Steps we’ve taken
You might say this dream started when we were both young. It started with Girl Scouts for me (Trish), and in the Wenatchee National Forest with his father, a Forest Service ranger, for John. When we were married, with children, our vacations were camping – in an old canvas tent we borrowed from John’s father. We had it and our supplies in a small open trailer we borrowed from John’s uncle. Later, we traveled by pickup, with the boys sleeping in its bed, still pulling the trailer with our supplies. When the boys were in High School, we could afford a tent trailer (pop-up to some). Now, of course, they felt put upon when we drug them along, because other interests beckoned them. John & I enjoyed camping in that tent trailer for the next 16 seasons. Then we bought our 40′ diesel pusher, a 2003 Safari Zanzibar. Big adjustment! We felt this large of a motor home was necessary, to be able to live in it for a long time. UPDATE: Because of issues with the slides that seemed unrepairable John and I traded it in for a 2012 Winnebago Journey 36M. We LOVE it!
After the first couple seasons of tent trailer joy, a neighbor introduced us to Thousand Trails (camping membership). Some thoughts about camping memberships: They cost a lot up front and you’re way better off buying into one through a private party or 3rd party than directly from that organization. Financially they only make sense if you really use them, a lot, for years. Not realizing this, we got sold a membership directly from Thousand Trails. The good news is that we have loved it. Because we have to pay our annual dues, we feel obligated to use all our camping nights (our TT contract lets us choose the nights we’ll use at the beginning of each calendar year: 14, 30, 50, unlimited). Since 1998 we’ve paid for 14 nights a year & made sure we used them. Because we HAD to use all 14 nights (having already paid for them), we also just HAD to check out all the camping preserves we could get to (in Washington & Oregon). Thus, we explored a lot of camping we may not have enjoyed otherwise. Meanwhile, we asked lots of questions of fellow RV lovers when we met them. So our dreams grew to include exploring the US in a motorhome. At first we wanted a 5th wheel, but eventually decided we’d rather tow a small car (for exploring the area near our campsite) than use a gas hog truck that pulled our 5th wheel. For a great comparison on the choice between these 2 rv types, see RV Sabbatical (tdhoch.blogspot.com), under the ???s page.
16 years ago we bought our current home, with this journey in mind. So we live in a gated community that takes care of snow removal, mowing and had an RV storage space. Best of all, we have the BEST neighbors, who are watching over our house while we’re gone. We plan to unplug everything except for the empty refrigerator, set to its lowest settings and keep the house at 50 degrees in the winter, 90 degrees in the summer. Water will stay on to sprinkle the lawn in the spring/summer & run sinks and toilets (to keep seals fresh). Many sell their homes (both parties of the blogs named below sold theirs), using the proceeds to pay for their rigs. We have not because this economy (2012) is a difficult time to sell a house and because we may just return, to leave for extend periods (extended timer, rather than full timer). As Gaylord Maxwell noted, it costs more to keep your home (property taxes, maintenance) and live this lifestyle. We think we can manage it largely because we’ve lived below our means for all of our marriage and have no debt at this point. John has calculated (and recalculated) our budget for this lifestyle (thanks, in part, to RV-dreams’ blog and some full timers we’ve met), using Excell spreadsheets. I think that’s his second hobby, after golf!
We’ve got all our bills set up through online or bank check payments. We are directing the majority of our banking through our brokerage (Schwab). Great rates, checking account, savings accounts, brokerage accounts (401(k)) and IRAs. They offer a debit card you can use at any ATM, then they reimburse your ATM fees. They really do. Apparently most brokerages offer these services. So portable. Using only 2 credit cards (including Fred Meyer for the gasoline price credits). For example, I’ll keep my American Express card, and put my Fred Meyer Visa card in our fire safe box. John will keep his Fred Meyer Visa card and put his American Express card in the fire safe box. We’ll keep some cash there too.
“Fulltiming – an introduction to full-time Rving” by Gaylord Maxwell (great test at end for your aptitude for this lifestyle)
“How to Select, Inspect, and Buy and RV” by JK Gallant (very thorough)
“Live Your Road Trip Dream” by Phil and Carol White (how to explore this country in one year)
“Complete Guide to Full-Time RVing-Life on the open road” by Bill and Jan Moeller (Older, so technical wonders weren’t available to them. Great ideas for organizing your space well)
When on the road:
“1000 Places to See Before You Die” by P Schultz (a bucket list)
“The Most Scenic Drives in America” by Reader’s Digest
“Passport to Your National Parks” available at a National Park (NPS)
When we’ve arrived at our campsite we’ll check on Google for “Things to do near me (or near Seaside)”. It’s helpful to stop at the local visitor’s center as well.
TT (Thousand Trails), ROD (Resorts of Distinction), RPI (Resort Parks International), PPA (Passport America), GS (Good Sam), FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association), Elks.
Other places to stay for free or cheap (call first to verify if ok): Walmart, Camping World, Casinos, Cracker Barrel. US Corps of Engineers – half price with Senior (Golden Age) Pass.
Fire Safe Box
For cash, ID, documents like titles to property.
Thank heavens for technology. It’s making this trip WAY easier than it could have been, in so many ways. We bought a Rand McNally Trip Maker for our GPS, because of an RVer’s recommendation. They’ve made maps and GPS for truckers for ages, so now they have a GPS for RVs. Another recommendation: at http://www.randmcnally.com, the Deluxe (spiral bound, laminated pages) Motor Carrier’s Road Atlas (about $50 or more ). It shows best roads for trucks (like our motor home). For our Internet service, John (local technophobe) required a Smartphone. 🙂 It’s a Droid (Verizon) and acts as a hot spot, when directed. We now often use 2 GPS guides at a time. When in the RV: Rand McNally and MS Streets and Trips. When in the car: Rand McNally and Waze-a smart phone app (free).
When we were young, I actually cut everyone’s hair. That ended when we could afford to pay for haircuts, so I’ve forgotten the details, but the plan is for me to cut John’s hair with the clippers we still have. I asked my hairstylist to write down her “notes” for the hair cut I like, so I have those notes typed, laminated, and handy in my purse. When I feel the need, I’ll hand it to whoever ends up cutting my hair (not John!). UPDATE: I’ve discovered that “Great Clips” has a smart phone app that allows me to not only see if any are near but to also check in. This allows me to show up when I can that day and they will take me to a chair for my haircut even in front of others who just walked in. Another suggestion: when you feel the need, look for someone (local in town) with a style similar to yours, that you like. Ask them if they’d mind giving you the name of their hairstylist (from “…Road Trip Dream” by the Whites).
RV: Your normal car insurance carrier may not be up to the special needs of an RV. When we bought our 2003 Safari Zanzibar in October of 2010, we signed up for GMAC (Now National General) insurance on all our vehicles as well as our house. A lady plowed into John’s 2 year old CRV in 2011 (her fault), her insurance eventually totaled it, then said she didn’t have enough coverage (3 vehicles damaged in the incident). Boy, did GMAC step up. We were thoroughly impressed. We have changed our broker for them (1st- through Good Sam membership, 2nd-through a couple at Good Sam Rally, 3rd -Miller Insurance (Oregon) (with full timer coverage), each giving the same or better coverage for GMAC /National General insurance, for a cheaper price. Since our Safari is now 9 years old, we got an Extended Service Warranty (through Wholesale Warranties.net) and Emergency Road Service (through Good Sam). UPDATE: We have another extended service warranty through Wholesale Warranties.net for our Journey.
Although many use the mail services available through various memberships (Escapees, FMCA or Good Sam), we are letting our wonderful neighbors pick up our mail. Once every month or so we’ll give him our location (General Delivery in a SMALL town with only one post office). Since we’re using the Internet for all our financial information, there shouldn’t be too much time sensitive mail (other than ballots). Plus we’ll be in contact through texting, email, and phone. Another option is to use a service like Mail Box Etc. The advantage with them is that they can forward all mail, including packages. whereas a PO Box can’t. Your address is their address, not a PO Box.
Thanks to my employer, I can continue with my health care insurance after retiring, with John included, in a family plan. We plan to return to Spokane for our annual physicals, eye exams and dental checkups in July. We’ll also celebrate the holidays with family then, also.
A few years ago John proposed that we get I-pods – so we can save all our CD’s onto a small place, not have to drag all those CD’s on our trip. Later, he purchased an “ION” record player that translates your records into I-tunes albums for your I-pod. Lots of music, very little space.
Several years ago, my techno loving husband suggested that we end our land line phone and buy cell phones, in anticipation of our life on the road. Thanks heavens he thought of it back then, because it took that long to get all the places that identified us with that old number to make the change to our new ones. I miss the clarity of sound, but have really gotten to love texting. Funny how sometimes he drags me into these new fangled inventions, then I’m the one using it more than he is (like the I-pod).
After I read all the books I’ve been saving to read when I had TIME, I’ll use my NOOK. You can get library books with it, as well as Free Friday books. Plus, many campgrounds (all Thousand Trails) have library nooks, where you can take a book, leave a book).
Our state has vote by mail, so we’ll get & return our ballots by mail.
2003 Safari Zanzibar
During our 16 years in the tent trailer, we explored what we would get for our big trek. Originally we thought a 5th wheel would be the best choice. Eventually we determined, since our style would be spoke & wheel, that we’d be happier with a motorhome, towing a small car, because most of our travels would be in that small, fuel economic car. With a 5th wheel your travels surrounding your campsite are in your fuel hog truck. We loved the floor plan (and originally the quality of build) in the Pace Arrow, by Fleetwood. By the time we were ready to get our motorhome, the economy had crashed. We put off our retirement a few more years, retiring on less than our original hopes, but now RVs were much more affordable too. On a whim, Labor Day 2010, we went to look at a Fleetwood diesel rig and fell in love. Diesels were unaffordable for us before, they are more powerful for hills and safer. BUT it was our first such glimpse, so John said let’s hold off for now. At the end of September we went to the Corvallis (OR) Fall Festival, to set up my (Trish’s) watercolors in a booth. While there, we checked out the rigs at Guarranty RV sales, the largest dealer in the Northwest. We described the RV we fell in love with to our salesman. They found something pretty close. We bought it, NOT how we would recommend. I spent about 10 minutes in it, John about 2 hours the next day. That day I was manning my watercolor booth, so in the midst of that, I’m trying to negotiate. On the way home, after committing to buying it (we’d return 2 weeks later to pick it up), I read the book on buying an RV!
So, there were a number of things we needed to do and buy to get our RV ready for the trek: We went to an FMCA and a Good Sam Rally (we think rallies are the best way to learn what you need to know about your RV & RV life). Items we’ve purchased: Tire Pressure Monitoring System (Trek) (Blown tires & slide out mishaps are the major cause of motorhome damage) , Voltage Regulator (Surge Guard) (good one about $65-ours told us right away that our Inverter was bad), Surge Protector (Surge Guard) (one guy had 15 toasters go bad on him, eventually finding out it was because his electric power was too low too often). and an electronic engine analyser (Silver Leaf). These are important safety features, a top priority. Next, features that make it more convenient to maintain our rig: Air compressor (to fill tires, although asking Les Scwab works well too), Battery filler system, Oil funnel (with a REAL long neck) and to make getting there work well: GPS (Rand McNalley for RV’s), Street & Trips (Microsoft) and a car tow bar set up (Falcon 2) with a supplemental braking system for the car (Brake Buddy). If we have a “do over” chance, we’d rather purchase an “Invisi Brake”, because it’s built into the car, you don’t have to set it up every time you tow your car. For maintenance: Mary Moppins cleaning supplies (www.goclean.com), tall ladder (to reach awnings). We’re replacing our fluorescent lights with LED lights as they go out. We serviced the generator at one of those rallies and the engine just this year. Just to make life more enjoyable, John had a new radio installed that would play our I-pods, Pandora and Syrius, as well as radio stations and CDs. He also made our closet bar operable, giving it support on the ends with new hardware. From the bottom to the top in the center he installed a shower bar to further support our closet bar. Ingenious thought that really works, considering the rig suffers the effects of a 6.0 earthquake while on the move and the rear (where our closet is) suffers even more.
Little things you don’t think about: sewer hose extensions, racks for the microwave/convection oven (someone must have thrown the original ones out along the way). Then there are the repairs: Our first winter, John thought running the RV’s engine would keep our house batteries good as well as the chassis batteries. Wrong. That cost $600. At the Good Sam rally we discovered a part of the fender was ripping off. John jerry rigged a temporary solution in the gravel parking lot, then our RV service put a metal brace on to support it this year. New water pump (Shurflo) to replace water spitting one. Big one: Leak in our bedroom. We found it after our purchase of course, after driving the rig in the rain, but asked our RV service to try to find its source. Wow. Did he ever. When they built our RV 9 years ago, they screwed in a carpet covered angle piece through the hot water line! We saw it! The screw was all rusted at this point and lots of mildew under the bedroom carpet. SO they had to take apart the bedroom, kill the mildew, spray black stuff on it, then new pad & carpet. By the way, in our rush to choose the new carpet, I was only thinking of color (& quality), not pile. The original was low pile and new one should have been – so it’s harder for the slide to work. Not cheap. The hardest part of most leaks is finding the source. I think it was only thanks to our very persistent RV guy that it was found.
Finally, to spiff it up this spring we washed and waxed it, cleaned & steamed the carpet and bought rugs to protect it where we walk. John installed a flat screen TV in the bedroom. We’re having Countryside RV Interiors remodel our front room cabinets (above driver) and install another flat screen TV there. He also built several shelves (inspired by the Moellers’ book), to better fit more stuff in our RV. My contribution: I copied favorite recipes from our cookbooks into a binder. Saves space on all those cookbooks. Vacuum tip: electric broom style (Electrolux Ergorapidoion), fitted into bedroom closet.
Update: Due to ongoing repair issues and the reality that our Miss Zanzibar was 11, almost 12 years old, we felt it was time to trade her in. We bought a 2012 Winnebago Journey 36M. It’s a little shorter and much easier to take care of.