I had an opportunity to make a lifelong dream come true
My husband was the one who suggested I read the book called Travels with Charley – In Search of America by John Steinbeck. Mr. Steinbeck named his truck camper Rocinante. My husband thought that would be a great name for the Airstream.
According to Wikipedia, “Rocinante is Don Quixote’s horse in the two-part 1605/1615 novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. In many ways, Rocinante is not only Don Quixote’s horse, but also his double: like Don Quixote, he is awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his capacities.”
What name could be more appropriate for the “horse” that would carry me across the country on my very first adventure? Like John Steinbeck, my journey would make a big circle around America…across the top, out West, down to the bottom, and back East. Also like John Steinbeck’s search of America, my own search took three months. When I left on the trip, I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I was terrified. I was excited. This might be, as for John Steinbeck, my only adventure like this and I wanted to savor every moment. I felt so alive! I was in my 60’s and thought the best part of my life was behind me. This trip made me feel like a girl again…like the girl who explored the woods and marveled at the campers and trailers and schoolies at Atwood State Park. I was in search of America, but also in search of ME.
Woke at 6 am…way too early for me. But couldn’t fall back asleep, so got up and took a shower and now waiting for my hair to dry.
Funny. It looks small sitting there in that seat. Who would have guessed!?!
I arrived in Tucson yesterday. Lost track of which day it was. Could have looked on my phone’s calendar, but was so sure it was Wednesday that what did I need to check for? Right? But it was Tuesday. Plus I pushed myself, making it here last night around 6:30 instead of leaving that last two hours for today. Anyways, so I’m here early. Can’t go over to the fairgrounds until tomorrow. The RVing Women convention is there. The fairgrounds has a campground! Isn’t that awesome! When I got to this campground for last night and tonight, I evidently drove right by the fairgrounds…thirteen miles back. Didn’t realize how close I was. That’s awesome. Won’t have far at all to go tomorrow. And today I can rest.
That was my first night on the road. Daytime temperature there was about 46 and the night temperature was 27. Very cold. I had no idea it would be so cold in October there.
Found a neat campground in Albuquerque. It was called Enchanted Trails Camping Resort. It was on old Rt 66. They had lots of cool memorabilia. There were also old vintage travel trailers that you could stay in for the night. The daytime temperature in Albuquerque was also in the mid-forties during the day and down to 24 that night. Super COLD! Had to use my heated water hose to protect my water pipes. I have a hose called a FREEZE BAN that has a temperature sensor in it and the heater encased around the hose comes on when the temperature drops below 45 degrees F.
When I reached Tucson and was checking into the LazyDays KOA, there was a big Halloween cat in the yard by the office. While I was in checking in, Einstein was checking OUT the cat. Its head moved and it distressed him. When I came back out to the RV, he was barking hysterically at the cat.
I awoke this morning to a sunny day (even if it was too EARLY!). The high today will be 70 degrees F. I love it.
…those who need to know how to break camp. Anyone is welcome to read it, but that is who I intended it for. I hope to make a video about it soon, but I have been lazy and focused on art instead.
The following is a detailed description of the process I follow to break camp and move on. I have it written in a list and I have walked around with that list in my hand, using it as I broke camp. I still have the list and just before I drive off, I scan it to see if I’ve missed anything. I’ve done this process so many times that I know the list by heart. I check the list, because I’m only human and I don’t want to miss anything. I once knew someone who started driving away from his site. Another RVer ran beside him, waving his arms. My friend rolled down his window and the man said, “You’re awning is out!”
I used to have an Airstream travel trailer and, even though it was very different from my current motor home, there were still many similarities. Inside stowing and outside chores. I’d have to say that my motor home is easier for setting up and taking down camp.
I leave for Tucson, Arizona on Sunday. This is Wednesday evening. As usual, I’m a little anxious. I’ve been here in Oklahoma since about September 7th. That’s six weeks and I’ve gotten pretty settled in. When I stay somewhere for more than a couple weeks, I take the plastic bins out of my little pantry I put them on top of the bed over the cab area. The bed, when I’m traveling, is up against the ceiling. When I’m stopped like I am now, I let it extend down about two feet. It makes great storage.
The area under the bed is covered with what used to be the bedspread that came with the RV. I put Velcro on it and Velcro on the side of the cab-over bed. The windshield and side windows of the cab area radiate cold in the winter and heat in the summer. The quilted bedspread fits perfectly where you see it and keeps the main living area of the RV much more comfortable.
Travel Day Approaching
So when travel days are approaching, I take all of the things off the bed. The plastic bins get put back in the pantry. Having them out like you see above makes it easier to find things. Each bin is labeled with what it contains. They stack in the pantry. I have command hooks along the metal part of the bed so that I can hang hats or jackets or a grocery bag. Once all the stuff on the bed is stowed away, the whole rest of the RV is easy to prep.
There’s a shelf under the TV in the living area. It holds my electric pencil sharpener and my Homepod (for music). I stow those in the clothes drawers. I don’t have a lot of clothes, so its a good place to stow things that are breakable.
Its a good idea to check the contents of the refrigerator. I place a couple of tall items in between the drawer and the filtered water pitcher.
After I check that the contents of the fridge are good, I screw in the lock that holds the freezer and fridge door shut.
The galley area (kitchen) have things that I can leave right there on the counter. Some items have a bit of blue sticky putty (like teachers use to stick papers on the wall of the classroom) and that prevents things from tipping or sliding. My white Bialetti hot pot is something I don’t have secured down. I put that on the bed behind a couple of pillows. The Keurig…I put on the closet floor with my hanging clothes. It’ll be safe there. Anything else, I just stick it in the left sink. I keep a plastic bin in that sink. It fits perfectly and I can wash dishes in it. Its light enough that if its filled with rinse water, I can take it outside and pour the water on plants. I have two plants and I put those in the sink as well.
My little rolling cart with my art supplies can be secured to the back of the driver’s seat with a bungy cord if I’m going a short distance. If its a multi-day drive, I empty the cart, stowing things into their original bins over the dining table. The cart itself I will lay across my bed.
My RV has two bathrooms. Why? Good question. The answer is logical, but I don’t feel I need the small half bath. Its purpose is that when I’m on the road, my slide-outs are pulled in. The one in the bedroom causes the bed to go right up against the cabinets on the opposite wall, preventing me from reaching the large rear bathroom without climbing over the bed. So the half bath is on the left side of the RV, just before the bedroom. It’s never blocked in by a slide-out.
To get the rear bathroom ready for travel, I don’t have to do much at all. I have two small clear plastic boxes on top of the window. They are held down with Command Strip velcro and it has worked great.
I have a wooden box that I keep odds and ends in. I put some of the sticky blue putty under each corner and it has held the box in place.
Day Before Travel
On Saturday, the day before I leave, I’ll make sure my grey and black tanks are empty and I’ll check to see if I need to add any water to my freshwater tank so I can use it en-route. I’d be able to flush toilets and rinse out dishes. Sometimes I stay at places along the way, for the night, where there are no connections for electric, water, or sewer. I might stay at a Cracker Barrel if they have RV / Bus parking. It’s free. I eat breakfast in the restaurant as a courtesy to show my gratitude.
Dry Camping – no hookups
There are many places to stay where you can dry camp (no hookups) for the night. I’m able to do everything I need to when dry camping. I can shower. I can use my propane furnace.
My RV has a built-in generator, so I can turn that on and run it all night if I need to. It uses very little gasoline from the RV gas tank. I can run air conditioners, TVs, etc. I can run the generator while I’m driving if I need to. Lets say its really hot and the air conditioner from the front of the RV (the cab air conditioner) isn’t reaching Einstein in the back area. I can run the generator and then keep the temperature comfortable for him by using the cabin air conditioning. That is my last resort, as gasoline is expensive these days. Its nice to have the option however.
Good use of the generator
I’ll use the generator if I want to stop at a restaurant to have a hot meal (that I didn’t prepare). Leaving Einstein in a non-air conditioned RV would be very bad. Its no different than leaving a dog in a car in the summer, engine off, windows rolled up. I have a sensor in my RV that alerts me with both a text and an email when the temperature in the RV is too high for Einstein.
Day of Travel
On Sunday morning (the day I leave). I’ll take care of Einstein…give him his medicine for his thyroid, walk him, and feed him. I fix myself a bowl of cereal, and while I eat, I look at my Allstays app on my phone. It shows me all I need to know for my route. I can see campgrounds, whether they are KOA types or state parks, national parks, Cracker Barrels, etc. It shows me where I can get gas. It tells me details about all the places as well. Ratings. Pricing. Amenities. I don’t know what I’d do without it.
I like to pull up satellite images of gas stations to make sure that I can fit. Because I tow a small Jeep, I can’t back up. So gas stations where the pumps face the store are pretty much out of the question for me. I have to pull way forward so that my gas fill is at the pump farthest from the store (because my gas fill is in near the back of my RV). If its not going to leave me any turning space, I’d be in a pickle. I’d have to unhook the Jeep, move it out of the way, back up the RV, and get out of there. Then I’d need to re-hook up the Jeep. Not something I want to do.
I have a travel journal and in there I note two or three campgrounds that sound good, plus good gas stations along the way. They will be at various distances from my starting point. As I drive and begin to tire, I pick whichever one is near me. I pull into a rest area or gas station so I can call the campground to make a reservation.
Where Einstein Rides
After stowing the last items inside the RV, I put the table down so its a bed. Einstein travels on there. It has seat belts so I can secure him in. His seat belt has a long three foot tether on it so he can move around a bit. He wears a dog harness that goes around his shoulders and belly rather than around his neck. He’s able to get a drink of water from his dish. His food and water dishes are non-spill dishes so the water dish can have water in it even on the road.
Last Interior Items
I turn off the air conditioners if they’re on. I turn off the water heater, TVs, and any other items that I might have going.
I move outside and turn off the water tap, then unhook my hose from the tap and letting the water drain out before unhooking from the RV. I unhook the cable for cable TV, coil it up and stow it. If I had the septic hose hooked to the campground septic, I empty my tanks, if I hadn’t done so recently. I make sure the hose is empty. I can flush it out by hooking a non-potable-water-hose to a special intake that sprays water into the black tank until I can see clear water coming from it. At that point I unhook from the campground septic and from the RV. I put caps on each end, coil it up and stow it. Lastly I disconnect the power cable. My RV uses 50 amp electric, because I have a 35 foot motor home and it has two air conditioners.
The blue hose is called a water-ban hose. I don’t know why. Campgrounds usually close once water lines can freeze. Those that stay open may have their water lines at each site wrapped or mostly underground. My blue hose is heated. I plug it in to the campground’s electric pedestal at my site or I can plug it into an outside outlet on my RV exterior. I’d rather hook it to the pedestal so I’m not using some of the 50 amps I get from the campground. I have two of these blue hoses and together they mean I can be as far as 75 feet away from the water source.
The black and orange hose is the septic hose. These hoses go through that opening and then I can close the compartment door. My grey and black tanks are in the ceiling of this compartment. Being able to keep the wet bay closed up means that my tanks stay warm and are unlikely to freeze overnight. If I’m worried about the water in the tanks freezing, I can put a small space heater (I have a Broan) inside the bay and run the cord down through the hole and plug it in. I’ve had to do that many times.
Using one of the same tire-pressure gauges truckers use, I check all six of the RV tires and all four of the Jeep tires. I keep the Jeep tires at 40 psi and the RV tires at 90 psi. That is the cold pressure, meaning before the vehicle has been driven or towed. Once you start moving, the air inside the tires begins to heat up and you won’t get an accurate pressure. I have an inexpensive air compressor and it is a simple process to top off my tires.
Slide-outs, Levels, Cab Area
The last things I do are to pull in the slide-outs. Its as easy as flicking a switch. Once those are in, I hit another button and all of the leveling jacks are raised up. There is a curtain that covers the windows next to the driver’s seat and the passenger seat. I slide those towards the rear of their tracks and a cloth wraps around each one and it is snapped into a locked position. The front windshield has a blind that electronically rolls up and down. So I put that in an up position. Not all the way to the top. If I leave it down a foot or so, it acts as a sun-shade. Depending on where the sun is, it can be raised or lowered a bit more.
I stow the comforter (that you saw in the first image) that hung from the over-cab bed. I raise up the bed so it is against the ceiling.
Prepping the Cab Area
Finally I pour a few peanut m&ms into a cup and put it in the cup holder to left of the driver’s seat. I put a thermos of coffee or tea in the cup holder that is on the driver’s right. Me. I’m the driver. The area where the speedometer and other monitors are is large and I can sit my cell phone there in case I need to use the GPS on it. I don’t usually need to do that. The RV has a really nice GPS. I had to enter in the length, height and weight of the RV. It won’t plan routes for me that have bridges that are too low or roads that are too narrow for me. It shows me where campgrounds are, truck stops, rest areas, etc.
Do a Walk-around
Before I get into the driver’s seat and drive away, I do a walk-around. I check to make sure that all the doors to my storage compartments are shut and locked. Are my levels are up. I make sure the slide-outs are fully in, that all my hoses and cords are put away, and nothing is left laying outside. Sometimes I put a plastic table cloth on the campground-provided picnic table. Don’t want to leave that behind. I make sure I’ve left the campsite as clean or cleaner than it was when I arrived.
Time to Head Out
It’s NOT frightening to drive my motor home. I’m cautious, trying not to exceed 65 mph. Sixty is best, for the sake of miles-per-gallon, but I’ve gone 65. That means everyone on the road is passing me. Hopefully they don’t do to me what they do to one another…pull into my lane just in front of me. I don’t slow down as quickly as a car. Cars on entrance ramps expect everyone to move over so they can merge. That isn’t always possible for me. I try my best to accommodate, but I will not put my vehicle or myself in danger.
Now you have it. It sounds very complicated. It really isn’t. You become accustomed to all of this quickly. If there are two of you, one can do the inside stuff and the other can do the exterior stuff. I love being on the road. I do my best thinking and daydreaming when I’m on the road. I’m a careful driver. I’m conscious of my position within my lane, where the cars are around me, taking curves cautiously. I use cruise control, but mainly on flat terrain and straight stretches. There are lots of those in the West. I go up mountains slower, down carefully, letting the engine help slow me.
I’ll arrive in Tucson on October 31st. I’m excited to get there. I’ll be attending an RVing Women convention. I have gone once before…two years ago. It was an absolute blast!
…(and maybe life, in general) is about what you can get used to, what you hope it will be like, and what you’re willing to put into the experience to make it fulfill your expectations. I RV full time because I like a simple life. I like possessions, its true. But I accept the reality that when I had a LOT of possessions, they owned me and not the other way around.
I get wanderlust every once in a while and my time in the RV world has satisfied my need to move on every now and then. I’m an artist and my eyes and mind need to see amazing and beautiful things more often than some people.
I am an introvert and I treasure and require time alone. I need people, but one at a time. I prefer my own company. I prefer solitude. RV life offers me that. I can be with friends all I want, but when I’m done, I can slip away to my little turtle shell, my little house on wheels, because its close by. I understand that RVs are always riding along on a earthquake kind of road and things break. I don’t like it, but it comes with the territory. It brings me to my knees with sadness sometimes, but if I tough it out and get through it, I find I’m so glad I didn’t give up. I’ve gotten used to this life.
Sitting here at this table and drawing or writing or watching a video on YouTube. I love a cup of coffee or a cup of hot tea. I like to go out to eat once in a while. I love to sit around a campfire with friends and talk about our experiences with our RV lives. I’m okay with the limited closet space and the small pantry. I don’t mind not having a dishwasher anymore. Einstein would dearly love a fenced yard, but he does get more walks this way. I don’t really like TV very much. All that sound takes away the stillness. My mind is thinking. Thinking about my art and about what I want it to say. Its thinking about things that I’ve seen and experienced and putting words to them so I can describe it in my journal. After all these years, TV has become noise. There are times when I enjoy watching something, but I don’t usually have cable and so I’ve gotten used to doing other things with my time.
My kitchen/galley is pretty small, but so far the only thing I can’t make is a large turkey. My little oven is too small. Sometimes I wish I could lower the table about six inches. It seems to have been designed by someone quite tall. My hands fall asleep after a while.
One more thing. Up at the driver’s seat, I wish there were a couple things. A mirror so I could see back into the RV. When something crashes or the dog gets upset, I can’t see what has happened. And I’d like a better snack center for while I’m driving. The place my cup goes is so low, I have to bend down a bit to reach my drink. I guess that’s it. I’m okay with things the way they are. I’m most definitely getting very used to this time to myself. I need that.
So tell me. What is your life like now? What stage of your life are you in? Are you happy with it? Content? Used to it? Is it enough? It doesn’t take courage to live in an RV. That comes along the way as you figure things out. It just takes a dream and deciding that now is the time.
I have this game I play with myself during long drives. I can’t seem to play the game unless I’m driving. Can’t be the passenger. Gotta be the driver. I ask myself “If I could have anything I want, what would it look like?” I’ve played that game my entire life. For the most part, when I ask myself that question and start to answer it I get all happy and excited. I let my mind race ahead and the rest of me is content to just catch up best I can. Hm. What would I want?
However, as my mind races along, it seems to put up roadblocks. “Well,” I think, “I would want to have…” and I start describing a dream house or location or a way to earn money. I go down a path and my left brain throws up a hand and says, “BUT!” and that leads me off down a negative path that kills my “what if”. That can go on long enough that I end up quitting the game and just ride silently and with mad eyes and down-turned mouth. But I will come back to the game another time. I always do. Just in case I have a breakthrough. And I do.
Sitting here right now is a “what if” come true. So. I want to describe this RV life I’m living…the behind the scenes glimpse of it.
For me, it has been all about what I can get used to. What is the vision I have for what I’m doing or want to do? For RV life? I came at it the way a lot of people do…after living sixty some odd years. There are, I’m very happy to say, a lot of young people opting for an RV life, too. I’m so glad. Where are you, you young people? I want to meet you and talk to you and shake your hand and say “well done!”
I went from living in a 6,000 square foot log home in the forest to living in a twenty-five foot Airstream travel trailer and now a thirty-five foot Winnebago motor home. Why those…is for another time. Another post. So right now its the Winnebago. Its a year and a half old. There are a lot of things I like very much.I have a residential refrigerator, which means it is one that you might find in a home or apartment. It uses only electric. I like it. I could get by with a smaller fridge, but I manage to fill this one up. I have a washer/dryer combo. I use it a lot. I like it very much. I could get by without it, but it sure does make things easy. There is an electric fireplace in the RV. I don’t know what I’d do without that. There are times when it is my only source of heat. I have stayed places where I only had 15 amp electric. That will run the blower for my propane furnace (which I love), but my propane tank is built into the RV itself and to fill it up means taking the RV someplace for that refill. Not always possible. The fireplace functions extremely well and the flicker of flame, though fake, comforts my soul.
I’ve gotten used to living in a small space. Pretty much everything I own is in here and I can usually find whatever I need. Not always. Like those rubber boots! Wow! I looked everywhere for them. It rained sooooo much where I was for a while that my shoes would become completely waterlogged and it took days for them to dry out. AFTER I left that area, I was looking for something outside in the “basement” storage area and there they were. Sitting there as if to say “Na Ni Na Ni, Boo Boo!” I left them there to have time-out and think about what they’d done. Right.
The things I use the most are in the overhead storage cupboards over the table, because that’s where I spend most of my time (at the table…not in the storage compartments…sheesh!). I keep my art supplies inside of canvas, lidded boxes. I can’t list EVERYTHING on the little card showing contents, but its usually helpful enough. The canvas boxes fit perfectly and hold quite a bit of stuff. I like them because they keep things from shifting about during travel days and when I later open the door, the contents don’t rush out to greet me. I’m used to this type of system now. I admit that I tried a lot of different sizes of containers. I like these best. I hope I can find some more. I need a few more.
I should back up for a moment. What made me leave my log home and live in a little home on wheels? At first it was my age. I turned sixty and realized that I was on the downhill side of this roller-coaster life. When you’re on the uphill side, you are filled with anticipation and awe because you aren’t sure what’s beyond the up-hill side or how it will affect you. Then you reach the top and begin the descent. That’s me. Hurtling down the latter years of my life. Stomach up in my throat. Blood rushing to my head. Screaming like a crazy woman. Wondering if we’ll leave the track and die or if I’ll throw up. Yep. Anyways, it made me realize that if I’m going to do any of the things I want, I had better get going. There are other reasons but those, too, are for another day.
That first adventure presented me with a lot to get used to. I went alone so had to learn to do EVERYTHING. I was reading back through my journal yesterday (something I do when I’ve just written the very last entry in that volume). I saw what I wrote as I did research about RVs of all kinds. I had remembered a movie where two young women lived in an Airstream and they had it all fixed up with lace curtains and little lights and girl-stuff. I loved it. That was what I wanted for me. I wrote about how excited I was. Building that log home and living there for so many years felt like a “last chapter” in my life. No “nexts”. I didn’t like that so much. I love having things to look forward to. Next chapters. The idea of an Airstream meant a new chapter, a next chapter, something to look forward to. I felt myself filling up with hope and excitement. I remember driving Rocinante home. The Airstream was named after Don Quixote’s horse, who took him on great adventures. I headed out on a two and a half week test adventure the day after purchasing the Airstream. My journal for that is so fun to read. I was as excited as a child. I was fully alive. Scared, too. Wondering what lie ahead. So I was on the uphill of the roller coaster again. Wow! How awesome is that at the age of about sixty-two.
My journal entries from those first days are filled with me figuring things out, learning how to work things. I had failed to bring a LOT of things. In fact, I forgot just about everything. I arrived at my destination with empty cupboards, but high expectations. It was fun shopping for the things I needed. I tried to be responsible and practical…getting only what I really needed, but at the same time, making choices that fell in line with my artist-self. Interesting to look at.
I had to get used to the trip taking much longer than I dreamed it would. In a car, I could make that one trip in eight hours. This time it took eleven. And I was exhausted. Driving a big truck and pulling a travel trailer was different. I’d had to figure out how to hook the trailer to the truck and wow, was that complicated. I had to drive up mountains and down mountains. I had a Golden Retriever with me (of course it was Einstein – Dah!). Upon arriving, I retrieved the envelope left for me at the entrance to the campground. It had a map of the campground, rules, and which site was mine. I was getting one of the last open sites in the entire campground. On the outside of the envelope was the name and number of the owner and I had been told I could call him no matter what time I arrived. Hm. I usually try to do everything myself. Could I this time? Probably. Maybe. I was pretty tired though. I called the number. The man said he’d been waiting for my call and no, I wasn’t disturbing him. He wasn’t asleep. He came right over and lead me to my campsite. In fact, he offered to drive my truck and back into the site for me. Whew! Backing up? As tired as I was. Sure! Thank you, Mr. Campground Owner. Yes!
That two and a half weeks was so wonderful. Just reading about it and thinking back to it makes it as real as if I’m right there again.
I am trying to describe that time and I find myself stuttering. I can’t find the right words and it was so exciting that maybe there are no words for it. But it was so amazing. It forced me to change. It forced me to slow down and to sit and do absolutely nothing sometimes. It gave me a time of peace. Now, please remember that I was on my own. There was no one aside from Einstein to talk to and he was always just listening for words like “outside” and “cookie”. Evenings at the campground were magical. There were families there and as I went for walks in the dark of the evening, I passed people gathered around campfires, talking, roasting marshmallows, laughing, having a glass of wine or a beer. There were kids riding bikes and playing hide and seek. When I passed by, they always wanted to know if they could pet Einstein. During the day, once I bought a bathing suit, I could swim in the fabulous round pool. I ventured into the camp store and had chats with people who worked there. They showed me pictures of their pets and we talked about nothing in particular. It was nice. For an introvert, I did pretty good.
I got used to that first experience and I wanted more.
It was hard to go home. I’d gotten used to more than I’d expected. I lived with far fewer possessions. I had more free time. I spent more time with Einstein and he just blossomed with so much attention and with such nice long walks. The weather was wonderful. Not so hot and humid. Just right. I got to spend time with relatives and friends in the area. There was time to visit favorite places. There was no rush. Sitting and talking with people when there is no rush takes life to a whole new level.
Back home I began making plans for a longer trip. I didn’t know how long. I wanted to just go and turn right or left on a whim. Know what I mean?
While I was figuring out general plans, I got a credit card. It had a $20,000 limit. Hm. I had an Airstream that was pretty empty. What if I wanted to go somewhere and drycamp? So I bought a solar generator that was newly out…with a lithium ion battery. I got the briefcase solar panel kit to power it. I bought a small cube of a heater, called a Broan. I was watching videos on YouTube by lots of RVers who live in their RV and have experience. I wrote down what they said and some things went onto a list. I wanted to feel safe and comfortable. I was used to living in a large home with lots of comfort.
Upon returning from my short adventure I was struck at just how large that house was and how much STUFF was inside. Sometimes less is more. But then again, I wasn’t ready to do with nothing.
Having WiFi on my trip was very important to me. I had several film editing projects to work on. My editing software required internet, as did the uploading and downloading process. I bought a JetPack made by Verizon. I believed I would have unlimited WiFi. More research. I bought a WiFi booster. A friend installed it for me. I have trouble sleeping at night and some more research helped me discover mattress toppers that are geared toward people like me. But it was expensive. So. When I felt I was sufficiently equipped and the last item arrived via the FEDEX truck, I left. It was six o’clock at night. But I decided I wanted to GO. I drove to the north side of Washington DC and stopped at a Cracker Barrel for the night. I admit that I like having electric and water and all that good stuff. It was sufficient though. I was excited and happy. I ate breakfast in the restaurant. I was ready to hit the road.
Most of this is written about in more detail in previous posts. The point of this is that I was getting used to things and working out my new life and new routine. Emptying grey tanks and black tanks took some getting used to. The Airstream itself took a lot of getting used to. Because of the airplane fuselage shape of the thing, storage is awkward. I hadn’t brought enough stuff with me on the first trip and on this trip I brought too much. I didn’t know how long I’d stay out. I left the cabin as though I would be gone forever. So I had art stuff and things I needed for life in general, clothes for different climates, food for myself and the dog, my sewing machine (I had big ideas of making some curtains and place-mats), a couple of computers (yeah, I know!).
Now I’m in the Winnebago. I probably have too much stuff. Everything I have has a place to be stowed. But I still have too much. I have two canvas boxes with some books that I use as references for my work. I have art supplies. I have clothes for all types of weather. I keep out-of-season clothes stowed below. I don’t have a lot of clothes, but could easily get rid of some that are more thread bare. Those are usually my favorites. 94I have girlie stuff – like hairbands and gel and a styling brush. I have all manner of aspirin and first aid stuff. I went to Okinawa and Japan not long ago and I took a glass blowing class. I made a beautiful glass. I have that with me as my only glass. I have stuff for the kitchen and have purchased them over time and as I came to need them. I like to bake. So I have a small cookie sheet and brownie pan. I have a pot for making hot water for my tea. I recently bought a small Keurig. For Christmas I got a Home Pod. I have been toting my only two living plants with me. An African Violet and a Shamrock. Both are dear to me. I’ve had them for many, many years. I’m USED to them and they are used to their life in an RV. Over time I’ve had many rugs on the floor. I’d buy them for Einstein and he would get them so dirty and matted with his ever-shedding hair that I couldn’t keep them clean and they began to smell. In the trash with them. Now there is a long skinny rug at the foot of the bed. Its where I stand when I’m dressing. Its where Einstein likes to sleep after I turn out the light. There is a rug at the top of the stairs at the entrance. I can pretty much sweep them and keep them relatively clean. Eventually they will have to go. But the rest of the floor is rug-less. Since I seldom use the couch, Einstein has claimed it, so no rugs on the floor is pretty okay with him. He, too, has had a lot to get used to.
Einstein drinks a lot of water. He hates being in a moving vehicle and the RV is no exception for him. He cries, pants, and shakes the entire time. I listen to audible books to drown out his crying. Nothing I do helps him. Vets have prescribed medicines. I’ve tried over the counter stuff. I bought him an anxiety wrap. I travel with blinds down. Blinds up. Nothing. He cries. He has NOT gotten used to travel days. And I have NOT gotten used to his anxiety.
Because he drinks a lot of water, I use a lot of water for him. Usually he can drink water from whatever area we are in. I hook us up to water and fill his bowl and he drinks. Sometimes I don’t feel the water is safe for either of us and I buy bottled water. Right now is one of those times. The bypass valve for the freshwater tank is broken and so when I hook up to city water, my freshwater tank fills to overflowing. I can’t do anything about it right now. I’ve had it repaired at the Winnebago factory. The RV is out of warranty now. I’m broke. So I’m getting used to this “work-around” for now. I fill my freshwater tank from city water and then unhook. Since water sits in the freshwater tank for a while, I don’t trust it. Its very hot where I am now and there could likely be a lot of bacteria in there. So I use the water for bathing and washing dishes. I bought gallon jugs of water for Einstein and small bottles for me.
Driving the RV by myself has been something to get used to…and I have. I can hop into the driver’s seat and drive off and not give it a thought. I forget that there is a house behind me. I just concentrate on the road ahead…unless something crashes or bangs behind me. On this recent travel time I was entering a campground and there was a big bump at the entrance. I heard lots of crashes and I winced. A cupboard opened and all my dishes fell out onto the floor. There were paper plates and plastic plates, which were okay. But I had two ceramic “favorite” plates. Not valuable. Just comforting to me because they were pretty. Smashed to pieces.
Had to clean that up immediately so Einstein didn’t cut his feet. The day before that I heard a bang and then around another curve another bang. Was it the refrigerator? Had I failed to secure the doors? No. It was the sliding door to the bedroom. The strap that secured it to the wall had broken and the door was slamming open and shut as I drove. Einstein just about had a heart attack. He was not happy and it took him a couple days to trust the door not to “get him”.
Pretty much just as I get used to things being one way, they change or something happens. On our way here, I was taking him for a quick walk in the grassy area next to the gas station. As we rounded the front of the RV, a large piece of metal crashed to the ground up in the front engine area. I was distressed! Einstein was distressed. Now what? Turned out, after a little investigating, that it was the the thing that the hood latches to. You turn a key and a latch swivels and falls into place under a plate. That whole big plate fell off. So I stayed the night at the city park and went to a hardware store to buy some twine. Tied the hood shut for the time being.
I don’t like that things break. I hate it when those things make it impossible for me to stay in the RV or travel in it. This is home. I’m not rich. I knew up front that things break. Each time it happens, I get upset and I have to take some time to calm myself. I have to adjust and think clearly. Okay. What do I do now? Because I’m alone, I have to figure things out on my own. When I do that, I feel my self confidence grow a bit…and I need more of that in my life. So that’s a good thing.
So spending a considerable amount of time in an RV takes getting used to. It has a lot of good about it. RVs, no matter how expensive, are going to have things break. New gas engine motor homes have a one year warranty while new diesel engine motor coaches have a three year warranty. I don’t know about used stuff. I went to the Winnebago factory two times in the first year. The first time was during warm weather and it was busy. To get out of there and on my way, I only asked to have two things fixed. They were big things though. Later I went back and it was winter and cold and I was the only one on the waiting list, so I was able to get everything on my list fixed. There were fifteen things, mostly small. They fixed everything in one day. The Winnebago technicians were great.
A lot of people turn to RV life because of the simpler life it offers. It gives you more time to enjoy life. Maybe your idea of a great life would be to live in an RV and see new places and in the evenings watch TV. You can make that happen. Maybe you’re an author and you’re looking for an opportunity to get away from it all and devote your time to writing. Good goal! Do-able. My goals have changed as time has passed. One moment I want to write that book. The next moment I want to get a part time job and stay put for a little while and get to know people in the area. Other times I want to stay in the southwest desert, dry camping. Listening to silence. Sometimes I actually come to an intersection and decide to go right instead of left. That’s always fun. I’ve traveled forty-five states now. The down-side is that there are fewer surprises along the way. The good part is that there are still some surprises and yet I know the general things I can expect. Some states, like Montana and Wyoming and Arizona, etc…better keep that gas tank filled so it doesn’t go below half tank. Gas stations you fit into are few and far between.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to travel about in a travel trailer or motor home or fifth wheel…whatever…do it. Get all you can out of your time. As you go along, you’ll acquire what you need. You’ll learn the ropes. You’ll meet wonderful people who are doing the same. When things break or go wrong, you will devlop a network of folks you can turn to. And there’s always YouTube.
I chose the name Rocinante because of two reasons. For one, John Steinbeck chose that name for his truck top camper in 1960. His main reason for chosing the name and my second reason is that Don Quixote’s horse was named Rocinante and this horse, in many ways, was not only his horse, but his double. Like Don Quixote, his horse was awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his capacities (taken from Wikipedia).
My Airstream was Rocinante, but the name fits my life as it did Don Quixote’s, so I want to keep the name. Even though, officially, the new RV is Rocinante II, I will refer to him as just Rocinante.
I feel like I have enough skills that I can earn an income from the inside of an RV as well as from an office.
Buying the Airstream was a leap of faith. I was hungry for travel and adventure. My eyes longed to see new vistas and long missed friends (and to have my own bed with me at all times AND a place to charge my personal batteries – I’m an introvert). I chose the Airstream because it seemed a good size for myself and two dogs (Einstein and Emma). By myself, I was able to hitch, unhitch, set up and take down camp, search for diesel gas amidst the vastness of the desert lands of the Southwest, with their great distances between exits, and to be content with the simple life I encountered within the cozy curved space of Rocinante I. None of those tasks came easy. I had to do lots of research, watch many videos, and prepare myself mentally for the upcoming challenges. When my adventure concluded, I felt stronger and a whole lot happier than ever before. I felt knowledgeable, capable, and full of joy at all the opportunities I’d embraced. Sure, I made some mistakes. I figured out, on my own, how to overcome them. It was good for me.
In January I bought a Winnebago Vista LX 35F. Its ten feet longer than the Airstream, but I got to thinking about it. The Airstream plus the truck were actually fifty feet long…so now I’m in a smaller rig really. Right?
I know many full time RVers tend to downsize. At this point in my life, that’s probably not going to happen for me. I have lived full time in the new Winnebago since the second day after purchasing it. I was afraid that I wouldn’t come to love it as much as I had the Airstream. Two months have passed and I find that I love it even more. Even though the weather has been very cold, the RV has stayed quite comfortable using the electric fireplace and, on especially cold nights, the small Broan heater I bought while traveling in the Airstream.
I use my Verizon JetPack for internet. I have 15 GB of 4G speed. With the work that I do, that lasts me anywhere from three to five days out of each month. The rest of the month I have 3G. I’m able to do most of the things I need to, but sometimes must go to a friend’s house to do some of the more intense tasks, such as patches for software and downloads of large items. I get by okay though.
Even though I do filming and editing, I’m not accustomed to being on the front side of a camera. The videos I watch on YouTube, made by other Full Timers, have inspired and taught me. Some of the folks who make them seem like long time friends now, even though we have never met. I don’t know why, but I love the videos that are tours of their rig. I love seeing how they store things, what gadgets they use, the layout, and changes they make to accommodate their lives better. My favorite part is seeing them so excited about it all. I’ve watched many HGTV house hunter shows where the people searching for a new home want closets bigger than my whole RV. In the YouTube videos I love that the people are so very excited about having a closet at all. Having a cover for the kitchen sink to give them more space for food prep makes them giddy with joy. I have covers for my sinks, but I seldom use them. I’m happy with the space I have for making meals. Knee room in the bathroom is a thing to be coveted. My particular RV has two slide outs – one for the bed and one where the dinette and couch are. I’ve seen humongous RVs with slideouts the length of the entire rig. It makes the interior look like an apartment. I’d love to have something that awesome one day. Until then, I’m finding that the one slide out makes the living area very cozy and comfortable. I have just the right amount of space and closets and storage. Some of the features I’m especially fond of are the extra bathroom (half bath), the washer/dryer combo, and the residential refrigerator. I like having space under the RV for a few things, like tools and lawn chairs and such. What I’m trying to get to is that I would like to make some videos about my life as a full timer in a motor home. My rig is a little different than many others, so perhaps there would be a use for videos about life in this Rocinante.
I am very excited that the couch and my favorite side of the dinette face the TV and electric fireplace. I’m glad that I have a gas oven. The Airstream had a convection/microwave oven and it was very difficult to figure out. Every time I used it to actually bake something, it seemed to work differently. I found no manual with operating instructions. Trying the same things twice in a row didn’t usually work. It was also down where an oven would be, so I had to sit on the floor to read the words on the buttons. I’ve gotten quite good at lighting my little gas oven. I’ve made many delicious meals in it already.
When I had the Airstream (which had a wonderful memory foam mattress, although it was a short queen), I bought a very nice mattress topper that is 4 inches and made of Gel/Memory Foam. It’s especially made for people with joint problems, arthritis, or painful hips. I have periodic joint pain. I had to cut off the bottom of it and round the corners. When we bought the Winnebago, I feared my topper would be no use anymore. It turns out that it works better than it would have it I’d have left it full length. When the slide out is in, the bed slides up under the cabinets on the opposite wall. If the topper was full length, the bed would not fit up under the cabinets and I would have to manually roll the topper up so the bed would slide under. However! With the end cut off, the bed slides under the cabinets to exactly the right place. Having the topper shorter doesn’t cause any problems for sleeping either. I’m glad for such a happy coincidence.
I used the comforter that came with the RV to make a room darkening curtain to hang down behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats. If I’m driving at night and I have a passenger who is back sitting at the dinette table with a light on, the glare from the light makes glare on the windshield. The curtain eliminates that issue altogether. It also insulates the living area from a few degrees of colder air from the cab area. When not in use, I lower the bed that is over the cab area, flip the curtain up over it, raise the bed back up, and the curtain looks like trim work.
So what adventures do I have planned? For the near future I have a weekend trip planned to a local area, a trip to Japan (without RV), a trip to Ohio, and another trip to Florida (just returned from there recently – great first trip with the new RV). I haven’t thought past that yet. I apologize for the length of this post. As soon as I make a video tour, I’ll replace the written post with the video. Until, happy trails!
My Airstream (Rocinante) was wonderful. There were many, many things I loved about the guy. As I pulled Rocinante down the road, I loved to glance in the side view mirror and see him back there, faithfully following along. When parked, I loved to walk back toward him and the sight took my breath away. Rocinante was compact and easy to manage. Clean up was always minutes instead of hours. I worried that Einstein and Emma would be cramped for space since they were used to a much longer domicile. They seemed perfectly content with our little den. I knew they were happy when they began to play and tumble about a little bit. They settled into a routine that encompassed waiting for me to wake up, dress, make the bed, get their food ready, Einstein’s medicine in a small square of Velveta cheese, a walk, and finally a cool drink. What happened the rest of the day was up for grabs. It could be a day on the road or a day of relaxing somewhere.
You can see the size difference between my previous Montana 5th Wheel and my twenty-five foot Airstream Flying Cloud. My Dodge Ram 3500 Quad Cab Dually (AR AR!) could easily ascend and descend any mountain, endure desert heat, and sigh contentedly in the shade of a tree at rest areas. I don’t think the truck even knew it was pulling anything.
My Airstream was simple. He didn’t have a lot of storage, which forced me to rethink everything I took along as well as everything I wanted to add along the way. It was easy to detach the two thirty pound propane tanks and take them to get filled. The scissor jacks and entry steps were not hydraulic, which added to the simplicity. They took only elbow grease to operate. There were plenty of awnings for shade. It didn’t take much to make Rocinante cozy and comfortable.
I thought about getting a bigger Airstream. I did some online comparisons and a slightly larger Airstream was comparable in price to a motor home. I had it in mind to compare a thirty or thirty-three foot Airstream to perhaps a Class A or Class C of similar size.
Whether it was wise or not to trade the Airstream in can NOT be dwelled on. The deal is done. There is just no point in analyzing the choices I’ve made at this point. Rocinante is gone. I cried the day I cleaned him all up, ready for the trade-in. He looked as new as the day I bought him. We made some wonderful memories together. Indeed. Farewell, Rocinante. May those who share your future adventures love you, protect you, and keep you safe.
I’ve been feeling a bit lost for the past week. I’ve washed my clothes and carried in a few things from the trailer, but can’t seem to accomplish much. I don’t know if its because I’m still low on energy from being sick, if I’m already restless for the adventuring life and it’s simple, uncomplicated routines, or if being back in this large cabin with all its “stuff” has overwhelmed me. Maybe all three. The cabin is cozy and pleasing to the eye, but I’ve come to a place in my life where all the “stuff” that I’ve turned a blind eye on or just gotten so used to that I don’t see it anymore. Now, after being in a tiny little house like my Airstream, all this stuff looks so in-my-face. It makes me want to flee.
As for Einstein and Emma. They seem to love being back here and having lots of room inside to run and play. They are different though. They seldom leave my side; particularly Einstein. I don’t know if he’s worried I’ll leave without him or if he just got so used to the three of us living in an itsy bitsy space that he just prefers to be within five feet of me (we’re a pack!). I don’t know. He’s very happy when we’re near one another.
I admit that my mind is already planning out the next adventures. Wanderlust!
I’ve been thinking about John Steinbeck’s book – Travels With Charley. It was never my intention to duplicate his trip or his goals. His main goal was to discover America. He had written about life in America and felt maybe he needed to get a fresh new look at America. He’d written Grapes of Wrath. Perhaps he had a new book in mind or maybe he just wanted to see if things had changed. Even though we had completely different reasons for our adventures, I think we both discovered much about ourselves.
From what I read in his book, as John prepared for his trip he was full of hope and expectations. He was excited and did his best to be prepared. As he launched out, he was very happy and comfortable with things. He stumbled upon opportunities to get to know America by getting to know it’s people. He was surprised by its new temporary-ness, as “trailer parks” were popping up all over the country. He shared a meal with such a family and learned how much it meant to them to have such things as a dishwasher and all the comforts of home, yet be able to take it with them should the husband need to relocate for his work. Sometimes John came upon situations that bested him and other times he bested the situation. I was with him. I felt like I was on that adventure with him as I read his book. I loved his enthusiasm as he traveled.
During his journey he didn’t have to be concerned with laptops and internet or WiFi, cell phones or gps. Though I had struggles with the trailer a little, my most frequent difficulties were with technology. I’m curious what John Steinbeck struggled with? He seemed to discover, by happy accident, how to wash his clothes. What other things came up? If its true that he did spend most of his time holed up in the camper rather than out and about, what prompted that? Maybe we have something in common. I had such great intentions when I hit the road. I was going to talk with people more, getting a little out of my introverted comfort zone. I did, too. In fact, I think it was one of my greatest successes. I tried new things. Yes. I did. I’d have done the zip line at Fremont Street in Las Vegas if ANY of my companions had been willing. I had Sushi twice. I did many new things. I always felt I wasn’t doing enough of what I’d intended to do. I didn’t go for enough walks or bike rides. I didn’t lose as much weight as I planned (from all those walks). I was going to read books and do tons of art work. I was going to finish the first Ren Girl book. I was going to go to National Parks. Didn’t hit a single one. Perhaps I set my expectations a tad too high for this first trip. I have to admit that I was a little worried that it would be my only trip. I wanted to squeeze everything into it, just in case. I did spend a large amount of time here in the trailer and I loved it. It felt good in this little space. It felt safe and secure. It felt cozy most of the time. Well, some times. Evenings were the best. All things done. All things met. Time to do whatever I wanted. Did John Steinbeck have any such times?
As he began to head home, however, he had less to tell. I couldn’t tell if he was just “done” with the thing or if he was in a hurry or what. Now I find myself in the last days of my adventure. I may take other trips, but none will be like this one; this first one. As I approach the end of the journey, I am full of reflection. Did I accomplish my goals? Was it worth while? Am I changed by it? Has it changed my tomorrows? What did I learn? Did John Steinbeck think such thoughts as he found his trip nearing its end? I experienced many of the same emotions of excitement and anticipation as I prepared. I found many similar unexpected surprises along the way. I went into some situations expecting one thing and found another thing entirely. I had to figure my way out of some dilemmas just as John did. Now, I wonder, if perhaps I’m not experiencing some of the same sadness that he may have felt. Do I really want to go home now? Am I ready to return to all the busy-ness and “stuff” that I have learned is so un-needed, so unnecessary? Did I come to treasure my time on my own, with Einstein and Emma to the point that its overwhelming to fall back into the old world, the old life? How will all this reflect on my future?
I will save all that and it’s answers for another day. Today…just drive.
I have not been keeping up with my blogging this past week. I’ve started three posts, but have put them aside for now.
I caught some sort of bug about nine days ago. It started out the way my allergy bouts usually do. My throat felt like it had grit in it. I got a tickle in my chest, because it felt like it had grit in it, too. I bought some allergy medicine and cough drops. I took naps. This past Thursday I left Las Vegas and headed East. I stopped at a campground just East of Kingman. By the time I arrived there I was feverish, with a severe sore throat and ear ache, body aches. I was exhausted and every bone and muscle in my body hurt. My head was congested and nothing I was doing helped. I did the minimum I had to for setting up camp. I didn’t even unhitch the truck. With electric and water connected, I went inside and went to bed. When I woke up, I didn’t have the strength to do anything but sit at the table. It took a couple of hours before I could get up and feed the dogs and take them outside. I slept off and on the entire next day. The following morning I extended our stay here by one day. That means we should be moving on this morning. I am sitting here because I didn’t sleep all night. I’m looking out the screen door and feeling fine with staying indoors for a bit.
It’s like physical difficulties are lining up in front of me and coming at me more than one at a time to boot. I don’t feel good at all. I’m tired and doing anything at all makes me exhausted. The dogs only got out twice yesterday. I think they understand. Or this turn of events has them depressed. Or both.
There are periods each day when I think maybe I’m getting better. They are followed by periods when I think perhaps I ought to sleep fully clothed, in the event that I’m found dead. I’m sure that will make me laugh later, after I’m recovered.
This adventure has been the best thing I’ve ever done. There have been moments when I wanted to give up and times when I thought I’d made a huge mistake buying the Airstream. Sometimes it was because of being tired from very long days on the road, bad weather, and struggles with finding places to spend the night. Most of that was my own fault. I was so sure that there would always be truck stops, Walmart Super Centers, Cracker Barrels, and all the things I’d need that I got in the truck each morning and just drove. I would get in my mind how far I’d get that day and I’d drive, drive, drive. However, after a few days of that, I figured out that I needed to look at my AllStays app for a good campground and then I would drive just that far. As the day went along, I knew where I would be for the night and having that goal made the miles much more bearable. I was less tired and it was easier on the dogs. Every now and then I would still have doubts, but I got better and better at persevering.
The constant rain in Eugene, Oregon got me down, but then there would be a surprise sunny day and it’s unexpected appearance after so much gloom and rain would make it all the sweeter.
The first trip to northern California, with no cell or WiFi scared me a bit. What in the world was I going to do with my time? I’m a tech geek. Electronic toys make me happy. WiFi and its connectivity to friends and electronic adventures makes me giddy. The dogs both know that if I’m not happy, they get less walks, shorter walks, fewer treats. Well, not really. No matter what else is going on, I try to keep their routine and treats consistent.
The good news was that I not only got used to the lack of technology, I thrived. It forced me to turn my attention to non-electronic things. I read. I watched some of the DVDs I’d brought along, wrote in my journal, explored the area, and found a great library. It was awesome.
Lets never do that again. I love technology! HeHe! Except…I now know I CAN get along just fine without it.
My second time to pass through northern California, I stayed in Quincy and they had WiFi and cell. It wasn’t real strong, but I was able to do what I needed. While I was there I realized that I was no longer sorry about buying the Airstream. It was beginning to feel just right. Einstein gave it two thumbs up (do dogs have thumbs?). I suddenly found that somewhere along the way we’d all three found comfort and enjoyment within this little home on wheels.
The next part of the trip brought us down from the amazing snow-covered mountains of northern California to the long, long desert vista and even longer straight stretches of highway. Towns were few and far between. Some were more like ghost towns, whispering of a history of prosperity in by-gone days when route 95 was the main passageway from one end of Nevada to the other. It came with its very own climate of blue sky, cool nights, and warm, dry days. This was very welcome to me.
I arrived in Las Vegas after dark, so seeing the palm trees and blue sky the next morning was a joy to my heart.