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.


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.


Reader Question: Would We Do it all Again?

Stacey sent a very thoughtful question and although I answered it in the comments, I think it deserves a longer answer, hence this post.  The question was “If you knew then what you know now,  would you still trade your former careers / work life including sticks and bricks living for your current lifestyle? I guess I’m wondering if work camping experiences are an acceptable trade off for living the full timing RV lifestyle instead of waiting to do it after retirement. I know that the preference is a uniquely individualized choice, but I’d like to hear your personal opinion now that you’ve done it for some time and experienced varied work camping jobs.”

The short answer is: Yes.  If you are a person who likes brevity you might want to stop right here, but there is of course a much longer answer.  First and foremost I am a person who believes in “the journey”.  Every decision I have made, every challenge I have experienced has led to who I am today.  Looking back on my life, the most interesting times were the most challenging and the times of personal growth usually came from something difficult or scary.  So I am not a person who carries around a lot of regret.  Most of my decisions, good and bad, I can live with because they were my decisions and I learned from them.

That being said, I don’t have to experience everything the hard way anymore.  I can learn from others and I am not averse to taking the easier path once in awhile.  I’m older and hopefully wiser now.  So if I knew would I do it?  It’s possible I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this if I knew exactly what I was getting into, but I hope I would have.  This lifestyle is the biggest risk I have ever taken in my life.  That statement should be put into context, because I have never been much of a risk taker, but for me it has challenged me in almost every way.  I don’t think that would have happened if I would have waited until retirement.  I know it wouldn’t have happened if I would have waited until I had tons of money in the bank.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the transition is tough for people regardless of your income level or savings account, but for me some of the biggest lessons I have learned have been around living without a safety net.  Many people have already learned that lesson.  They were fired, started their own business, dealt with a major illness, or got divorced.  I have never experienced any of these things and as thankful as I am for that, I also didn’t know that I would make it out the other side.  Not intellectually know, because of course I believed that, but know deep down in my gut I would be able to handle major changes. My life was relatively stable and sedentary and I was comfortable. I think it’s pretty clear I am not comfortable now, and haven’t been for the last 3 years.

But people rarely grow when they are comfortable.  Yes, they avoid the lows in life, but often they don’t experience the amazing highs either. Life was bland and vanilla and for many, many years I loved it that way.  Looking back on the last three years I see a series of images.  Things I absolutely know I never would have experienced, because going on vacation cannot buy them.  It’s just not the same.  Those moments have to be part of the equation and frankly I can’t imagine many things that would tempt me to give those up. You might think I could have experienced them if I would have waited, and maybe that is true.  Or maybe I could have experienced equal or better experiences just at an older age.  Possibly, but I have always been a bird-in-the-hand kind of person and to me it would have been riskier to wait until I retired.  Too many things could have happened in the 18 years between now and then.

Plus, my life as it existed was about to change anyway.  My youngest daughter was leaving the nest to go into the Air Force and Lee and I would have been in a big empty house that we didn’t like very much.  Yes, we could have downsized into something smaller, but in our case that change wouldn’t have been enough for us.  More importantly for me at least, my former company was about to be bought by a larger company.  I didn’t know it at the time I took the buy-out, but within 6 months of my leaving, Tyco would be bought by Johnson Controls.  My boss, who I really liked, took a totally different position and in order for me to stay with him I would have probably needed to relocate. If I would have stayed in the same position, I may have survived the cut, but it would have meant longer hours, more travel, and definitely more stress.  I survived two major mergers in my 15 years with Tyco and  I honestly don’t know if I had another one of those in me.  Even if I did manage to survive the deep personnel cuts that always come with a merger,  it’s brutal watching colleagues lose their jobs.  It’s very possible that if I have stayed I would have been looking for new employment anyway, but with the liability of Lee needing to stay in the area and a relatively high mortgage hanging over my head.  Knowing what I know now,  selling the house and becoming debt free was the smart move and I am pretty sure we would not have been able to do that if we had stayed in the area.  So the short answer is I don’t regret at all leaving our sticks and bricks lifestyle.

To answer the second part of the question as to whether the work kamping jobs are worth the full-time lifestyle, I would say the answer is largely no.  If we were supplementing other income and could work them, yes, probably.  If we were volunteering for fun, social interaction, and to help with costs, definitely.  But working the amount of hours we work and the types of jobs we have, absolutely no.  I’m not sure how Lee feels about that so he’ll need to jump in here.  We believed we would be able to work a little and play a little when we started doing these jobs, but its mostly been 10 months of work and 2 months of play, and that’s not a fair trade-off to me.  It would be if the jobs were easier and/or more interesting, but they aren’t, and unless we were willing to stick with the same jobs year after year and follow a set route I can’t see that changing.  That’s a great compromise for many people, by the way, and I respect it.  If you want better pay and more interesting work you can always spend your summers and/or winters in the same places and eventually you will get there.  Nothing wrong with that, but we get the big WOW moments from seeing new places and without that travel I still don’t think I would like it.  I think Lee would be fine with that though, but again he needs to jump in.

(I take a longer view, overall. I think it’s possible to have something resembling a route, and also have the freedom to get the WOW moments, but if I ever feel like I’m chasing something, then I know it’s a losing battle. I’d rather stalk it. I also think that while the WOW moments mostly come from being in new places, I think that we have nothing but time to see new places, and I’d rather get all the WOW I can in a place before I go searching for new WOW. I agree that at the moment, the “recipe” we have is not a good one, and I often wonder how many people start off and give up at this point, because it’s so far away from what they imagined. I’m pretty stubborn, though, and I am convinced that the right recipe is out there, and I constantly remind myself of how unhappy I was before.-Lee)

(Most of the time I feel like my worst day here is still better in the grand scheme than my best day before. The grass is greener syndrome is powerful, and I am avoiding it with everything I’ve got. I do think that if you break the year into two longer seasons of summer and winter and two shorter seasons of fall and spring, then it’s logical that part of the recipe might be that you find a recurring gig in either summer or winter, and intellectually I lean toward summer for that. That would have the added benefit of giving you an anchor point for medical/dental stuff. I know some people might recoil from the idea of spending years experimenting to find that perfect repeating summer gig, but for me it beats a life of grind every time.-Lee)

(Overall, I’m looking for a combination that allows some freedom to travel, but also gives me a little stability. Ideally, a combination of hammering the budget down to the point where we can use the two long seasons to make money, and make enough to play during the short seasons, or some combination. I agree that working 10 months, and taking 2 off is not a good deal, especially if some or most of those of those two months is dedicated to getting from one gig to another. Anything that gets us closer to a 50/50 split would make me happier. I’m also willing to have less in general to get there. For me the trick is to fine tune and tweak until we’ve squeezed as much as possible out of the time we have and the money we can get.  I’m the kind of guy that turns a dish soap container upside down and lets it sit for an hour to get all the soap out, but I think bending over to pick up a nickel is for suckers. I can do something else while gravity gets the soap out for me, but I’m never getting back the ten cents worth of time I spent picking up that nickel. For me, seconds add up faster than nickels.  – Lee)

What isn’t covered in your question is are there any other ways to make money?  The answer is demonstrably yes as we have met many people (mostly younger) doing all sorts of interesting things to cover their costs.  We haven’t even started exploring those options, because we were focused on the most common traditional work kamping jobs, but our focus going forward will be doing exactly that. I’ve never really had an entrepreneurial spirit and again I’m not much of a risk taker, but there are lots of mobile jobs that while out of my comfort zone are not a complete stretch for me.  We believe most work kamping jobs are designed for people who are trying to supplement existing income.  That makes sense because in the past the majority of the work kamping community was in exactly that position.  The demographic of full timers is changing, however, but the work kamping job market has been slow to change to accommodate those of us are financing our travels by working seasonal jobs. We do see some small changes in this area and I expect big changes in the next 10 years, but for right now few of these jobs have been a good fit for us.

What I have learned from trying them though is we can support ourselves that way if we need to.  It isn’t our preference, but it is workable.  (What we’re doing this summer is an excellent example of that. It pays $14.25 per hour and we each work about 35 hours per week, but between the type of work it is and the split shift schedule, it takes enough out of us that it feels a lot more like a sticks and bricks lifestyle. – Lee) This gives me the freedom to be choosier about what types of mobile professional jobs I take.  We aren’t desperate and we know there is work out there, so I can be sure I am not jumping from a less than ideal situation into a worse one.  One thing I absolutely have achieved is less stress.  These jobs may be unpleasant and they are not totally without some stress, but it doesn’t come close to what I was experiencing in my former profession.  My ideal job would be something of relatively short duration, in a nice place,  where I could use my skills and contribute to the betterment of society in some way.  I am fully aware that is a tall order, but at this point I don’t believe it is an impossible goal.

I’m not sure what Lee is going to choose to do. He has talked about trying to get a small business off the ground, but that will require some stretching on his part and a considerable amount of non-revenue generating time to get it started. We have some money in the bank, a really varied skill set, and relatively low monthly costs so whatever we decide to try I think we will be OK. We just need to stretch ourselves.

Which sort of brings me back full circle to my original point.  Once again our desire for this roving lifestyle will be the catalyst for change. We don’t know where that change will lead us, but as long as we love each other and take care of each other, things will be alright and probably we will end up in a better place than where we started.  We usually do.  That alone makes me grateful we started down this path.  Plus, as we are walking along the path,  the view is really amazing.  Seriously, you cannot put any sort of price tag on that.

Thanks for the question and giving us a chance to write about it.

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.


Second Year – By the Numbers

Year Two of Full timing was another year of great change so I thought it was worth several posts summarizing the experience.  At the end of year one I wrote a “by the numbers” post Year 1 overview and a post on the  emotional aspects.  I liked that formula and plan on doing the same thing this time.   Also, since I am tracking our budget based on the calendar year, there will be another post covering Year 2 expenses and revenue in January.

Travel Information

I tried several ways to create one map showing our route, but finally just gave up and created two.  The first picture shows the first part of the year and the second shows Alaska and the return back to the states.


November through May


May through November


Truck MilesThe trailer traveled 15,558 miles in Year Two. This year we did not have a second vehicle for the entirety (I turned in my company car last year) and the truck traveled 33,710 miles.  Thus, we traveled an additional 18,152 miles with the truck alone.  For those who are interested,  the new engine (which was replaced right before we started Year Two has 33,915 miles on it (since being installed) and the truck itself (which is what the warranty goes by) has 58,743 miles.  The number of miles we put on the truck is a concern, but since the Alaska trip caused a spike in both the trailer and truck numbers, we really think we need at least another year to get a feel for what this will look like over time. (I’m not concerned about the truck miles so much. It’s a diesel, and I’m told that they go trillions of miles. – Lee) 

Travel Pattern – We still like to pick an area and stay in it for an extended period of time, but this year we spent more time than expected traveling to get to places.  The main cause of that was business and family obligations on the east coast that necessitated a cross country trip right before Alaska.  We don’t regret that decision because it allowed us to attend my nephew’s adoption party and an RV-Dreams Rally, but from a travel perspective it certainly added some additional miles.  This may not be an unusual occurrence though as we prefer to travel in the West, but most of our family resides in the east.  Again we will need to see how that plays out over time.  Despite the often crazy travel schedule though we did get to spend chunks of time in different areas, and those are listed below.

  • Weott, CA4 weeks volunteering at Humboldt State Park in the Redwood Forest
  • Quartzite, AZ – We spent roughly 5 weeks in Quartzsite (we left, then came back)
  • City of Rocks, NM – We spent 10 days  with Cori and Greg at the City of Rocks which was a major bucket list item of mine
  • Glenallen, AK – We spent almost 4 months in Alaska work kamping, fulfilling one of Lee’s major bucket list items
  • Sidney, MT – We spent 39 days working the beet harvest
  • New Braunfels, TX – We will be spending almost 2 months selling Christmas trees.

In between these stays we mostly traveled, with usual pattern being 300-350 miles a day and an overnight stay then moving on.  We did spend a couple of weeks last March exploring the Tuscon/Benson area with Cori, Greg, Bill, and Kelly.  And we spent some time exploring New Mexico on our own, but mainly we just traveled to get from point A to point B with a few stops to see friends/family along the way.  This is not necessarily our preference, by the way, but so far a couple of factors are driving that.  First and foremost, our schedule of commitments has been tight and necessitated long travels days with minimal meandering along the way.  But to be completely honest we (or I should say I) am not that great at just wandering aimlessly.  I would like to be, but when I was faced with a full month of travel days to get from New Mexico to South Carolina, I almost immediately started to fill that time up with friend visits.  It was wonderful, we saw tons of people as we went across the country, but Lee was a little disappointed that I didn’t leave more open days.  I tried, I really did, but was really uncomfortable without a schedule of some kind.  Eventually though we would both like to see what traveling with no set schedule is like, I’m just not sure when I’ll be ready for that to be honest.

 Truck and RV Repairs and Upgrades

Although I will be covering this in the financial summary as well, I think this discussion also deserves a place here.  The amount of Truck and RV Repairs in Year 2 was more frequent that I expected. I shouldn’t have been that surprised as we put more mileage on the trailer in one year than some people put on one in it’s lifetime, but we both were.   Our two year manufacturer’s warranty on the RV expired in May and we developed several issues right after that expiration.  Although we have an extended warranty that covers some of the costs, not everything (as you will see) was covered.

  • January – We spent around $300 this month on a fresh water pump and portable fresh water tank (along with other miscellaneous repair items) while we were in Quartzsite.  We needed those items to boon dock comfortably and they were one-time expenditures we were expecting.
  • February – Lee accidentally left our surge protector in the parking lot campground of Circus Circus.  We called as soon as we realized it, but it was already gone, not surprising in that atmosphere. It was going to cost around $200 to replace, but Lee wanted to upgrade and hardwire the surge protector and voltage regulator inside the rig so this could never happen again.  The upgrade cost us an unexpected $500 in total, but we never have to worry about them being stolen and it saves Lee time during his setup process.
  • April – We bought 4 new rear dually tires because their treads were too low for the trip to Alaska which cost $1,013Lee shopped around for these tires and ultimately got the best deal possible (we ended up using Costco), but anyway you slice it, it’s not cheap.  I was surprised that the tread was worn that quickly, but we had put over 40,000 miles on the truck at this point. 
  • May – Right after we replaced the dually tires the shackle strap broke on our RV.  Since the manufacturer’s warranty ran out, we relied on our extended warranty, but that would only cover the one broken strap.  We, in conjunction with our repair tech, felt an upgrade on all straps was called for, especially with our upcoming trip to Alaska.  We paid for the non broken straps to be fixed. Our cost was $747 and this was totally unexpected. Worse, this repair cost us a week of travel and stopped us from spending that week with our daughter.  The time bothered me more than the money, but ultimately I felt grateful this happened in a campground near my sister and not in the middle of the Yukon.
  • September – The truck air conditioner died and we were having problems with the alignment on the truck.  The AC unit was covered under warranty, but the alignment was not, which ended up costing us $448.  This repair was incredibly stressful, because the truck was 3 hours away in Wasilla and we were in a rental for a couple of weeks and we had a VERY hard time getting a commitment that the work would be done by the time we needed to leave Alaska for Sidney.  On the plus side, it turned out that a tie rod was extremely loose and if we hadn’t had the alignment checked, it is very likely we could have lost that tie rod and done significant damage.  And again this could have happened on our trip home, possibly in the Yukon.  I mention the Yukon specifically because there are VERY long stretches with minimal services and that is one of the worst places I can think of to have a major repair issue.

Overall we had $3,208 in incremental costs this year and that is with an extended RV warranty, full truck warranty, and truck maintenance plan.  And unlike last year I don’t feel this is anomalous. Rather, I think over time these costs have the potential to increase as everything gets older.

Top 10 Things We Saw

  1. The Redwood Groves.  We started the year with fulfilling a childhood dream of mine.  Touching those trees was simply magical. I have never felt closer to nature than in those moments.  Yes, we spent a month there and it rained for 10 straight days, but those first few days in the groves were priceless.
  2. The Rose Bowl Parade.  Another dream of mine since childhood and it definitely did not disappoint. I have watched this parade every year since childhood and Lee even talked me into getting our first big screen TV by talking about watching football and the Rose Bowl Parade on it, so it was a big deal to me to see it in person.  (I’m not stupid. I know my audience. -Lee) What made it even better was we attended the event via an Escapees HOP we met some great people and attended some events we probably would not have seen under other circumstances.
  3. Seeing and then walking on Worthington Glacier, fulfilled a major bucket list item for me.  Lee said it was one of the Top 5 things he had done since we started the lifestyle.  What made it very special, was it had a surprise waterfall inside the glacier. For us it was the perfect day.
  4. The Lost Coast was one of our long drives that unexpectedly ended in a magical place.  The Lost Coast of California is wild and isolated and the herd of Elk put the experience over the top.  I am not a tent camper, but if we had one, I would have happily pitched it and spent the night there it was so wonderful.
  5. There are so many amazing moments in Alaska, I could fill this list with them, but my favorite was the Denali Hwy.  It was wild, it was vast, and it was untamed, and we did it together.
  6. Spending my 50th birthday with friends on a Glacier Cruise and seeing the glacier from the sea was incredible. The whole reason I wanted to go to Alaska was I wanted to spend my 50th birthday somewhere cool, and having Kelly, Jo, Bill, and Ben to experience it with made it so incredibly special.
  7. Seeing the Very Large Array. Because this really isn’t located near anything else you have to work to see it.  Lee really wanted to go so we made a special route just to see it.  Personally, I wasn’t that interested but once we got there it blew me away.  The size of it was amazing, the price was reasonable, and it had an excellent walking tour.  Many things in life don’t live up to their press, but others exceed the experience you think you will have.  This fell in that category.
  8. I am still a little kid at heart and visiting North Pole, Alaska was a real treat.  Yes it was kitschy, but it was also really, really cool and I love how Lee not only let’s me have those kid-like moments but also delights in them with me.
  9. Camping in the City of Rocks was a mental picture I had of what this lifestyle should be like.  The weather wasn’t the best, but the campsites were amazing and experiencing it with our friends Cori and Greg  made it a special experience.
  10. We saw 7 Different Wild Mammals in one day. The drive to and from Canada was pretty rough for us, but each way there was one magical day that was packed full of bears, moose, and other critters.  That day made the long trip worth it both times.

When people talk to me about the lifestyle they often ask “Is it worth it?”.  I am going to talk about that more in the emotional arc post.  The numbers do tell a story though, and in a nutshell I think they show that from a sheer experience standpoint, so worth it.  In one year I saw more amazing things than I saw in many years during my “old” life.  Not only that, I spent quality time with friends and family that would not have been possible in my old life.  So yes, Year 2 was totally worth it.

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. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here