November 14th is our “road-a-versary” and since the format I used the past two years worked for me, I decided to go ahead and keep it. There will be a separate post with our emotional arc for the year and a third one on our financials. Since I track our budget on the calendar year, that summary will be out sometime January. This post is all about the other numbers and gives a broad overview of our travels. So let’s start with what it looked like:
Finally, we got to cross in the middle of the country. I felt really bad for those middle states the last couple of years and was happy that our route took us through the middle. We also earned four new state stickers this year, which were Oregon, Colorado, Iowa, and Kentucky. We have pretty specific rules on earning a new state sticker (we have to spend the night in the RV and do something specific to the state) and four new stickers wasn’t that bad. Despite our desire to stop criss-crossing the country, as you can see we did exactly that starting in Texas and ending in Kentucky, with the intent to travel back to Texas when we are done at Amazon.
Travel Miles – The trailer traveled 7,215 miles in Year Three with a lifetime total of 33,902 miles. The truck traveled 20,123 with a lifetime total of 78,866 miles. And for those who are keeping track (Bill!) the truck engine has 54,038 miles. The reason we keep track separately is the truck engine was replaced at 24,828 miles, but our warranties go by the truck mileage, not the engine mileage.
Travel Pattern – This year our travel pattern was largely driven by our work schedule. We did have the opportunity to do some exploring between jobs in April and October, but mostly travel was dictated by where we went to work. Well, that’s not exactly fair, we certainly had some say in what jobs we selected, but getting from job to job placed restrictions on where we could explore and for how long. This is what the year looked like.
- November – December Selling Christmas Trees in New Braunfels, TX
- January – March Gate Guarding in Dilley, TX
- April – Time off in Phoenix, Sedona, and Flagstaff, AZ, and Las Vegas, NV
- May – September – Working for a utility company parks department in Estacada, Oregon
- October – Visiting with friends in CO and IA , Mor-Ryde Installation in Elkhart, IN, Visiting family in Columbus and Charleston, SC
- November- December – Working in Amazon Distribution Center, Cambellsville, KY
One of the major benefits of work kamping is our campsite is free and we only paid for campgrounds 37 days this year. This year for the first time we truly traveled with no reservations. We went from Texas to Oregon with no reservations, and then again from Oregon to Ohio the same way. Traveling in the shoulder season gave us a higher level of comfort that we could find a spot and we are just more comfortable in general with finding campsites on the fly.
Truck and RV Repairs and Upgrades
I would have to say at this point I don’t really see a pattern with truck or RV repairs. It is true that several of our friends had some pretty major issues in year three, but I didn’t feel for us it was any worse than any other year. It might even have been better because we are much better at living with/working around issues rather than letting them derail us. Case in point; we were without a working furnace for the entire year. It obviously isn’t optimal, but we did prove to ourselves that we can manage. Some repairs though, like our refrigerator slide being broken, absolutely have to be fixed quickly, and in those cases we were lucky enough to be able to schedule the repairs during our non-working time. Here’s what the year looked like:
December – First attempt to fix the furnace. The mobile tech who worked on the issue was in a motorcycle accident and was unable to finish the repair before we moved on to our next job.
January – We attempted to have the furnace, axle, and front left jack fixed. This was a fiasco from start to finish. The warranty company refused to fix the axle despite their independent adjuster telling them it was needed, Camping World said they fixed the furnace but we later learned they didn’t even reassemble it, and we didn’t have enough time for the front jack repair. We did spend $592 on two new front tires and an alignment for the truck this month.
October – We got the furnace fixed and our refrigerator slide which was stuck in the “in position”. We also got a Mor-Ryde suspension upgrade and new disc brakes which you can read about here.
The furnace and refrigerator repairs were covered by our extended warranty, but the new tires and Mor-Ryde suspension were out of pocket expenses.
Patterns I am Seeing
I wasn’t really sure where to add this and it’s important to note this definitely is not based on comprehensive data, but I wanted to share some trends we are seeing with folks in our little community who are hitting their third or fourth year. This is definitely based on a limited sample size, but I do think it is interesting and wanted to pass it along. I’ve gotten some heat in the past for over generalizing, so please understand that this is really just a little slice of a pretty huge RVing pie and these thoughts are presented in that context.
- Everyone has sold their house. The longest anyone took selling their house was three years compared to the the shortest of 3 days. Eventually though everyone’s house sold.
- At least 1/3 of the people I know have changed RV’s. Some upgraded to newer/larger models and others changed from Fifth wheels to Class A’s or vice versa.
- Repairs, repairs, and more repairs. The first couple of years the RV’s seem to hold up pretty well, but around year 3 and definitely year 4 stuff starts to break. Almost everyone I know has had their travel detoured or delayed by the need to stop and make a repair.
- Family emergencies. Unfortunately these also have occurred, and at least 1/2 of the people I know have had their travel interrupted by either a health issue or a death in the family. This is real life after all and I wrote about how challenging these situations can be while on the road in this post.
- Some people have settled on a home base of sort. After traveling for 3-4 years many people start to think about developing routes or establishing a home base. Partly this is to help keep costs down, but it’s also to have consistent medical care or be able to see family on a semi-regular basis. Folks are either staying on family land, buying a small piece of land, or returning to a job they liked. This trend is of particular interest to us because we definitely see it in most of the folks we have met who have been full time RVing 7 years or longer. At this point we are not opposed to developing a route (a major change for me) just haven’t figured out the right one. For us this is going to depend primarily on our job situation, but we are definitely open to settling into a routine that works for us, which is again a major change from how we started.
- Almost everyone we know has volunteered or work kamped at least once. Partially this is done to help supplement or generate income, but it is also done for the experience. It’s nice to stay in one place for awhile and really get to know an area and community. And we know several people who have continued to keep their old jobs despite being on the road three years. I don’t regret giving up my old job, for a variety of reasons, but it’s nice to see folks continuing to travel and work full time in a corporate environment.
- Finally, we only know two couples who have left the full timing lifestyle. That really surprises me, but most folks remain deeply committed to this lifestyle, despite it’s challenges. Not to say people don’t talk about eventually getting off the road, but the general consensus seems to be, we aren’t ready yet. There is still more we want to see, still places to explore, and in general this life is better overall than the old lives we had. We talk about this stuff around campfires and dinners, but for most of us the end-game is not well defined. That isn’t because we don’t know how to transition back, but because we have learned to live a life with more ambiguity. For me at least, that is huge personal growth and something I will be grateful for no matter how long this lasts.
So again, this is my attempt to pass along some patterns I am seeing, and I am sure they are greatly impacted by my own personal experience. My reason for sharing them at all is to show that Lee and I are not an anomalous couple, but part of a larger group of people that are experiencing similar things. When I was researching the lifestyle and reading blogs, I was very skeptical and thought that the people who managed to do this successfully were one-offs, and that is not the case. We have met lots of people who are very happy and fulfilled in their full timing lifestyle and that has not changed even after three years of travel. And it’s easy to see why. Ask any full timer to rattle off their favorite experiences and they are all things that they probably never would have done on a traditional vacation. There are very special moments that people usually stumble across in their travels that simply would never have happened in our old real lives. A picture is worth 1,000 words though, so let me share some of ours for year three.
Top 10 Things We Saw
This is always my favorite part of the By-The-Numbers post and this year, despite working so much we saw many wonderful things.
- Of course number 1 is a waterfall..and what an amazing one it was. Lee read about Grand Falls when he was researching the area, but even he didn’t expect what we found. The falls are taller than Niagara and very, very wide. It was a special experience and I highly recommend making the trip if you are ever in the Flagstaff area.
- Lee’s favorite experience of the year was when we went to Hecata Head Lighthouse at night. We were with good friends Jim/Diana and Rick which added to how special it was and neither one of us have ever seen anything quite like it.
- Seeing Crater Lake checked off a big bucket list item of mine and experiencing it with our friends Kat and Bert made it really special.
- More waterfalls of course and sharing all of the waterfalls in Columbia Gorge with Lee was really special. I had seen them before on a work trip, but loved showing them to him and thankfully we did this early in the season as a large wild fire burned most of this area later in the summer.
- What a wonderful surprise Walnut Canyon was. I absolutely loved it and when you combine it with Sunset Crater and Wupatki it’s sister locations it makes for an amazing day.
- I loved, loved our visit to Winslow, Arizona. Yes, it is super cheesy, but getting to “stand on the corner,” was very special for me and I was giddy most of the day.
- Ahhh Sedona. We had a frustrating experience in Sedona but the views were absolutely amazing. Definitely a place we want to go back to.
- Being in the Path of Totality during the Eclipse made this list to my complete surprise. I really thought it would be much ado about nothing and it was only sheer dumb luck that put me in the path, but obviously it was meant to be because I truly loved it.
- The Petrified Forest was very special for me because it was a place I have wanted to see since I was a little kid. Sometimes those places disappoint, but this time it did not.
- We stayed at Lost Dutchman State Park and had spectacular views of the Superstition Mountains. I really liked the park, although it wasn’t one of Lee’s favorites, but either way those mountains are truly something special. Plus we got to hang out with Deb/Steve and Cori/Greg and that always is a fun time no matter where we are.
There were many more special views this year but those were the ones from a pure picture taking perspective that really stood out. We really did see some very special things, despite the fact we worked most of the year. I wasn’t completely sure that would be possible to be honest, but picking Oregon for our summer job really helped make it possible. But I’ll be talking more about all of that in the next post.
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