally and making more money than I thought we could has made this financially viable.  Sure there is a possibility that at some point a catastrophe could force us from the road, but nothing short of that could, and I have met enough people who have been doing this for long enough to completely know it is possible to finance yourself.  Being mostly debt free is a really big component of that though, and Lee tells everyone who asks about how to start, to work on being debt free first. (We would have a lot more money if we weren’t constantly squandering on foolish things like food, fuel and insurance. – Lee)

Friendships can be maintained on the road – I didn’t expect to make many friends on the road, mainly because I didn’t have many friends in my old life.  Even when I made friends, I was dubious about how well those relationships would last when we were all traveling all over the country.  That turned out to be a very pleasant surprise, because having a common interest (and common problems) is a wonderful bonding experience that exists no matter where we travel.  For the first time in my life I feel like I am part of a community, and since I envisioned our travel as being mostly Lee and I wandering alone from place to place, that has been a wonderful surprise.  Logistically it turns out that with a little bit of effort, you can cross paths with each other pretty frequently. The country is big, but our homes are on wheels, and it’s relatively easy to make that happen, even with people working.

The view is amazing – I knew from other people’s pictures that the view was often amazing, but even the best pictures can rarely capture the experience of those moments.  In retrospect, my former life had so little of this that I couldn’t come close to even imagining what it would feel like.  Lee has a better imagination than I do, so it’s fair to say for him there are less quantity of those moments than he originally thought, but for me the quality of them far exceeds any expectation. (I always hated looking out my house windows and seeing other houses. This is way better. – Lee)

We can travel without a plan – In the beginning, I didn’t think I would ever be able to wander without a plan, but it turns out after several years practice we can. Our lives still have structure because we work, but every driving day and every campground stay doesn’t need to be planned far in advance.  I knew it was possible for some people, but never thought my personality would allow it, but as my comfort level has grown it has become possible. (This has been a big surprise to me as well. I really thought neither of us would ever be comfortable with not having reservations for every stop. – Lee) 

The jobs sometimes suck I’ve spent lots of time talking about this, but it’s important to know that going back to the very beginning, I really thought I could do “whatever job” and since it was short term it wouldn’t bother me.  To some extent that is true, but when you string lots of those jobs together, it’s pretty unpleasant, and now we know we need to be more selective about what we decide to do for money.  The good news is there are more seasonal jobs available than I ever imagined, and lots of opportunities to try new things.

It’s more Real Life than Explore Life –  It’s not surprising that when you are researching and seeing other people’s “highlight reels” that you get the impression that the life is all beautiful sunsets and grand vistas and cocktails at sunset on the beach. In reality there are more truck stops, laundry days, and TV nights than either one of us expected.  That’s been just fine though, because regular life stuff has its own purpose and at times can feel really comforting.  Sometimes you just want to hunker down and stay inside , and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  We both just get a little restless when we find that is all we are doing, and surprisingly at times have to force each other to get out in the world and explore.  Just because we are full time RVers, we don’t wake up each morning full of energy with a song in our heart and rush out to enjoy nature. (Speak for yourself, I am a dazzling ray of sunshine, optimism and joie de vivre. – Lee) To some extent my mental picture of all this was a bit like a Tide commercial, but that it simply not the reality.

We don’t miss our stuff – As painful as it was to clean everything out, I really thought I would have lots more moments where I missed my stuff.  It turns out, like many people, I rarely think of it and when we finally got around to cleaning our our storage area this year, we didn’t even remember most of the things in it.  We kept a few things (which now reside in Lee’s parents’ basement) but I don’t actively miss any of them.  The only thing I did want, a small ceramic Christmas Tree that was left in storage, is now riding with us, and almost anything we had is pretty easily replaced.  Making everything digital before we left really helped with this.  The intangibles, like pictures, came with us, and even though I am keeping the printed copies for the kids, I have them with me. (I don’t miss the “stuff” as much as I thought I would, but I do miss reliable high speed internet and the full size freezer in the garage. – Lee)

I’ve settled in – On one hand,  it took me much longer than I thought it would to settle into the lifestyle, but on the other hand part of me thought I never would.  This life has become the new normal, and thoughts of a traditional life now leave me with feelings of vague unease.  I believe I could transition back if I needed to, but I also have trouble picturing what that would look like for me now.  I’ve changed.  More than I thought possible.  And only time will tell how those changes impact me long term. (If anyone were to try to get me to go back to my old life, they would need to bring friends. A lot of them. And maybe pack a lunch. – Lee)

I think it’s fair to say that everyone I know has changed.   We are still at our core the same people we were when we came on the road, but our perspective has shifted, and our priorities are often different. The lesson I think is I don’t think many people can pop into the lifestyle and then pop out again the same person.  The life makes a mark on you, and in my mind in a good way. And maybe that is the main reason realities are so different from expectations. When I imagined my life, it was the old me in this lifestyle.  I didn’t account for the fact that I would evolve.  I thought I would be happier of course and less stressed out, but I didn’t expect personal growth, which I have gotten in spades. For me that’s been a really good thing.

And since there are no pictures of cool things in this post, here’s one of Jack.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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.

 

 

Fourth Year – The Emotional Arc

I can’t believe it’s been four years already.  Looking back on this whole journey has been a bit surreal, and if you are a person who likes a high level overview of events,  you might want to read my previous annual emotional arc posts listed below before reading this one.  If you want to skip all of the self reflection then you can scroll past all the text and look at the pictures of some of my favorite experiences of the year.

The year started out with us working at Amazon, completing the last of the “Big Five” work kamping jobs.  From the very beginning I wanted to try all of the “Big 5” types of jobs and see what was a good fit for us, and Amazon was the very last of those.  Ironically, Amazon turned out to be Lee’s least favorite, by miles. Just ask him, he’ll tell you why. He’s been pretty mellow about the different work we have done, but the extreme micro management at Amazon drove him absolutely crazy.  Couple that with lots of time to think, and some personal family issues he was dealing with, and it was a rough couple of months for him.  I was in pretty good shape though, once I got a decent pair of shoes and got past the physical demands of the job. We were both glad to be heading to Columbus to spend Christmas with some family members when it was all over.

As soon as Christmas was over we ran south to get away from the cold and started gate guarding again, and as soon as we were back in the west Lee’s mood improved. Our first assignment was just over the border from Jal, NM and the cold and wind was not the greatest, but we were glad we got a gate pretty quickly.   Thankfully we were done with that gig in a few short weeks and then we moved to an awesome gate in south Texas where we hung out until March.  While we were gate guarding I had lots of time to write and finished the first draft of a book about becoming full timers and wrote several reflective posts. One was called  Phases of Fulltiming and does a nice job of summarizing the first three years and talking about my hopes for Year Four. Back in January I wrote “I would like year four to be about living a life that makes me personally happy and fulfilled, and I really want to focus on that.  In the past,  I have spent an awful lot of time and energy worrying about other people’s well being instead of focusing on myself. It’s a difficult balance, because I do believe that a good person puts others in front of themselves, but I also realize that ultimately I only have one life to live and I should definitely make the most of it.  Hopefully I can maintain a balance this year by letting go of unproductive emotions and focusing on the positive ones.”  Looking back on Year Four I think I made substantial progress in this area.

I also wrote a post called Do We Think About Stopping that talked about whether the challenges of the lifestyle made us want to quit.  It was a fair question, because a few people we know have gotten off the road this past year, although most of our friends are still going strong.  One of the main things I came to grip with this year is to some extent the lifestyle “ruins” you for a traditional life.  Don’t get me wrong, people do successfully transition back to a sticks and bricks life (our friends Kat/Bert and Jo/Ben both successfully transitioned back to stick and bricks this year) but many of us have trouble visualizing ourselves staying in one place or getting traditional jobs again.  The relative freedom of full-timing is pretty heady stuff and the vagabond lifestyle (for us at least) is addicting.  I did do a follow-up to that post called Solo Strategy, where I took a hard look at what this lifestyle would mean for me if I had to do it alone and came to the conclusion that if something happened to Lee I would probably get off the road.  This lifestyle works for me very well as part of a couple, but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do it alone.  After much thought and discussion I realized I am OK with that too, it just makes me more convinced that we should enjoy every minute of this while we can.

So January through March were soul searching months and we were both really happy when we were done.  We were heading to the RV-Dreams reunion rally in Pahrump, Nevada and would be seeing a lot of friends we hadn’t seen in a long time.  This rally had been on our schedule for over a year and we were thrilled that so many of the “Class of 2014” was going to be there.  As a bonus our travel plans coincided with Jo and Ben, and just the four of us were able to boondock for a few days before the rally.  Jo and Ben have been a part of our lives since our first RV-Dreams rally, before we even started, and after several years traveling and working on the road as nurses they had decided that they were going to come off the road and settle back in Colorado.  Although I know they will be our friends forever, I was glad we got to reconnect in person with them prior to them settling down in one place.

After the reunion rally we were spending a month in Utah, and for the first time we were traveling for an extended period with no strict travel plans.  We had a rough idea of things we wanted to see, but ultimately let weather and personal preference drive our travel.  That went so much better than I think either one of us thought it would and we ended up boondocking for almost the entire month as well.  Utah in April was an absolute dream and I loved every minute of it.  The landscapes were better than even Alaska from my perspective and I left wanting to return as soon as we possibly could.  I also for the first time got to experience what it might be like to be a travel writer and spent day after day putting out these adventure filled posts.  Every day was so full of experiences that ultimately we needed to slow down so I could take a little break, which is really a wonderful situation to be in.

At the end of April we headed up to Mount Hood, Oregon, for the first time returning to the same company for the summer.  I had been offered a lead position and was excited to see if I could find a way to meld my professional and my travel life together.  Up until this point one of my major dissatisfactions with the life was my inability to find work that stretched me mentally and I wanted to see what it would look like to be personally and professionally fulfilled. The only downside was because I was in a lead position I couldn’t blog much about my life and I found that I really missed it. Turns out that the additional professional responsibility also meant more hours and less creative energy.  I found myself working incredibly hard and taking my work “home” with me.  There was very little time this summer for any kind of fun and even when we had those experiences it was almost impossible to put work aside.  I kept plugging away at it, in the hopes I would find a balance, but ultimately never did.

The difficult thing was I really enjoyed the work itself and felt good about what I was contributing.  The politics, personnel issues, and red tape wore me down though, and reminded me of exactly why I had left my former job.  I think the major thing I walked away with this summer was that for me at least I couldn’t have one without the other.  The same drive that made me good at what I did, also brought the cost of more stress and difficulty unplugging.  Before I started this life I just accepted that cost as a necessary evil and thought someday when I retired it would be different. I knew there were jobs with less stress, but I also knew I found them unfulfilling.  My experiment in trying to get both in one job that fulfilled both things was a bust and I really didn’t know what to do about that. I started seriously looking for a regular job, updating resumes, talking to head hunters, but despite the low unemployment rate the jobs I was interested in weren’t interested in me and the ones where I thought I had a shot were not a direction I wanted to go.  I was left feeling angry and frustrated and really I was emotionally a hot mess.

It didn’t help that while I was looking for a job we had an expensive trip to Vegas to see family and a variety of other things coming at me.   I had a biopsy that was clear but came with a $4K bill (ultimately I negotiated the costs down) and a series of real life issues during our travels that were stressing me out.   Towards the end of October, we limped into San Antonio to see our friends Cori and Greg, and all I wanted was a break.  I wanted to unplug, forget about everything, and give myself time to deal with my emotions.  Turns out Cori and Greg are pretty good people to do that with.  As I am writing this post it is the four year anniversary of the day we closed on our house, left home, and immediately drove to see Cori and Greg.  They were there with us on day one of our journey, and are with us again today.  Being with people who understand that this lifestyle is a process is invaluable.  This year we have been with some very good friends (Kelly and Bill, Steve and Deb, Howard and Linda, Jo and Ben, Rick Raab and Georgia and Jim to name a few) at critical times and always through word and deed they give us permission to figure it out.  What I mean by that is we don’t have to have all of the answers.  None of them do either, and they are pretty honest about that, they just make the best choices they can and live their lives the best they can, being aware that the one constant is things change.  For someone like me, who leans towards wanting a life blueprint, that understanding is a huge gift.

And surrounded by people who support me, my husband being the largest piece of that, working through my feelings really didn’t take that long.  As often happens to me, there was one encounter that more than anything else really put things in perspective.  Back in 2016 we went to a Reunion Rally and met a couple named Mikki and Jay.  It turned out they were on a break from gate guarding less than an hour from us, so we met halfway for lunch one day.  Over the last two years, Mikki and I had stayed in virtual contact and since we had started before them, she had reached out a few times to ask me some questions.  I was really excited about seeing her in person and finding out how the life was suiting her when we had our lunch.  The conversation was great and they were obviously kindred spirits and as is so often the case we learned some things hearing about their last two years.  One story she told really got my attention. She told us about a summer job she had gotten working at McDonald’s.  Before going on the road, Mikki had a high profile management job, but she really loved her time as a cashier at McDonald’s.  She found it relaxing and really fun and I could tell from looking at her when she told the story she meant every word of it.

That moment really stuck with me and I kept coming back to it over the next few days.  She had started in a similar place as I had, but she seemed to have skipped most of the internal conflict and more importantly seemed better for it.  The best way to describe it was she was totally zen about the work thing in a way I really wished I could be. And for the first time, I really thought, if she can be zen why can’t I???  It was clear to me for the first time that it was a choice and she was making it and it was working for her.  Don’t get me wrong, I have met tons of people who are perfectly content doing these type of jobs, but I have never before felt that could be me.  I have no doubt part of that was my being in the right head space to accept it, but it was also partly her.  You just can’t fake being that comfortable in your own skin.  So Mikki thanks for that.  I don’t know if I will ever get there, but I appreciate you being you!

After the lunch with Mikki and Jay, Lee and I had a series of conversations, we had decided to accept a different position with the same company for next summer and as nice as it was to be “locked in”, a huge part of me was struggling with giving up on going back to my profession.  This was not a new internal argument, but this time it seemed more final somehow and I decided to turn the argument around and focus on what advantages there could be to having a regular route and set jobs in place.  The one thing that kept coming back to me was the fact that if we had somewhat regular jobs and route based travel it would make it easier to have a dog.  I missed having a pet and had toyed with the idea a couple of times while we were on the road, but this time I was pretty serious.  Lee to his credit, despite serious misgivings, took a step back and let me play it out and I spent a ton of time researching and looking for a dog.  I wrote a post about the challenges I had during the search recently, but I only lightly touched on the emotional turmoil I was in.  It was a statement of sorts and a commitment to exploiting the positives of the simplified life we live.   I had a good enough handle on myself to make sure that I didn’t make a bad decision, and was completely aware that it was a living being we were talking about,  but adding a dog to our travels was definitely about more than just getting a dog.

And it turned out that getting Jack has brought me a ton of joy.  I didn’t realize how much I had missed a dog’s presence in my life, until he came into it.  I know it’s early days yet, but we have been super lucky and Lee has been really happy with Jack so far too. Aside from the fantastic puppy kisses and snuggles,  he has reminded me that life is about more than work.  Fulfillment comes in many forms and I was doing myself a disservice by so narrowly defining how I could provide value in this world. As I am writing this, I realize that this whole thing may sound sort of nuts and melodramatic.  I’ll just say that on some level I have been struggling with who I am without my old career for the last three years. I won’t say that I am totally “cured”, but I will say that getting a dog and actually having time to spend with it, reminded me of a younger, simpler self and I think that is a good thing.

And finally, here are some pictures of my favorite experiences of the year.  As always, I judge my life to some extent by the pictures I take and experiences I had and it’s always fun to look back and see what we did.  As you can see, despite my personal challenges, we had an amazingly full year with loads of experiences.  As I look at these at the end of Year Four, more than anything else I feel very blessed and look forward to seeing what Year Five brings.

Had a blast taking a tour of the Jim Beam Distillery with Kelly and Bill

 

Celebrating Christmas with my brother and my niece and nephew

 

Having dinner with Kat and Bert while we were gate guarding. I was super bummed they got off the road but excited for them to start the next chapter of their lives

 

Watching the Pats versus Eagles Superbowl with Cori.  She’s a hug Eagles fan as you can tell by the special seat she made for me in the bathroom! The fact that we were in the same place while our two favorite teams played each other was truly serendipity.  I was even happy her team won.  The Eagles were due.

 

We finally got to go stay at Padre Island and had a wonderful boondocking spot. Loved being back at the ocean and really enjoyed all the birds and the sunsets.

 

It was great to get to hang out with Jo and Ben before the reunion rally.  Telegraph Cove was an awesome boondocking spot that Ben found and I was happy to spend time with them just the four of us.

 

Some of our friends at the Reunion Rally From Left: Red/Pam, Curt/Glenda, Jo/Ben, Pat/Bridgett, Tracy/Lee, Steve/Deb, Steve/Linda, Kelly/Bill.

 

Visiting Zion National Park…bucket list checked!

 

Hiking my first slot canyon in Grand-Staircase Escalante

 

Boondocking at Lone Rock Primitive Beach Campground with Steve and Linda close by.

 

Hanging over the edge of a cliff to get the iconic Horseshoe Bend picture.

 

standing at Four Corners.  Yes it’s hokey and it was cold, but had to do it!

 

Taking a jeep photography tour at monument valley. Lee was totally in his element.

 

Seeing an antelope closeup while boondocking in Moab.

 

Having waterfall kisses in this natural cave behind in Silver Springs State Park.

 

Hiking to Little Crater Lake with Howard.

 

Helping coordinate an airlift of an injured horse which included closing the highway to traffic and landing a helicopter on this bridge.  Unfortunately the outcome for the horse was not good, but the teamwork shown by our fellow employees was amazing.

 

Watching fire planes get water from the lake to put out a nearby fire. Yes it was stressful, but watching it happen was also an amazing air show. These guys really knew what they were doing.

 

We saw a piano concert in the woods at Timothy Lake. Not only did Lee have a good time helping get the piano down to the water, but wandering around and listening to the music was really special.

 

Celebrating Lee’s 50th birthday with Deb and Steve. We all had a blast doing an escape room together.

 

Seeing a black bear on a trail while at Mt. Ranier.

 

Lee’s friend Brian came to visit all the way from Ohio and we played a virtual reality game.

 

Going to Seattle and seeing Pikes Place (not a fan) but mainly to see our daughter Kay (also known as Poooooooooh Beeeeaaaaar!!!) who had been stationed in Korea for over a year. (The picture looks weird, but what I’m doing is exploiting a hug as an opportunity to pull out her ponytail, which I have done to all my daughters since they were little, just to annoy them. – Lee)

 

We got to visit with Georgia and Jim who now live in Eugene a couple of times.

 

Rick and Maxine came to visit

 

I did the 23 and me test and found out I do NOT have the gene for Alzheimer’s which made me very happy since I have it on both sides of my family.

 

Celebrating my sisters 40th birthday in Las Vegas. From Left: Lee, me and Eddie in the front and Mom and Wendy in the back

 

At a real Texas Rodeo with Cori and Greg

 

Lunch with Mikki and Jay

 

Celebrating Cori’s birthday with Greg Kelly, Bill, Mairead, and Dave.

And of course, bringing home Jack!

And finally celebrating our road-a-versary with Kelly/Bill and Cori/Greg in Texas!

 

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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.

Why We Decided to Return to a Work Kamping Job

Originally when we talked about work kamping our plan was to visit a different area of the country every summer, mainly for the variety.  Our thought process was that it was a big country and we wanted to experience as much of it as we could.  We always knew we would have limited options in the winter because of weather, and we thought eventually we would settle on one winter place, which is exactly what happened.  And even though we are gate guarding in Texas in the winters, because we are independent contractors we work in different locations and for different companies, so there is some variety in that experience.  But summer was the time the entire country (and Alaska) was available to us, so why not take advantage of that?  So, some of you may be surprised that we chose to return this summer to the same place we worked last summer. I thought it was worth taking a moment to explain our reasons.  I also thought that if any work kamping employers stumbled across this post, they might find it beneficial as well.  I will say that as always, this is our experience and our subjective criteria, but I think there is some similarity to what I see with many others I have met in the RV community. So here’s our reasons, and roughly in the list of our priorities, because who doesn’t love a list?

  1. First and foremost, we really liked the people we worked for.  This factor cannot be understated, and for me especially, was my number one motivator for returning.  Neither one of us enjoys being micromanaged, but we also like some direction and structure, especially initially.  This can be a tough balance to strike, but the folks we worked for last year tried very hard to give us autonomy and direction and those efforts were much appreciated. There was also a level of professionalism and respect that mattered to me in particular.  Yes, these are “campground jobs”, and yes, many of us are semi-retired, but that doesn’t mean it should be a free-for-all.  The atmosphere is certainly more informal than my previous corporate jobs, which I appreciate very much, but there are also limits and boundaries to behavior and I appreciate that as well.
  2. We loved the area, and this included our site.  When your home is a 400 square foot box on wheels, the outside becomes very important because if it is inviting it extends your living space.  Weather is a big part of that, because if it is raining/windy/dusty all of the time, you might never feel like you can take advantage of the outdoors.  Also, sometimes work kampers are packed together into overgrown/ill kept spots, and if it isn’t inviting, then who wants to sit outside? The sites this company provides are very nice and there is an understanding on their part of how important it is to have a nice living space.  We are encouraged to improve on the sites for future campers, and in some cases materials are even provided to make that possible.  In addition to our individual living space, the surrounding area itself offers lots of things we like to do.  Lots of waterfalls, hiking trails, and scenic drives are things we personally care about, and this location is attractive to us because it offers many of those.  Plus the proximity to the coast and Washington State were huge pluses, because it gives us more places to explore.
  3. We don’t have to start over.  As much as we love exploring new areas and seeing new places, starting new jobs can be exhausting.  There is always a huge learning curve, no matter how experienced you are, and it seemed like right about the time we really felt comfortable, the summer was ending.  It also takes time to fit into an established culture of a place, and since most jobs have returning couples, it always takes a while to get to know people, and figure out the roles.  That’s a lot of work and often stress, and again, about the time we were really forming relationships with people it was time to move on.  I found that I really missed having long-term business relationships with people and the friendships that often result from that.  That was definitely more important to me than Lee, but even he missed having continuity in his life.  Going to a place you know, knowing most of the people, knowing what is expected of you, and knowing how to accomplish that is no small thing.  If is simply less stressful.
  4. Our day-to-day tasks are somewhat fulfilling. I have no problem with doing mundane tasks (including cleaning bathrooms) but the more I get to use my brain the happier I am.  Not everyone is like that, some people really enjoy shutting all that off and just plain working all day, but I know enough about myself now after trying lots of these jobs that it matters to me.  And a big part of that is having my ideas heard.  I don’t expect every idea I have to be implemented, but if it makes life easier and doesn’t cause any issues for anyone, why not try a different way? There are many work kampers I have met  who say these are low level positions and you are paid to just “do the job”.   And honestly I get that.  First and foremost the work needs to get done, but I have always believed that the perspective of the lowest level employee has value to an organization, and I love working for people who believe that as well.  The best employers solicit the opinions of the people on the “front lines” and make adjustments when it works with the overall goals of the organization.  That’s what I experienced last year with this company, and I particularly liked that when they rejected an idea, they always explained why. The “why” of things is important to both of us.
  5. We like the people we work with. We have no expectations we are going to be best friends with everyone, and since people are so different we might be working with people that we wouldn’t hang out with socially in a non-work setting.  That being said, we are both working and living with these folks and we need a level of friendliness and mutual respect to feel comfortable. And it’s important that we feel comfortable because most of us don’t have a home in another location to retreat to.  If you have a work conflict with someone (which happens even in the best of circumstances) it’s likely you will meet them during off hours at the laundry room, common areas, or just walking around.  This company talks about having a safe work environment and that including feeling emotionally safe.  Harassment of any kind is simply not tolerated, and although I am a big girl and can handle most conflict myself, knowing they have my back in an extreme situation matters to me.
  6. The services we have access to are also a big factor for us.  Initially we both thought we could stay anywhere, but after a stint with no internet we learned that simply wasn’t the case.  We need to be able to stay in contact with people and the first thing we did, before even applying for the job was drive to the site we would be staying in and see how many bars we had. We also thought about electric, water, and of course Lee worries about the sewer.  All of that being said, we don’t need 4 bars of 4G and full hookups, and we don’t have that here.  We talked with our boss about our minimum requirements and he took that into account when he assigned us our position.  In order to help with that we made sure we had the right kind of phone service (AT&T works best up here, Verizon coverage is more or less nonexsitent) and we have a booster up to bring the 1 bar up to 2-3.  We also have a dump tank rather than a sewer connection, and use the campground restrooms on occasion to make that work.  We are aware that part of the trade-off for being in such a remote location is some restriction in services, but we were honest about what we needed, and they told us up front what they could do for us.  That’s really the key, because we have walked into situations in the past where the site and services were simply not as advertised, and that is a rough way to start off a new position.
  7. In addition to services in the campground there are also services in the surrounding area.  Where will we do our laundry? Will the doctors and dentists take new patients?  Are there decent hospitals nearby? How far away is the nearest grocery store, and how expensive is the food? These are all factors we are willing to be flexible with, and again we understand that living in a rural area requires some trade-offs, but if I drive an hour to the nearest grocery store (which we often do), I want it to have a decent selection and prices I can live with.  In this case (as in other jobs we have had) the company provides a freezer that we can use to store some stock-up items in, and that relatively minor perk makes a world of difference.
  8. Which leads me to the employer understanding the full-time lifestyle We are aware that unless you have lived like this it is hard to understand, but good employers listen to the feedback from their work kampers and do what they can to provide extra perks that matter to us.  We can all tell pretty quickly when an employer “gets it” and although we are OK with helping educate people who are new to the RVer lifestyle, we don’t have a ton of patience for the ones who want to treat us like “regular” employees, because we just aren’t. Our circumstances are slightly different, but there is also a reason why many employers want us to work for them.  We generally bring years of varied experience to the job, and almost all of us are extremely hard workers with a great work ethic. There are exceptions of course, but I would stack our workforce up against a traditional temporary workforce any day of the week, and more and more companies are discovering this is a great option for them.

As you are reading all of this, you are probably thinking those requirements are a tall order, and frankly we thought that as well.  We were as surprised as anyone, when near the end of last season we started talking about returning, and what that would look like.  We both knew we didn’t want to do the same specific job we did last year, but we hoped there would be a good fit for us somewhere in their organization.  And it turned out that there was.  They looked at us as individuals with skill sets that could contribute, and found us roles that were a better fit. We were gratified that they liked our work enough to go to the trouble, and it further solidified our decision to come back.  And yes, we will still be exploring different areas of the country, but we are hoping to do that during the months of October and April when we aren’t working at all. The month we just spent in Utah proved to us that we can still explore new places and have the continuity we are both looking for, and we are excited about trying a new way (for us) of fulltiming.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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.

Phases of Full Timing

I don’t want to speak for anyone else here, but when I look back on the last three years of full timing, there have been distinct phases to this lifestyle for us.  We may be different from many people in that respect who have a hard line between their old life and their new life and just jump right in, but for me it definitely has been an evolutionary journey.  And since I like to look forward to a new year with a goal in mind, I thought I would take a moment and try to recap the journey so far.  I have written extensively about this in various posts throughout the year, but it never hurts to summarize things a bit, plus I have all kinds of free time right now since I am working sitting around doing nothing all night gate guarding.

It is worth noting that I believe Lee has undergone a progression as well, but because our circumstances and personalities are different it is not the same as mine.  I hope he decides to jump in here and share a little  (I may actually learn something) but he gets to decide how much he wants to share.  So this is my distinct journey and before I start I do think it’s worth saying that I seem to be a little unusual in this respect.  Most of the people we meet have been older and closer to retirement and they seem a bit perplexed by why I don’t just settle in.  My common response is I am only 50 (well actually 51 now but you know what I mean) and I have at least 15 years left before full retirement. So to me it’s very much a journey of personal growth and for me the only way to achieve that is through some reflection.

Year 1

Looking back, the first year was all about Overcoming Fear.  I was so out of my comfort zone that issues that seem relatively small now caused a significant emotional impact.  More than anything else Lee and I learning how to live together in a small space was challenging.  Add to that moving frequently, the basic mechanics of camping (we were relatively inexperienced),  staying with friends for weeks at a time, and figuring out how to maintain my professional career as we traveled, and it was a lot.  Consequently the first 6 months were a whirlwind of new experiences and at times I felt assaulted by all the new. Don’t get me wrong, there were some amazing moments in there, but it definitely took me that long to “settle in” and thank heavens I wrote this blog, because when I look back on that time it is all a bit of a blur.

I characterized that first year as having more personal change than I had ever experienced in my life, except for when I became a first time parent, and I still think that is absolutely true.  Some people thrive on change and enjoy the rush, but that’s rarely been me, and instead I often felt like I was flailing wildly in the deep end of the pool.  Finally things did settle down and I really started to feel the constraints of working a full time job within the lifestyle.  Lee left his job before we went on the road and since he settled into the lifestyle so quickly I thought the job might be the reason I was struggling so much.  As my friend Linda put it, I had a foot in both worlds, and  I found myself having a hard time emotionally committing myself to the life. To be 100% clear I know several people who have kept their jobs and acclimated just fine to the full-time lifestyle but for me it was a crutch, and was actually holding me back.

This became very clear when we spent some time in Glacier National Park with friends and I took 10 full days off, away from the stress and requirements of my job.  For the first time in years I was completely disconnected from my old life and the combination of good friends and gorgeous surroundings finally flipped a switch in me.  And to prove God has a plan, the day we left that park I received an email with an offer for a professional buyout.  There was no pressure behind the offer, I simply had enough years of service to receive it, but to me it seemed like a sign.  So after some thought I took the offer and within 6 weeks I was unemployed for the first time in my adult life.

It’s worth saying here that for anyone that is a ton of change in one year.   Let’s recap: Youngest daughter left the home (empty nest), sold our home, moved into an RV, and quit my job.  In all fairness most people (like Lee) experience all of that change all at one time, but I spread it out over that first year.  It might have been easier to do it all at once, I can’t really say, but I personally wouldn’t change anything because although it may have lengthened the transition time for me, it also allowed me to some extent to deal with each change as a separate thing, which I think was good for me in the long run.

Year 2

The second year was all about dealing with no longer being a professional, and Alaska.  The first was a very difficult transition for me.  My identity was very much wrapped up in what I did for a living and I truly mourned that loss.  Unlike people who go through this change in retirement, I knew I had many working years left so I needed to figure out what that looked like for me.  Alaska though was a great distraction.  Our trip to Alaska wasn’t just checking a box on a bucket list, it became a symbol of the new freedom we were experiencing in our life.  I never could have spent an entire summer there working my old job, and the experience of living there for several months really gave us an idea of what our future life could be.

None of this was a surprise for Lee, he had a clear vision of what he wanted his life to be like, but I truly lacked the imagination to understand the possibilities.  The sheer size and beauty of Alaska was beyond anything I had ever experienced, but the summer also included the realities of making money in a “low level” position.  Again, except for parenting, I don’t think I have ever experienced so many extreme highs and lows in such a short time period, but on balance we felt very lucky to be able to have the experience.

One thing I firmly realized that summer was our life was not going to be like many other full timers that we knew.  The phrase “that is not our reality” became a common one for me, as we watched (with some envy) many people who didn’t have to work spend the summer exploring. I think at that point Lee was still hanging on to the idea that we could “work a little, play a little” to maintain the lifestyle, but I knew from the numbers that it was more likely we would “work a bunch, play not so much”.  We had some conflict about that concept in Year 2, which was heightened by taking on two difficult jobs at the end of the year when we worked the sugar beet harvest and Christmas trees.  By the end of the year I was rethinking everything, but Lee was dug in on the idea that our financial situation was due to the special circumstances of Alaska, and things would level out and look more like other people we knew.

Year 3

Thankfully year three started out with gate guarding, which was a much better fit for both of us, and I made a mental commitment to try one year working Lee’s way. My only caveat was that I wanted to make sure we tried all the different major types of work, so I scheduled us for Amazon at the end of the year well in advance.  I gave quite a bit of thought to finding a consulting job, and even spent a significant amount of time looking for a position, but the timing never quite worked out and we ended up spending the entire year supporting ourselves solely with work kamping revenue.  Overall I felt that was a very good thing, and proved to me once and for all that the lifestyle was actually financially viable.  We both agreed that we didn’t have the money to deficit spend year after year, and year three was all about seeing what it actually looked like to earn as we went.

Ironically, I am pretty contrary that way, once I decided to just “go with it” in year three, things became much easier for me.  I largely stopped twisting myself in knots, well at least as much as I am capable of, and just went with it.  I was more surprised than anyone when it turned out we largely broke even.  Yes, we chose to spend money on some extra things, but as far as day to day living, we did pretty well.  Lee, on the other hand, I believe had a larger transition.  He realized that his work a little play a little life probably wasn’t going to happen and instead focused on finding ways to earn money that were the most palatable.

It also became crystal clear that we were very different when it comes to what matters in living this life.  Lee is one of those people that flipped the mental switch when he left his career, and as long as our bosses don’t micromanage him, he is generally fine with pretty much any kind of work.  I, on the other hand, really solidified the fact that I need a work purpose.  I discovered I don’t need to make a ton of money, but I do want to feel like the work I do has some sort of meaning.  Working for two large companies in year three, albeit in the lowest level positions, had a big impact on me, and helped me come to terms with what I wanted long term, and really start to explore how to make that happen.

More than any year prior it was about revenue and budgets, but what was interesting was even though we made less than we have made since we were “kids”, we actually felt more successful. And I finally felt comfortable.  By the end of the year I was owning who I was, and what I wanted, in a way that had been missing since we went on the road.   Since I didn’t have a clear vision of what this life looked like when I started, I fell victim to taking other people’s experiences and superimposing them on my own life.  Not surprisingly my life often fell short using that criteria, and it took until year three for me to truly define my goals based on my unique reality.  Letting go of the fantasy was a major breakthrough for both of us and the Amazon experience went a long way for both of us towards finally making that happen.

Year 4

So knowing all that, what does year 4 look like?  First and foremost we finally have a travel plan that involves jobs and a “route” that hopefully will work for both of us.  I stretched myself  and applied for a position where I can use more of my professional skills and feel very hopeful about what that looks like long-term.  We also are being completely realistic about what free time we will have, and this year is all about using part of that time to explore Utah between gigs.  In the past three years I judged my life based on how many firsts we experienced, and the beautiful pictures I took, but I have made my peace with the fact that the quality of our life is based on more than those two factors.  For those of you who jumped right in and got there quickly, you are probably nodding your head, smiling, and wondering what took me so long, and that’s completely fair.  I will say that if I had to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t choose to do it any differently.

For me it is definitely about the journey and not the destination, and one of the beautiful things about this lifestyle is we all travel differently.  Some of us take a little longer, but that’s totally OK, because we see extra things along the way.  And along those lines, my feelings about this blog definitely need to change in year four.  Over the last couple of years to some extent this blog has written me rather than the other way around.  Sometimes that is a good thing, because it forces me to get off the couch and go out and experience things, but overall I think it hasn’t been healthy to feel compelled to have experiences so I can have something to write about.

Interestingly, Lee went from finding the blog a bit of a nuisance to being concerned about what will become of it when I talk about my feelings regarding what and when I write going forward. He likes providing regular content and has promised to write more to help to help with the workload going forward.  I know you guys are probably excited about that, and I feel less pressure.  It’s a win-win.  Speaking of that, I did use the term workload on purpose.  When people ask how I manage to post so much, I always say I have treated it like a job, but as much as the blog has helped me over the last few years, sometimes that additional pressure hasn’t been good for me.

Talking about my feelings and the positive impact that has on people matters very much to me, and whenever someone reaches out and tells me I made a difference it truly makes it worth it.  But it is important to note that I am not making my living from this blog, and I need to get back to writing about what I want to talk about, rather than writing about what I feel I “owe” the readers.  Especially when I feel like I owe it on a schedule.  I think this has become especially clear to me over the last couple of months as I have experienced several negative comments. I’ve been pretty lucky in that this blog feels like a conversation, and I truly enjoy hearing from people, even when they are thoughtfully critical.  But I have zero interest in trolls.  Simply put, I’m not being paid  to take a bunch of shit from people, and since this blog isn’t paying my bills, I don’t have to.

Actually, I am trying to let go of feeling like I “owe” people in a larger context, and this blog is a good place to start.  I would like year four to be about living a life that makes me personally happy and fulfilled, and I really want to focus on that.  In the past,  I have spent an awful lot of time and energy worrying about other people’s well being instead of focusing on myself. It’s a difficult balance, because I do believe that a good person puts others in front of themselves, but I also realize that ultimately I only have one life to live and I should definitely make the most of it.  Hopefully I can maintain a balance this year by letting go of unproductive emotions and focusing on the positive ones.  That’s a tall order, I know, but definitely worth spending a year on. How that looks from a blog perspective I have no idea.  I guess we will all find out together.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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.

Heading Back East

Our last week at the campground was nice and quiet because we were the only ones there!  We finished up some last minute items and had a nice meeting with our managers about the opportunities for next year.  We won’t know for sure until November, but we’re confident something will work out. We also changed our days off so we could leave on Sunday, because we thought we might be able to meet Cori and Greg in Cheyenne along the way, and the extra day would allow us to spend more time with them, instead of just a few hours at the end of a long day of driving.  Unfortunately on Saturday we learned that Denver was supposed to get snow, which changed the plan quite a bit.

We really wanted to see them  (and as an added bonus Dave and Sharon just happen to be with them!) so I spent some time on Saturday re-routing us while Lee finished up last minute items on our rig.  We definitely would be able to meet up with them, but in order to do that a few of our travel days would have to be a little longer than 300 miles, which we like to keep as our outer limit of driving, but it would definitely be worth it.  And we would be going on new stretches of road (through Utah and Idaho) which is something I always enjoy.  So we finished up our last gate closing on Saturday and were both up by 5:30am on Sunday.  It still took us 3 hours to get on the road, but that was mainly because we double and triple checked everything.  When you have been sitting for a while, it’s easy to forget your normal travel day routine and we were both extra cautious to ensure we didn’t have any issues.

The weather was absolutely perfect and because I-84 was still closed due to wild fires along the Columbia River Gorge from Troutdale to Hood River (we heard on the radio once we were under way that they opened one lane Sunday morning, but we were already going the other way) we headed east on U.S.  26 (Mt. Hood Highway) instead. From just past Government Camp we took OR-35 to Hood River to catch I-84 eastbound from there. We got to see Mt. Hood with a fresh dusting of now!  It was a nice way to end our stay in Estacada, and the drive itself was a nice one.

Mount Hood

Mount Adams

Driving along the Columbia River

Our route actually took us through western Oregon, which we didn’t have time to explore this summer.  It gets pretty hot there, so next time we will definitely take some trips early in the season, and it’s always a surprise how quickly the landscape changes.  Lots of farmland, and quite arid, although we did have some beautiful views of the Snake River.  Our campsite for the night was even along the Snake River, and the views were spectacular.  We stopped at Catfish Junction RV Park because it was Passport America and the owner was really nice, and it was neat as a pin.  Plus it only cost $16 which was very reasonable considering the view! Not to mention there were only about 4 rigs in the whole park. We particularly love travelling in the off season and shoulder season, because even parks that are normally cramped feel wide open when there’s nobody in them.

Pendleton area of Western Oregon

Catfish Junction

Our site was on the end and easy to back in. If you have a larger rig you might want to call ahead because not all sites would be that easy to get into.

Gorgeous view from the front of our rig

There are also numerous boondocking spots along the snake river and close to the campground, but on our first night on the road we wanted full hook-ups.  When we have sat for a while Lee fills the black and grey tanks with about 1/3 water (I use the water meter to keep track of how many gallons I am putting in. It’s a very handy gadget to have for lots of reasons. – Lee) and the agitation from traveling helps to loosen and break up whatever sediment may have collected in either tank from sitting for so long.  Lee calls it a poop smoothie. Since we sat for almost 5 months the tanks definitely needed it!  We woke up the next morning and got on the road by 8:30am again, because I wanted to make sure we arrived at our next destination somewhat early. By choice I did not make any reservations, and generally in the off season this is not an issue.  But you never know what you are going to run into, so if you time your arrival by around 2-3pm, you still have time to deal with anything that comes up.

This day of driving was not nearly as interesting, unfortunately.  I didn’t really like the terrain all that much, although it did get much better when we hit Utah towards the end of the day. That was OK because I am trying a new thing while Lee is taking his driving turn.  I can’t read in the truck, it makes me carsick, but I can cross stitch, and this is a fun thing to do because I can just stop when there is something interesting to look at.  Lee and I have been splitting up the driving as well, changing drivers about every 2 hours, which also helps break up the long day. There was lots of construction and I swear it always happens on my turn, but surprisingly they still allowed people to drive 70 despite being down to one lane.  I just set the cruise control to 65 and let folks pass me, because despite the relatively flat terrain, I just felt more relaxed.  That section of highway was actually 80 mph but since there were 2-3 lanes folks didn’t seem to mind my slowpoke speeds.

Idaho

Some mountains as we got closer to Utah

Finally we arrived at Willard Bay State Park and I was pretty disappointed.  (Overall we are finding that state parks are not our cup of tea. They tend to be a little pricey for what we get. – Lee) There was no one at the gate so we had to use $30 cash, and since we didn’t have a campground map we had to drive around the campground, select a site, then drive back up and pay.  None of the sites had water views,which was disappointing considering it’s on the water, and it’s pretty close to the interstate so you can hear a lot of road noise.  On the plus side, the sites are nice and large, although not very level, and there was a nice paved path that took me down to the water.  It was pretty down there and I saw lots of birds, but overall it was just too pricey for a very average overnight stay.

Our site was on the end which was nice

The paved nature trail

The beach area was great. I can see why this would be a big draw in warmer temps

Egrets were in the marsh and lots of song birds

Even saw a huge flock of what I think were coramonts flying overhead

 

Overall it was pretty, but I was really hoping it would be special enough to qualify us for a state sticker, but that was not to be.  Our rule is we only get a state sticker if we spend the night AND see or do something unique to the state.  The last piece is a bit subjective of course, but when I tasted the lake and it wasn’t salty I had to decide to save my state sticker for something else.  Hopefully we will be able to get our Colorado sticker and Iowa sticker on our way to Indiana and Ohio, because it has been too long since I had the pleasure of putting a sticker on!

And then next morning I woke up pretty early and was as I was looking at Facebook and waking up I got pretty bummed out.   Some people we know are taking their time exploring this area and their pictures really made me sad that we were flying by without doing or seeing anything. Utah is an area we have been wanting to explore for a while now, and I hated that we would be so close to Moab and not see it.    It’s one thing to have Moab on your bucket list for example, but quite another to be less than an hour away and not be able to stop because of a schedule.  That’s not exactly true, we could change our plans and see it, but for me, it’s not a place I want to just jump out and take a picture.  It’s a BIG bucket list item and as such deserves more than a quick peek.  It’s worth noting that in my old life I definitely would have stopped, because I wouldn’t have been sure we would ever get back. Now I am confident enough that we will return that I can afford to wait, but it’s still a bummer.

Plus, we are spending money like crazy.  Gas Diesel on the highway is around $2.90 a gallon, even with our 8 cents off Pilot discount and it’s about $100 every time we gas fuel up the truck. So, it’s going to cost us about $1,000 in gas diesel to get from one end of the country to the other, and it’s hard to watch the money we worked so hard for this summer slip away.  More importantly, we are also “spending” 9 days of our precious time off, and since we don’t think we will have another long break until April, it’s hard to lose the time.   We could slow our pace of course, and the temptation to do that is strong, but we have family and friends who haven’t seen us in over a year and that is important as well.  I guess my point here is there is a tendency to see this lifestyle as freewheeling and completely without boundaries, and that simply is not the case for anyone we know.  People have doctor’s appointments, family obligations, repairs to attend to, and financial constraints, all of which impact their travel. When you are just looking at Facebook pictures or blogs you forget about that, and even though I know better than to judge my life by someone else’s “highlight reel” I am still guilty of it.

Basically I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, and then as often happens, the universe gave me a little nudge. Not ten minutes after writing the above couple of paragraphs I walked outside and there was a beautiful doe and her adorable, furry fawn less than 15 feet from our rig.  I just stopped and stared and she stood there for a long time staring back at me, and finally they strolled away, unconcerned with my first-world full-timer problems.  If I have a spirit animal, it is definitely deer, so the moment really spoke to me.  It definitely brightened my mood and I quickly finished our morning routine and we got on the road.

The drive through Utah was much prettier than the day before.  I had timed it so we missed most of Salt Lake City’s morning traffic, but it was still congested enough that it took some time getting through the city.  It was more industrial than I thought it would be, at least what we saw from the highway, and the surrounding mountains were really pretty.  Lee took the first shift, but we switched outside of town and our route took us off the interstate south of Salt Lake. We were driving US-6 to get between I-15 and I-70 and both of us were glad to be going through the countryside a bit.  That part of the drive was really beautiful and although the road was pretty twisty turny it had great signage, and lots of passing lanes so I could drive at my own pace.  The terrain also changed during the drive going from beautiful tree covered hills to some amazing canyons.

Grabbed a picture of the beautiful mountains at the Flying J before we jumped on Highway 6

This terrain was really pretty and we started to see some color

Then it turned into mining country with some amazing rock formations including Castle Gate pass. Unfortunately there was no place to stop and get a picture but this was really majestic

We also found a really nice, large travel plaza on Highway 6 and stopped for our lunch.  Since the huge parking lot was practically empty I practiced backing up and I think I did OK.  I haven’t backed up the rig since I went to RV driving school waaaay back in Spring of 2015 in the Outer Banks,  so I was a bit nervous, but Lee talked me through it step-by-step and overall I think I did OK.  I really need to take advantage of opportunities to practice this more in the future, because it definitely has an element of “feel” to it.

I wasn’t quite on the center line, but I was in the two outer lines

After our lunch stop we switched drivers again and the terrain down to I-70 was pretty barren. But when we reached I-70 and headed towards Moab we got to see some absolutely beautiful canyons, from the outside at least.  We talked again about changing our route, it’s nice when you have no reservations so you can talk about things and Lee is great about last minute changes, but once again we decided to push on.

The drive on US-6

The canyons on I-70 from a rest area we stopped at

Finally we left Utah and entered Colorado and the terrain changed once again.  There is a section along the Colorado River that has lots of wineries and fruit trees , which really surprised me and we were close to our stop for the night.  It was only 3pm at this point, which turned out to be a good thing since I had planned to stay at the James M. Robb state park.  I knew it would be pricey ($28 for full hookups and $7 daily entrance fee), but I wanted to try one of their state parks. The first section was in Fruita and since it was in town we skipped it for Island Acres which was outside of town and about 12 miles farther.  Unfortunately I had the wrong address and we actually ended up in a third section which was day use only.  Lee went inside and talked to them and we headed farther down the road, but it was actually 4:00pm by the time we arrived.  The park was in this really cool canyon, but when we pulled in, once again, not impressed.  Despite being right beside the river you couldn’t see it from your site and there was a train that ran through really close by, just on the other side of the river.  Plus there was a distinct sewage smell in the area and after some discussion we finally decided to move on, to a more reasonably priced option that would put us a little closer to where we would be meeting up with our friends.

Cool entrance to canyon

I looked in Passport America and there was a nice campground about 1-1/2 hours away that was only $25 (with the discount) for the night. Lee said he was fine with driving and we kept going. Unfortunately we had to go farther east to turn around, and then go back 25 miles the way we came to get on US-50, but eventually we made it. About 11 miles outside of Montrose we checked in to Centennial RV Park. The office was still open when we arrived a little after six and it was a well-maintained and friendly campground.  The Passport America price was right and we checked in and Lee quickly hooked us up to water and electric, and sewer. I made a quick dinner, trying a new fish recipe which we both really liked, and we both sort of collapsed.  It was a long day and the driving wear and tear is a little cumulative.  We knew we were tired when the person at check in asked us where we came from and neither of us could remember lol.  I finally said Utah, above Salt Lake, but for the life of me couldn’t remember the name of the campground.  But we are here and only about three hours away from Cori,Greg, Dave, and Sharon.  Tomorrow we will be going  over Monarch Pass, which on the eastern descent is about 6 1/2% grade for 10 miles, so we definitely wanted to be fresh for that drive.  Looking forward to seeing our friends and taking a day off from driving, plus still hoping to get that Colorado State sticker!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 also available in paperback.

 

 

Living on the Road and Major Family Events

 

When we first started out on our grand adventure I thought that we would be spending more time with family and not less.  Initially that is exactly what happened.  We spent six weeks with my sister in South Carolina, spent a month in Minnesota with my daughter for her wedding, and had numerous short stops to see family and friends in Columbus, Texas, Florida, and other places.  Almost all of that happened while I still had my corporate job and had more freedom in my travels.  Once we started working traditional work kamping jobs, that changed.  Yes, people can come visit us where we are working, and we can try to schedule the route for our off time so we can meet up with people, but it all gets much more complicated. If you have income coming in, don’t need to work, or have a mobile job, you probably have much more flexibility in where you go, but that is not our reality and as the last year has been a series of disappointments in this area I think it’s time I wrote a post about it.

I freely admit my situation is complicated.  I have three children in three different states (or countries now, as our youngest was recently deployed to Korea) and a large extended family in a fourth state.  We don’t have any grandchildren, which makes our situation much less complicated than many others, and thankfully all of our parents are alive and in good health. But as with any family we have weddings, births, birthdays, and deaths, and in those cases it is simply impossible for us to always be there.  Actually I shouldn’t say that, if we chose a route that went from family member to family member and kept us on the East Coast we would be able to attend most of those events, but the places we want to be aren’t usually close to where those things are happening.

We do have some experience with this of course.  We spent fifteen years living in New Hampshire, which wasn’t close to any of our family, and during that time we missed lots of events.  The difference was, I had a job with a salary and a bereavement policy that allowed me the option to travel if I felt I needed to.  Even with all of the resources in the world, I didn’t always make the trip, but for the “big stuff” we could always jump in the car and make the twelve hour trip home, or one of us could stay home with the kids and the other could fly.  We attended our grandparents’ funerals that way and I went to my brother’s wedding and sister’s nursing school graduation. It certainly wasn’t perfect.  I often had to work during those trips and they were always too short, but they were possible and at least I could physically be there to show my support and love.

This new work kamping life is very different, and we have had a series of events this year that have proven that.  My mother’s husband was sick and eventually died this year, and although my original plan was to go and stay with her at the end and through the funeral, ultimately I didn’t go back at all.  We were gate guarding at the time, and both were needed to hold the position, and since it was 24/7, if one of us left the other one would have to go as well.  We needed the money, and more importantly we needed to have a solid gate guarding experience for future work opportunities, so we stuck it out and although I talked to my mom on the phone almost every day I wasn’t able to be with her.  In that case my brother and sister were absolutely fantastic and since they had more flexibility in their schedules were with her through the experience.  But I hated not being there and although she was 100% supportive and understanding as she gets our lifestyle, I still feel sad that I wasn’t with her.

Then my oldest daughter was getting remarried and we went to some trouble to plan our route so we could be in Charleston in October.  The kids know we can’t change our travel plans at the drop of a hat, so the wedding dates were agreed upon well in advance.  We were going to spend at least two weeks with her, but then life got in the way and when she needed some emergency dental work and her fiancées insurance to help pay for it, she decided to move up the wedding.  It was always going to be a low-key ceremony on the beach, so moving the dates wasn’t a huge deal, but we were faced with some tough choices about whether we could be there.  Flights at the time were around $650 each and we would also be missing work.  No paid time off with these seasonal jobs, and although this one is flexible enough that we could have gotten a few days off, when we added hotel room and rental car to the equation, it wouldn’t be cheap.  We actually talked about just me going, to help keep some of the costs down, but ultimately after much hand wringing on my part, we both decided not to go.  Ultimately she chose to get married with just the two of them on the beach and it was a lovely and special ceremony, but missing my daughter’s wedding was an extremely difficult decision for me and once again I felt like I let someone I loved down.

And just yesterday my favorite Uncle died.  He was always a huge part of my life and extremely supportive and encouraging of my life and choices.  There are some people in your family who just get you, and he was that guy for me. We had a very special relationship and when I found out he was close to the end, I wanted to fly back and see him one last time.  But then it’s the same choices, money for flights, missing work, the logistics of where to stay and getting around while I am in Columbus, although I have family there who could help me out with that.  I didn’t go and then got the call that he passed away. Now, once again I am faced with the choice for the funeral.  Funerals are very important to me.  I believe that showing respect and providing support is one of the most important things you can do to honor the person and since he was so good to me growing up, I really want to do that for him and his family.  But the flights are $700 and worse, most of the available cheap ones are 12 hours or more, and of course I would miss work and on Monday someone would need to cover for me. Still, I have looked up flights twice, hoping there would be a cheaper option, but finally realized I needed to let it go.

I wish I believed he would understand, but I know he would want me there which makes it harder. So I will have to settle for sending flowers and visiting his grave site the next time I am passing through, but it’s rough, no two ways about it.  And if you are reading this and thinking she could have gone to all of those things, you are absolutely correct.  It probably would have cost me around $10K all in to attend these events and I do have that much in the bank.  That would have also taken a huge chunk out of our savings and I wouldn’t have had any way to easily make up that money by working.  Plus, I am under no illusions that next year won’t hold similar circumstances, and since we are committed to making this lifestyle sustainable without plowing through our savings, there had to be a sacrifice.

So each situation has to be looked at individually and with the family member, decisions were made. They weren’t easy, and none of us were happy about it, but we did the best that we could with the situation we were working with at the time.  You might choose differently.  Heck, given the same set of circumstances occurring again, I might choose differently, but this is where I am. There is enough of a pattern here though, that I thought it was important to mention.  I certainly didn’t think it would be like this when we started out.  I envisioned being able to pick up and travel to family whenever I felt the need, but that simply has not been the case.  And it’s not all about the money.  Driving an RV cross country takes time, and emergency events don’t usually allow for 5+ days of travel time so that means flights are necessary.  It’s complicated, and yes it was complicated before, but throwing money at problems can make them a lot simpler. And that’s just not an option for us in this life.

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 also available in paperback.

First Time Kayaking on the Clackamas River

Conventional wisdom recommends that anyone who is becoming a full time RVer invest in three things; good hiking shoes, bikes, and kayak(s).  With visions of all of those activities in our heads we started our full timing journey with two of the three.  Oddly, the one item I skipped (decent hiking shoes), I came to regret when I sprained an ankle during a hike and hobbled around for three weeks.  Now my Merrill Hiking shoes get tons of use and I will absolutely replace them with a like pair when they eventually wear out.  On the other end of the spectrum we went to quite a bit of trouble to bring our bikes.  Lee had a custom bike rack built and we carried them everywhere with us the first two years.  Unfortunately we never found a good way to cover them, so every time we wanted to use them we had a rusted chain, flat tire, or some other bike issue and despite our best intentions they saw little use.  Finally, we gave them away last summer in Alaska, and only rarely do I wish we had them.  The main problem for me is that I like to take pictures, and I am not coordinated enough to ride a bike and stop frequently with a big camera around my neck. It just wasn’t fun for me.

Finally, we purchased a Sea Eagle Kayak. Lee liked that it was inflatable (thus easier to store) and I liked that it was a two person kayak.  I had this vision in my head of riding in style (and barely paddling) as Lee moved us down beautiful rivers, but again, the reality did not live up to my fantasy.  First and foremost, when we went to one vehicle finding a transport company to give us rides, was much more difficult than we thought it would be.  Also, Lee made it pretty clear he wasn’t interested in doing all of the work.  Setting up an inflatable takes some time in and of itself and with our work schedules neither one of us was super interested in the tons of manual labor paddling upriver entails.  Don’t get me wrong, we love floating downstream, but the upstream was just too much work.  We tried some lakes to avoid needing to go upstream, but neither one of us was getting the experience we wanted.

Let me just take a minute here and say LOTS of our friends kayak, bike, and hike on a regular basis.  We definitely fall outside of the “normal” curve on this one, but we are also working physically demanding jobs on a regular basis.  Even if we weren’t though I am not sure we wouldn’t have the same issues.  I think my main point is we didn’t completely change who we are overnight simply because we became full timers.  As big a fan as I am of buying everything you need upfront, you might want to hold off on these items until you get some experience with the lifestyle.  Except the hiking boots.  Definitely buy those, because even if you aren’t planning on tons of hiking, odds are you will experience lots of places with uneven ground.

All of this really came to a head this summer, because we are living on a beautiful river.  We both wanted to get out and kayak, but the idea of paddling against the current (especially after our long, hard days of hauling trash and scrubbing bathrooms) was not appealing.  So it was get rid of the boat (which was super pricey at $850) or find another solution.  Lee really wanted to try a trolling motor, and although I had some major concerns about throwing good money after bad I agreed that it was worth a shot.  Lee did the research, found the motor, and figured out the mounting and finally we took it for a maiden voyage.

All the boat stuff including new motor and battery case

 

Lee put on the mount

 

Strapped on the battery

 

And added the motor

We launched from the Promontory Marina next to the campground and since we had no idea how long the battery would last we headed upriver.  I’ll just jump to the end here and say it was a huge success.  Lee loved having the trolling motor and we had enough battery power to go upriver and get most of the way back.  I was able to take lots of pictures and we only paddled when we got into shallow areas or if I wanted to add a little speed.  The view from the river was also really cool, and as familiar as I am with the river at this point, being in it gives you a totally different perspective.

The view from the marina

 

The Clackamas River

 

I loved these trees, not sure what they are but very pretty

 

It was fun seeing the campsites from the river

 

The Day Use Area

 

And you can see a hint of our camper in the upper left hand corner

 

We made our way up to these wooden structures which we think are there for the fish to rest in

 

Several people were in the area either fishing or paddle boarding

 

I loved these structures

 

They were really fun to kayak in and out of

 

And super photogenic

We went far enough to get some great views of the cliffs

 

Found the base of this waterfall by hearing the water trickle into the river

 

And saw this area on an island where people sometimes camp

 

It was fun and Lee had a really good time with the trolling motor, so hopefully we will be doing more kayaking in the future.  Time will only tell, but my personal favorite is still the scenic drive for seeing an area.  This was nice because you get into nature and see things with more detail, but we only covered a couple of miles of terrain while doing it.  It really comes down to personal preference I suppose.

After kayaking we started our weekend and mostly it was a really good one.  I made $27.70 recycling, which was great, and despite the heat and larger crowds we managed to keep up OK. One of the most exciting things was they finally cleared the slide on the road between Lower Launch and Faraday and we are now able to drive straight through.  Not only does it make our lives easier, it is also beautiful and on Thursday I stopped and took a few pictures.  Right before getting on the road I stopped and checked on my ospreys and discovered three large sized chicks in the nest.  They were on the outer edges of my range but I got a couple of decent shots!

Can’t wait until these guys start flying.  If you look close you see three heads

 

The parent was keeping an eye out


The road to Faraday

 

Good signage around where the slide was

 

They only have half of the road open

 

What’s left after the slide. The rocks with metal netting are used to stop any further slides

 

Really long area which is why it took so long to open the road

 

Some beautiful views of the Clackamas

 

Ending at the dam

 

We even felt good enough to have lunch with fellow Dreamers Julie and Casey who we had met briefly at the 2016 rally.  They are full-time and living in Portland where Casey is working and they were willing to come down during our long break on the weekend.  Julie even brought lunch (which included pie!) and we had a great time getting to know them better.  Casey is a scrum master, which is somewhat similar to what I do and I picked his brain about working while living on the road.  They asked us questions about Alaska and other areas they hadn’t experienced yet and it was a great exchange of information.  Plus they are really nice people and we just enjoyed the company.

Julie, Casey, and Lee who is excited about his pie!

 

So the week was really good with only one sour note.  I thought about leaving it out, but I need to include it because it was kind of a big deal at the time.  On Sunday, we ran out of toilet paper at the Lower Launch and someone wrote “Poop” with a giant “X” in excrement on the wall.  I scrubbed it off, but it really was a bummer way to end the week, because seriously who does something like that?  It obviously happens though, and for those of us who clean bathrooms, it is not pleasant at all.  It isn’t just dealing with the fluids, it’s how intentional the act is.  Craziness. And don’t get me wrong, Lee and I both know these sorts of things are going to happen, but we also shake our head and think who does something like that?

Well, next up is our Crater Lake trip, and we are both very excited about that, and since we won’t be cleaning any bathrooms there I am sure it will be amazing 🙂

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 also available in paperback.