FullTime RV Family Adventures

The Real Life Adventures
Of A Family Living Fulltime In A Class A RV


 

Keeping the Explorer Vibe Alive

chuck swan lake

If one of the components of the RV lifestyle that appeals to you is exploration then this post is for you.

My wife is fond of reminding me that I need to be the person I want to be.

That means if I want to be adventurous, I need to be adventurous right now.  Tomorrow never shows up.

If you want to be rich, you have to start being rich right now.  You have to save and live below your income.

It is so easy to only stay at home.  You don’t have to leave your RV and meet your neighbors.  If you can’t get out of your house and meet new people now, you will not be able to do it just because you have a rolling house.  Your RV is probably going to be self-contained when you move into it.  That means you only have to leave the climate controlled inside when the black tank needs emptied!

I love it when our family does adventurous tasks.  I love it when we visit new places, and experience new things.

For fathers day I requested that we re-visit a state park that I love called The Chuck Swan State Forest Preserve.

Essentially it is a extra large unmaintained state park.  All the roads are logging roads and the park is just wild forest.  It would probably take at least an hour just to drive the main road from the gate to the other side of the park.  The speed limit in the park is 25mph, but good luck hitting that speed anywhere but the main road.

You could take your car through a lot of the park, but their are plenty of places that could rip the underside of your car up.  That probably explains why you see so few people in the park.  While we have only visited twice now, we never see more then 3 or 4 other vehicles in the park.

Our plan was simple.  Drive to the park, find a trail that leads to the lake, have a cook out, and drive home.

Driving through the park is fun.  Google has yet to really map the inside of the park, and we have no cell service.  We found a terrible PDF online we use, but it is essentially old school guess and drive.  We ended up taking a dead end on the way out.  That was ok.  I had to drive up a steep section and get a round a few small obstacles.  We saw about 3 deer on our way in, and we saw a very large wild turkey on our accidental detour.  We finally made it to a graveyard we wanted to visit and then to the water.

truck on the trail

Tracy made Chipotle Bacon Burgers for us.  She used the new grill she and the boy bought me for fathers day.  The grill was something we had been wanting for a long time.  Starbucks on a road trip is great, but making your own french-press coffee on a grill on your tailgate is even better.  Ever since we did our great lakes expedition a few years ago, we have missed our ability to cook on the truck tailgate.

creating the burgers cooking on the back of truck cooked burgers cooking burgers

After our extended lunch on the shoreline we doubled back down the trail to visit the graveyard.  A church used to be on the site as well.  The grave markers where all sunken (from the coffins collapsing?) and all had late 1700 – early 1800 dates.  Lots of revolutionary era veterans are buried in this graveyard.  Apparently the Chuck Swan State Park has quite a few old cemeteries in it.

exploring the graveyard grave marker lost creek

After we explored the graveyard we took to the trails and drove around the park.  The roads are very twisty and hilly.  All the roads are one lane only, and it can be easy to get lost and end up on the wrong trail.  Some of the highlights for us was crossing a creek.  The road we drove crossed a creek about 3 times.  The final time required quite a bit of creek driving and we were not entirely sure the trail resumed on the other side, but once we crossed and climbed up the stepped rocks we found the trail again.

At one creek crossing we disturbed some butterflies.  It looked like 100 butterflies swarmed our truck.  We just sat there oohing and awing over the event.

creek crossing

I was a little disappointed.  My truck is full-time 4wd and didn’t have any traction issues., but one time for safety I wanted to switch to 4-lo for extra traction when I wanted to climb up the watery stairs.  The center CDL would not lock so the rear and front differential also could not lock.  I really am not in a place to dump money into my truck, but I am going to have to get that fixed.  Lucky for me I think the part that failed is a $50 electrical switch and this easy to reach and replace.

In an effort to remain adventurous Tracy and I also joined a Land Cruiser group in Knoxville called the Appalachian Cruisers.  The group meets once a month and goes on drives.  It should provide some fun diversions this year.

land cruisers

Having adventures is something you need to prioritize.  Most people never do things because they like because they never position themselves to succeed at what they wanted to do.

We want to have adventure, so we joined a group of people who also want to have adventure.  Even if the adventure is just a planned drive once a month, at least a chance of something new will happen.  If we sat at home instead, that chance of adventure falls closer to 0%.

What are you doing right now to start letting the life you want to live happen to you?

Motivated To Succeed by Failing.

norris lake

Technomadia wrote a great article awhile back.  The article was about being realistic with your RV dreams.  A few weeks ago I also wrote an article about being brave enough to jump into the fulltime RV lifestyle.

Technomadia is absolutely correct.  The burden of travel, plus trying to launch a business, plus developing new skills at home and work is just too much.  You are highly more likely to fail.

This blog is about failing.

You are absolutely going to fail.  More then likely you will not make it.  I see on Facebook many posts asking other RVers for gas money so the traveler can make it back home and give up.

Here is the thing.  You can’t be afraid to fail.  You can’t be afraid to be broke.  After you fail and you realize nothing you can do will work, you have to pick yourself up and try again.  You have to accept failure as part of the process to learning.

This is not a natural process.  I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but American culture does not reward failure.  Your school teachers don’t give second changes after exams.  When you mess up reports or milestones at work, your boss doesn’t think of your salary as a good investment.

The only person who is capable of accepting your failures and helping you turn the failures into successes is you.

You have to be tough to not be mad when your boss is upset with missed deadlines.  You have to be determined to correct an exam you failed and learn from your mistakes.

Only when you accept your failures, Own your failures, and fix your failures will you be ready to move forward.

I am a rookie at my job.  I fail all the time.  I miss deadlines.  I miss my own expectations, I miss other people’s expectations.

I am ok with failure.  Every time I fail I try to learn something.  I fully understand that failure is not lack of forward progress.  Acknowledged and owned failure is indeed progress.

We have been attending an amazing church here in Knoxville.  Our pastor recently talked about peace and conflict. (paraphrased)

Peace is not about the lack of conflict.  Peace is the ability to engage in conflict and not give into your insecurities or emotional fears.  Peace is the ability to sit and confront conflict.

I am now a hustler.  I work an hourly job with no benefits.  If I get sick or take a vacation,  I get no pay.  I went to the doctor for a checkup last week.  I lost money.

I get up every morning at 5am.  I am one of the first ones to the office.  I work my 8 hours and I go home.  I swim in a pool with my family and we talk about our day with each other.

I try not to work overtime because when I come home I blog, I read about my new career.  I try to learn new skills .  I find and network with people in our new town.

I understand that my time has value.  I need to use as much of my time to advance myself and my skills as I can.  I need to balance work, growth, and rest.

I am alive in struggle.  Yes, I wish I had my old salary.  I really would like to go out to eat again.  I now buy Starbucks quarterly instead of daily.

We are all ok though.  It wasn’t that long ago that most people’s parents or grandparents had to use outhouses.

We are better off then we where before when it comes to things that are needed.  We always have 65 gallons of spare water, we have backup power in our generator, 75 gallons of fuel, and the ability to bug out if anything bad ever happens.

We keep our eyes on the future.  Our discomfort keeps us moving.  We work to accept our failures.  We work to be rid of our insecurities.

We try our best to be loving and kind.  To be givers and not takers.  To be the kind of people we want to do life with.

little purple flowers

Dash Cam Review – Memory maker

cam overview

fyi: I eventually removed the plastic over the lens!

 

Have you ever thought about all the awesome moments & memories you have when you drive?  I love driving, that is one of the reasons I chose a Class A.  I want to drive around and see the country!

I have seen a lot of weird stuff.  Last summer in Upper Michigan I almost hit a Bald Eagle as it was swooping across the highway.  I have seen some crazy homemade campers.  I have seen tires blow out on cars in front of me.  I have seen some fancy exotic automobiles driving amazingly fast on interstates.

I have witnessed amazingly bad storms.  I have seen beautiful golden hour sunsets.  I have viewed vistas of amazing grandure and space.

I can now record what I have seen.

I bought the dash cam (affiliate link) for myself on my birthday.

I had been looking at dash cam footage for years.  Check out this crazy Russian dashcam footage!  In Russia crazy stuff happens so much that dashcams are required for insurance reasons.

That is just crazy, and I want to record all the crazy and amazing stuff I have seen!

I was a bit worried about the low price.  When you look at the cost of a go pro camera, or other miniature action cam, $300-$500 isn’t out of the question.

This little sub $70 camera looks great.  I will share with you some tips.

This camera lets you record in a looping 10 minute loop (it keeps recording over the last 10 minutes) or it will record until the card is full.  When the memory card is full, the camera will just turn off.  I think the camera has a button where it will keep a 10 minute loop if you see something you want to save.

I don’t want to mess with my camera so I just have the camera fill up the memory card.  At the end of the week I save what files I want, and then reformat the card right inside the camera.

The camera uses a 32meg mini-SD card (affiliate link).  My one wish would be that I could have put a 64 or 128meg card in.  I don’t know if they make a mini-SD card that big, but the camera will not accept one.  Make sure you buy a memory card because the camera does not come with one!

A must have feature of the camera for me was the ability to record in Quicktime.  The camera records in h.264 and iMovie and Quicktime both work great with the file.  This lets me edit the final product without doing any type of file conversion.

My 25 minute commute takes about 1 gig of space at the full setting of 1080p.

I keep the audio recording off.  I really liked having audio on so I could hear our reactions to unusual events.  The problem was I felt like I had a huge loss of privacy when I talked to my wife and kid.

I constantly imaged having my camera footage turned into evidence and being questioned about my private conversations.  I just elected to quit worrying about it and turn off the audio recording to protect my privacy.

The other adjustment I ended up having to make was to have the video screen turn off 3 minutes after the camera turns on.  This gives me enough time to make sure that camera is aimed correctly and recording.  The main reason that I set the screen to turn off was because of my video game background.  I really wanted to drive my vehicle in 3rd person!

Having the screen turn off gives me less distractions when I drive.

You can see a little off-road trip we took at a state park.  The camera is amazingly smooth for being used on such rough roads:

My camera probably isn’t mounted in the perfect spot.  I sometimes get reflections of my hands or lights from my stereo on the windshield.  The dash cam picks up those reflections.

I have yet to use the dash cam with the RV.  I did figure out where I will mount the camera.  I started looking at the windows of semi-trucks on the highway.  I guess that is a perk of having a gigantic suv.

I noticed many truck drivers put dash cams on the side windows instead of on the front window.  I can’t reach the front window from my captains chair, so I will also put my camera on the side window.  I checked and I think it will fit just fine.

The camera includes cable overload.  It comes with an adaptor and an extra long cable.  The cable is designed to be run all around the inside of your car and be hidden.  Since I have to move my cam between cars I can’t do a nice install.

dashcam installed

The dashcam also has cables to hook up to my tv and my computer.

The mount took a few tries to understand.  For a while my dash cam kept falling off the mount, but I finally figured out how to slide the camera on.  I had the mount on the window backwards so things didn’t work correctly the first few weeks.

Overall the quality of the camera is amazing.  It does a great job on having a wide viewing angle.  The camera is easy to move and mount, and the camera produces footage that is easy to archive and edit.

Three features I never end up using are the ability to take stills, motion sensor recording, and use a flash.  I can’t imagine what you would use the flash for.  Maybe if you wanted to use the dash cam as a handheld camcorder?  I could see the led light being used then.  Since I don’t want to touch the dash cam when driving I never touch the button to take stills.

I think the motion sensor is supposed to make the camera record if the car is jarred – IE someone backs into your car while it is parked.  The camera has an internal battery so it can perform this function under it’s own power.  I usually have the camera hidden so it can’t be stolen, so this doesn’t really work for me.

My biggest complaint about the camera is the name.  Black Box G1W-B is a crazy name!  The Amazon listing had so many comments about originality and piracy it made me a little worried about what I was getting myself into.

The camera seems to be a great value for the money.  I have used the camera for a few months now and I loved it!  I would recommend that you make sure you get a large memory card.  Their are a lot of options on the market for dash cams, but the ratings and other reviews I have seen on this model were right on.

This is a great dashcam, and I love to record all the adventures I go on with it!

Would You Do It Again – Fulltime RV Living

clinton dam

My wife recently took a trip back back to our RV origin point.  She met with some of her friends.  She spent time with her family.  She had a good time.  Two days later she texted me and said she was ready to leave.

That about sums up our old life and stomping grounds.

We miss our friends.  We just don’t miss the old life.

I was talking to my best friend Gigantical a few days ago. Gigantical said someone asked him if what they were doing was crazy.  His reply made me laugh:

My friend gave all his stuff away.  Moved into an RV.  Quit his job.  He drove around the country until he ran out of money.  Now he lives in Tennessee, in a van down by the river.  Its going to be tough to be crazier then that.

When Tracy got back she recounted her fun time with friends and family.  She then said that she missed her relationships, but she is glad that we moved.

I won’t lie.  I had to spend some time thinking about if we made the correct choices.  I earn less then half the money I used to.  I have the same bills.  We are barely staying afloat.

Things are difficult.

Tracy and I are both still glad we jumped.

We left because we felt compelled to leave.  We felt trapped in our surroundings.  We divined a spiritual calling to leave.

We lost comfort.  We lost security.  We lost certainty.

We gained hope.

Nothing worth attaining is free.  Everything has a cost.  The church tells you the gift of Salvation is free.  Christ tells you the gift of salvation will cost you everything.

Everyday I got to work I meet new people, learn new skills, and work to secure a new future.

My old life had a fixed path.  That path ended at a destination that wasn’t where my family wanted to be.  It wasn’t where God wanted us to be.

Its in our nature as humans to only act when we have a plan and can understand the outcome.  Not knowing all the steps causes us to freeze.  This ends up with everyone refusing to take risks.  People don’t write books or paint pictures because they do not understand how the process ends.  People fail to launch businesses that could bring them great success because they don’t want to lose the security they have now.

I feel like the inability to sacrifice and risk turns people into prisoners.  People lose the ability to do what God calls them to do.  They fail to lead the lives they want to lead.  People fail to live the lives they are destined to live.

Everyday I feel discouraged,  I think back to me from 2 years ago.  To me 5 years ago.  I changed paths.  My new road is better.  The new road is rougher.  The new road is going to a much better destination.  The new road is taking me in the correct direction.

Life is scarier right now.  It is more hectic and full of uncertainty.  For us that road of uncertainty brings along horizons with views of hope.  I would much rather see that I am progressing towards a goal that I feel compelled to pursue, rather then take a smooth road to a destination I do not care to arrive at.  Life is to short to pursue secure pathways that lead to the wrong destinations.

I have lots of dreams still.  I finally am on the path to making them happen.  I have a job that is letting me develop skills that will allow me to succeed.  I am learning how to succeed.  I might have lost everything, but I am now in a position where I have a chance to succeed.

Fixing & Replacing the RV Fridge Drain Hose

that is a good looking rv refridgerator

If your RV has a fridge, and your RV is over 3 years old, your RV has a hidden time bomb in it.

Apparently, even if your RV is hundreds of thousands of dollars, most RV manufactures have chosen to use a plastic drain hose that has a retail value of a nickel.  In addition to being cheaply made, the hose runs next to a lot of hot components.  The average lifespan of the hose before damage is about 3 years, mainly due to the heat.

I have talked to a few other RVers and almost all of them had water damage from this little cheap hose breaking.

Think about it – your RV could have a rotting floor right now because of this ridiculous hose.

The first step to fix our fridge is we needed to buy some tools.  I have been using a tool kit for the last 8 years that Tracy bought for me at a discount store as a stocking stuffer.  It was a screw driver and a socket set.   I think the price was about $7.  This tool set has worked great for me over the last few years, but parts have been missing.  The tools also sat in an old camera bag so it was hard to find anything when you needed.

I had always heard about a store called Harbor Freight.  Apparently they sell tools really cheap.  We managed to buy a 140 piece tool kit for $29 and I owned my first needle nose pliers!

Tracy and the boy unboxing our new working tool set.

Tracy and the boy unboxing our new working tool set.

Next step was to figure out how to fix the hose.

Step One: Watch these 2 YouTube videos:

So if  this lady can fix an RV fridge why can’t I?  I can’t because I am terrible with tools.  Lucky for me Tracy is great with tools.  I just have to keep my mouth shut, and help!

This is what our old hose looked like after you touched it.

This is what our old hose looked like after you touched it.

Tracy went to a box store and bought a thick plastic drain hose to replace the cheap brittle hose.  The hose had a half-inch diameter inside opening.  It was really long.  We ended up needing to cut the hose after the installation.

The first step was to remove all power to the fridge.  That means first you turn off and unplug the RV from the wall.  Then you hit the battery disconnect so the 12 volt house batteries stop feeding power to the fridge.  Then you turn off the propane.  Don’t forget to turn off the propane!

Now your house is dark.  Its hot out.  You open up all your windows and let in some light.  Don’t pull down the outside awning cause you are hot because  you need the outside light to see.  Or pull down the awning cause you are hot, and you don’t want to scream at each other, because you are hot and stressed, while you work on the refrigerator.

The next step was how to remove the fridge.  This is not the first step.  This was just the first step we did.  Notice we did not do the real first step.  The real first step is to empty the fridge and freezer.

Notice the videos don’t really cover that subject of fridge removal.  It probably took us an hour total to remove the refrigerator.  The repair lady was kind enough to show us how to remove the access panel.  She was kind enough to warn you about bugs, and yes, we saw some creepy bugs behind the fridge.

You need your fridge manual to remove the fridge.  Look online if you lost your manual.  Don’t start without the manual.  Even with the manual it took us awhile to decipher the screw locations.  We had 6 screws to remove total.  It wasn’t until we started yanking on the fridge did we find the last 2 screws.

removing anchor screws anchor screw hole close up

We had to remove a heat shield to find this screw.

We had to remove a heat shield to find this screw.

Once the screws were out of the fridge I just grabbed the handles and I yanked on the door until the fridge started sliding.  The first yank revealed a screw that was stuck and needed removed.

Then we realized we had to remove the wiring for the 12-volt system.  Then we realized we had to unhook the propane.

I was very hesitant about unhooking the propane.  Propane kills people.  I used one of my new Harbor Freight adjustable wrenches to yank on the nut connecting the propane line.  I could see the entire brass line twisting as I yanked on the nut.

The deadly propane connector.

The deadly propane connector.

I looked around for the park maintenance people for some advice but I couldn’t find anyone.  My neighbor is putting a new roof on his RV.  I stopped by to ask him, but he was sleeping.

Propane fixtures are difficult.  They all operate the wrong way (propane fixtures are lefty tighty, righty loosy).  Plus if everything doesn’t work out well you have a leak and then you die.

After thinking about the situation in the sweltering heat, I decided to try a vice grip.  The vice grip worked great.  Instead just gripping a part of the bolt, the vice grip snuggly wrapped around the bolt and the bolt moved easily.

After the 12-volt was disconnect and the gas line was removed I was able to grab the fridge handles and drag the fridge out of the hole it was in.

Actually I didn’t have to totally remove the fridge.  I was able to tilt the fridge forward.  Then the boy was able to yank off the brittle drain hose.

Next while I held the fridge Tracy opened the door to access the drip catcher.  This of course resulted in lots of food falling out of the fridge.  At this point we decided to empty the fridge, but we left the freezer alone!

Tracy held the drip catcher in place while the boy shoved the new drain tube on.  The boy then took a few tries and managed to put a zip-tie around the tube.  This will prevent the hose from falling off the back of the fridge again.  I have no intention of doing this procedure again.  Ever.

We also zip tied the line in a few places as it ran down the back of the fridge.  Quite a few of the fridge parts get hot and we wanted to make sure that nothing hot was next to the drain hose.

After the new drain hose was hooked up I gave a mighty shove, chipped some trim, and put the fridge back in place.  Tracy put the screws in, I hooked up the propane, then I hooked up the power.

Mostly.

We didn’t get all the screws back in.  We don’t have a drill so Tracy couldn’t force the screws in.  2 of the screws didn’t re-align perfect with their old spots so we couldn’t put them back.  One screw is missing in the back and one in the front.  I figure that the fridge is heavy enough that it won’t fall over when I am driving.

After that fiasco I hooked up all the power.  I plugged the 50amp into the wall, hit the fuses, and reconnected the batteries via the battery cut-off switch.  I switched on the propane and the fridge.

The fridge error light was on.  When you opened the door you could feel the fridge was working, but no lights were on.

The 12-volt didn’t get hooked up.  We also didn’t note what wire was positive and what wire was negative.

One wire was purple and said House TT,  The other wire was white and said nothing.

After googling around I determined changing the wire polarity (hooking up the positive and negative to the wrong terminal) was a very bad thing.

Then I had a brilliant idea.  I balanced a new Harbor freight wrench in the fridge access vent.  Then I hit the wrench with the white wire.  Nothing.  Then I hit the wrench with the purple wire.  Sparks! Problem solved!

I turned off the batteries and Tracy reconnected the wires.  I turned back on the fridge.

Error lights again.

Sigh.

I check the fuse panel.  The fridge fuse is blown on the 12 volt system.  Apparently my spark test had a price.  1 15amp car fuse style breaker is blown.

I switch the fridge fuse with the fuse for the outdoor radio.  We have used that outdoor radio twice so far.  Once was to see if even worked!

I turn the fridge back on.  No error light.  I open the door.  The interior light is on.

Problem solved!

Now that the fridge is working we had to finish putting on the rear access panel.  Tracy bent the drain tube into a p-trap, then she re-attached the access panel to the RV.

The finished drain hose.  water immediately started flowing into the hose after everything started working.

The finished drain hose. Water immediately started flowing into the hose after everything started working.

Tracy trimmed the end of the hose to a proper length.  We don’t have a drain plug like in the video, so we shoved a sponge into the end of the tube to keep out the bugs.

We now had a working fridge.  A new tool set.  And we somehow lost about $50 somewhere.

So what did we learn?

  • We can do some repairs and save some real money.  This fix would not have been cheap if we went to a dealership or repair facility.
  • If I was buying a new RV or a used RV,  I would demand the hose gets changed out.  I would make it conditional of purchase.  Yes, I would do that even on a new RV.  What crazy person at an RV factory thought those cheap hoses were a good idea?
  • You should check your hose.  Our drain hose was not even sticking out the access panel like it was supposed to be.  When I walk through the RV park I can’t see drain hoses on most of the RVs.  If you don’t see your drain hose, then your fridge is probably draining into the floor of your RV.

Moral of the story.  Check your drain hose.  Now.  Don’t let this crazy story happen to you!

Living With Cats In A Class A Motorhome

cat on computer

Cats stand where they want.

 

Cats and RVs are not a great mix, but I am going to share with you what I have learned.

The simple fact is that while I am not a fan of cats, I also never advocate for getting rid of family pets.  When you take a pet into your home you need to take care of it.  I hate it when I hear stories of  people who give away family pets  to a shelter or a neighbor or a friend.  It usually makes me feel really bad.  Sometimes the animals trade up to a better family, but it usually is just one careless person pawning off a pet mouth to someone else.  If you want a pet, please keep the pet, or don’t bother taking it in your house in the first place.

I wrote that long preamble to explain why my cat came with us.  RVing with a pet is a pain!  So many people travel in RVs with their pets that you would think it would be easy.  RVing with pets limits how you RV.  You can’t leave your RV with a dog or cat in the Walmart parking lot in 90 degree weather while you tour the town.  An RV is like a car – it superheats – its not a climate controlled apartment for your dog, cat, bird or fish.

I won’t attempt to blog about RVing with pets in general, but I will share what I learned about cats.

Where is my Cat?

You would be surprised at what you can lose in an RV.  For us, we have lost the cat a few times.  Once we lost the cat for almost 2 days.  We finally found him crawling around inside the dashboard.  Yes the dashboard!  He crawled under the dashboard and behind the center console.  He was so scared he just hid there for 2 days.  It was purely accidental we found him.

Our cat hiding under a chair

Our cat hiding under a chair

We also lost our cat one winter day.  We lost him for almost the entire day until we heard him meowing.  He apparently figured out how to unlatch a drawer.  He then jumped behind the drawer.  In the morning we just shut the drawer and he was stuck there.  To make matters worse he was sleeping in the wiring to the fuse panel.  Nothing bad happened, and now the drawer is duct taped shut!

We also lost the cat when he climbed into cupboards, under beds and into the back of closets.  Once I turned on the shower and a wet cat flew out behind the curtain.  I am just saying, cat proofing an RV is a trial and error process that rivals toddler proofing.  You will never know the tenacity of your cats ability to hide until you experience it for yourself.

Food & Water

You need a place to feed and water a cat.  This is pretty tricky.  Cats spill things,  cats puke, cats make a mess.  Our food station for the cat is in our main living area against a wall under the tv.  When we move we just have to move the dishes to the hallway.

The big issue is floorspace in an RV is at a premium, and no matter where you place the dish, you will end up kicking the dishes a few times until you adjust.  Moving the dishes cause chaos because you need to relearn your muscle memory.

Some newer RVs are starting to add in animal feeding stations.  They seem like a good idea, but I can still see myself kicking the dish holder out of the wall.  You will have to really think about where you will put the dish.  Many cats graze all night.  You don’t want your cat crunching food in your bedroom at night, and you don’t really want him barfing over his food in the kitchen while you eat.

You will have to just examine your RVs layout and find the best compromise.

Litter

Kitter litter is the final RV bane.  A litter box is huge, and unless cleaned daily, is usually a little stinky.  We do not clean our litter daily.  We need to keep it hidden.

Lots of people just suck it up and clean the litter whenever the cat uses it.  If that is you, Congratulations!  You win the cat litter cleaning trophy.  If you clean it immediately then you can keep the litter box in the bathroom or your bedroom, or someplace more open.

We ended up cutting holes into the side of our kitchen booth and shoving a cat box into the box.  This way the smell is contained, and the letterbox is out of sight.  Many RVs now have drawers under the booth.  In this case you could just remove the drawer.  Then once or twice a week you pull out the box and empty it out.

Our cat throws litter everywhere.  We ended buying puppy pads.  They are essentially gigantic absorbent mats for potty training dogs.  You can get them in most places that sell pet supplies.  This pad collects all the excess mess if the cat misses the litter box.

Every week we just throw out the pad and litter and refill.

Furniture

Furniture is a problem with cats.  If you are hardcore and manage to declaw your cat, you will be fine, but most people at least let their cats keep the back fingers.  Our cat has all 4 claws.  Currently our booth is a little torn up, some carpet under the dashboard is torn, and our leather captains chairs have microscopic holes in the leather.

Nothing is ruined, but our RV looked brand new when we started.  The furniture in an RV is not what I would call quality.  I could fix the the booth in about 2 hours – I just need to staple some fabric over the rough spot.  You can’t see the carpet under the dash, and the chairs look fine.

If I could do it again I would get seat covers or fabric to keep on the tops of the leather chairs covered.  I also would pre-train the cat to use a scratching post.  Over the years our cat has settled down and quit ripping the place up, but if you plan ahead you can protect your RV interior better then we did.

If you look at other blogs of flutters with cats you will see blankets and other fabrics artfully displayed.  These textiles are not art displays – they are fancy hipster ways to protect the furniture.

Conclusion

The downside of animals in the RV is that you essentially have an animal in a car.  It gets really hot and really cold in the RV.  My cat hears the heater click on in the winter and runs over to the vent to absorb the sweet heat of our propane furnace.

here is the cat standing in front of the heater one winter evening.

here is the cat standing in front of the heater one winter evening.

If we are going to be gone for a day we still need to open windows and / or adjust the air conditioning so our animal doesn’t get heat stroke.

Many parks also charge premiums for animals.  We never mention we have a cat because we don’t intend to take it outside and let it play.  If you have a dog, you have to worry about it barking, and if you have fish you need to worry about your water supply.

Having a family pet has its moments.  I am not sad we have our cat with us, but if you plan on brining a pet please put some thought into your pets care.

Thoughts on full-time RV living while job hunting

snowing rv

I have a few more job interviews over the next few weeks, and I have been keeping busy with some website work.  As I have been searching for work, I have been realizing that I have some huge advantages when I job search.

Advantages

A wide net

When I search for a job, I look for the city of Knoxville and 50 miles around it.  If I apply to a job that is 45 minutes to 2 hours away it is no problem.  There are parks everywhere we can move.  We only pay one month at a time, and my new jobs location is not very important.  I recently removed my addresses off my resume.  It is irrelevant where I am currently living.  A lot of interviewers will throw out all the applications that they deem are too far away.  I my resume I say that I live in the area and am available anytime for an interview.

I also have the option to search nationally.  Right now I am still searching only in the Knoxville area because we love this location so much.

Low utilities

Now that we are no longer living in the freezing North, utilities are much easier to deal with.  We rent a propane tank, and electricity has only been setting us back about $35 a month.  We do not have to pay for internet or television.  Outside of propane and electric we have no mandatory bills.  It isn’t a big deal to change locations.  Most parks pay only 1 utility bill and the renter pays the park directly.  No need to keep calling up and changing addresses.

Schools

When I do land a job we can make sure we live in a district that has nice schools.  We don’t have to pick a school based on what our rent budget is.  All the campgrounds are competitive when it comes to monthly rates.  Many of the campgrounds even have bus pickup for school kids.

Travel and Relocation

Many jobs have no relocation help.  That means if you need to move, you need to move on your own dollar.  Living in an RV means moving will not be a big hassle.  Unplug, shove the outside furniture into the storage bays and you are off to your new home.  Some jobs also require a lot of territory travel.  If you have 3 or 4 major cities across a territory that you cover, then an RV could be a great way to make sure you can spend extra time in your areas.  Even if you have to pay for moving your RV with your own money it may be worth the expense.  If you have to travel to a city 2 hours way 6 or 8 times a month, maybe you will want to pay for the gas to relocated the RV to the area temporarily?  If you think about the commute it might be worth it.  Every job is different, but I see many locals in this park operate like this.  There are 2 5th wheel couples here who only stay weekly.  They visit once a month or so while they sell to the companies in the area.  They have to cover their own travel, but this way they get to stay together.

Training

I see a lot of jobs with training classes of 2 weeks to 4 months.  They need the new employee to travel to a training campus.  Imagine how much nicer it would be to be able to take your entire family?  The jobs usually give your a stipend to pay for training.  Just use that money to buy your own food and campsite.

Home Base

Living in an RV gives you a home that is yours.  An apartment move always requires paperwork, first and last months rent, and the changing of utilities.  With an apartment you typically can not paint, put holes in the walls, or call it your own.  An RV gives you a sense of stability no matter where you move.  It gives you a sense of owning a piece of property that is yours, just like a regular house does, but with the RV you can relocate at will.

Exclusivity

Their are a lot of jobs only for people with an RV.  These are not usually good jobs, but they are jobs that require you have a working RV as a home.  What is great about needing an RV is that most people don’t have an RV, so you can float to the top easier.  You only have to compete with other RVers instead of the entire planet.

Disadvantages

Bad Stereotype

Plenty of people see RV living as a lower class option.  It doesn’t matter if you live in a $250,000 class A.  All they think of is Uncle Eddie in Christmas Vacation yelling about the shitter being full.  I now have most any reference to living full-time in an RV removed from my resume.  Too many times I run into a scenario where the CEO is a big picture person.  The CEO thinks the lifestyle is creative and interesting.

Then I met the CFO or the COO.  They are the people who tend to have no imagination and are more rule bound then logic bound.  They can’t wrap their head around the fact that you could be happy and comfortable in such a small space.  They have an image of what the person they want to hire is like.  The idea of the possibility of hiring Uncle Eddie is too much for them to handle.  It doesn’t matter if you are a PHD or extremely talented.  The old guard of business has an idealistic view of the executives they want to hire, and someone who lives in a tiny house isn’t in the picture.

Runner

I also have experienced a lot of fear of me being a runner.  I have a very stable job history, but I have had a lot of managers talk to me about the fact that they hate the fact I can move. A manager once told me  “All you need to do is pack up a few things and I will have lost my training investment.”  It didn’t matter that I spent 10 years at my lost job.  It didn’t matter that I spent over 3 years at each of my past jobs.  The thought that I wasn’t locked into a 30 year mortgage or rental agreement really bothers a lot of hiring managers.

Too Small

I have interviewed for a few work from home jobs.  Many of the positions now require a minimum of square feet for an office.  They also require the space be dedicated.  Our RV is 38feet long.  Our bedroom makes a great office and is completely separate from the living area.  Some places just want to know that I can make my space work, while others even ask for pictures in the job description.  A fundamental process of business is to describe and turn all aspects into a process.  More and more you will start to see space requirements for work at home positions.

Bandwith

Many work at home jobs have very specific bandwidth requirments.  I have even seen listings that list who your internet provider is allowed to be.  I understand this requirement.  I don’t know how an RVer can ever meet this need unless they are stationary.  With so many work at home jobs using customized in house software, these bandwidth requirements only make sense.  The advantage for an RVer if you could move to a park that will allow you to install internet that meets the requirements.  The disadvantage is that you will probably not be able to meet the requirements while you travel.

Conclusion

For my job hunting I have elected to just remove the fact that I live in an RV altogether.  Too many hiring managers will just disqualify you if they find out.  I also have removed all my addresses.  I just let people know I am new in the area.  If I get a job that has a large commute I will just move to a campground that will be close to the new job.

I have had both positive and negative results from RV living talk.  I have elected to just never mention it, unless I think it will give me an advantage.

People read RV blogs because living in an RV when you are not retired is rare.  It is adventurous.  I believe that Americans are losing their adventurous spirit.  I personally feel that most people in America have cut travel out of their budget.  Many people in the United States have never even left their home state, or rarely leave their state.  If they do leave, it is a flight to a resort like Disney, or a cruise to an inclusive resort in the Bahamas.

At the heart of man is a tension.  A tension to embrace adventure and repulse adventure all at the same time.  Part of us wants to control everything, and part of us wants to gamble it all.  That is what todays managers are struggling with.  Why take a risk?  Why gamble?

When you see a big successful company,  you see the result of a company that at one point in time decided to gamble on people.  You see a company that provided a service that helped people succeed.  Unfortunately  what often happens is that the company grew so big that it failed to remember what it did to succeed.  Companies fail to remember the sacrifices of their first employees who believed in what they did as a team.  They start playing defense in order to preserve what they built.

While I still have yet to find my place in the working world, I realize that finding a company with the right culture is going to be the challenge.  I need to find a company that wants to win and succeed more than it wants to protect.

America still has a lot of great places and companies.  I meet people who work with those companies.  I just need to keep on pace until l find the place that has been looking for me.

Loose Change

ice land crusier

I have a bunch of random thoughts I want to share.  Some RV related, some not so much.  I was surprised by some of my favorite current ideas, and hopefully you also will find them interesting.

RV Related

If you live or tour in an RV you will never think of everything.  Here are some things you should rethink.

Keep gassed up.

In Tennessee we are in a gigantic ice storm.  Power is going down all around us.  Power went down in the night for us as well.  We have batteries, and we have generators.  We also have a full tank of gas.  When you park for awhile keep your gas tank full.  You will need that precious juice for you generator when trouble hits the area.

A Shovel

I don’t care if you are spending the winter where it is warm.  You will end up in the snow.  A shovel doesn’t take much space.  RV parks are not going to shove out the walking area for you.  They wait until you are gone and they just use a plow.  Even if you only want to spend winters where it is warm, you need to be prepared for the times you get called back north for emergencies.

Broom

You use a broom on the floor, the windows, and the slide topper.  When it snows you will end up with a crushed slide topper.  A broom is a great way to remove the snow.  If you don’t have to go, you probably will not need to remove the snow.  If you are planning on leaving, consider bringing in your slides before snow accumulates on the slides.  For reasons I don’t understand please also put in your awning before a storm.  I saw about 5 broken awnings today because snow and wind tore the awning away from the RV.

ice topper

Spare LP Canisters

My 100lb tank ran dry today.  And the propane store ran dry as well.  Lucky for me the refill truck showed up.  If you are in an area with a storm coming, make sure you have a spare LP tank of some kind.  People horde LP like they do cans of beans.  If you travel a lot consider finding a place to store a spare thirty pounder.  I see most fulltimers keep the spare on a bumper hitch on the back of the RV.  They have a splitter that lets them tow a toad and carry the spare.  When you run out of propane you are dead!  Massive damage can happen to your house when the pipes freeze.  A little security is worth it!

Salt

Make sure you always keep a bag of salt with you.  Not any just any salt, keep salt that has some chemicals that allow it to rapidly melt ice.  Your steps will freeze up.  You can’t retract your steps until you clear the ice off of them.  You also will want to melt a walking path to your car.  Up north you get a lot of snow, but down south you get a lot of ice.  I had forgotten how bad the ice was down here until this last storm hit.

The other reason you need ice melt is for the dump stations.  A lot of RV parks don’t have onsite sewer when it gets cold out, but they usually have a dump station.  What usually happens is the dump station is sunk down so any spills that may happen drain into the sewer.  In the winter it is easy for snow to melt and the dump hole to get covered in water.  Then at night, the water flash freezes.  Once we had to dump ice melt on a dump station for 3 days until we could bash the ice off the sewer.  We had an overflowing grey tank that was getting smelly!

No one had any ice melter besides us.  Once we broke though and started up the RV, all 4 other RVers in the park quickly jumped in line.

Bizarre Thoughts

Sleeping

I cannot find the article, but last summer Tracy and I read an article on sleeping.  Two big bizarre facts stick out.  If you sleep on your stomach and you face left then you develop better digestion.  Because of how your insides drain, facing left on your stomach allows for greatly reduced heart burn.

The Second sleeping position is even more bizarre.  When you sleep on your stomach and face right you introduce better breathing.  Sometimes I wheeze.  When I turn my head and face right, many times my wheezing instantly stopped.  I wish I had a link, but try it for yourself.  It is pretty creepy!

APPS

I am an iPhone fan, and I don’t hide it!  My current favorite app is called Dreep.  Deep is a bizarre game that is more an alarm clock than it is a game.  If you like old school computer games from the 80’s and 90’s then Dreep is for you.  The game is designed for adults.  You start the game and the game plays itself.  Your job is just to open up the app and watch.  The app pretty perfect!  You get to see a grand adventure without having to do the work.  The game is touted as an RPG alarm clock and I love it!

dreep

Book

In the morning Tracy and I read a book together about travel.  We read to remind us that it is possible for us to pursue our dream of driving around the world.  We just finished Drive Nacho Drive, a story about a couple who drove a VW bus around the world.

Our new book is called Everybody Duck.  The book is rare and out of print, but it is amazing.  We are only 3 chapters in, and I am excited for breakfast every morning because I want to find out what is going to happen.

The story is about a family who buys a WW2 amphibious landing craft, puts on a small shed for a house, and drives the house to South America.  The family essentially builds an RV that can float.  Of course it also only goes 25mph, catches fire a lot, and is manned by mostly teenage daughters and strange neighborhood boys.  The trip happened in the 50’s and the writing style is amazing.  I wish the book was in Kindle format so more people could read it!

Be Prepared

I hope you found at least some of these random thoughts to be helpful.  I am pretty tired.  I am stressed as I continue to job hunt.  I am in the middle of 5 interviews and 3 major projects.  The Tennessee snowstorm keeps dragging all my plans out.  Hopefully I will have my money problems solved soon.  I plan on posting a few resources that can help RVers make money online.  Without these resources we would be in some major trouble!

I also want to remind everyone that snow will be something you will have to deal with.  You may get stuck on top of a mountain in early spring or late fall, you may be a victim of a freak storm, or you may have a family emergency.  The chances you will end up in snow are very high if you choose to full-time in an RV.

I will try and make a basic snow primer in the future as well.

I hope everything is going great for everyone.  Thanks everyone for continually checking in on us as we look for work.  If you have any questions please let us know!

ice lot ice steps ice mirror

Smoky Mountain Car Tour

smokey mountains trip

One of the reasons Knoxville, TN was a great choice for us was I wanted to be near mountains.  Knoxville is located between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Smoky Mountains.  How great is that?  Two great areas to explore.

We spent a little time already in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We had to drive through it to get to Knoxville.  The drive from the North to Knoxville is amazing.  You climb up the top of the mountains and you ride the spine.  It was a super awesome RV drive.  We also visit Norris Dam with is near us and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I had been wanting to take a drive through the Smoky Mountains.  I also had been wanting to drive the Tail of the Dragon highway.  Any highway with a death count has to be a good drive right?

Here is the map I plotted on Google maps.

overall map of smokey mountain run

Lucky for me, Google Map for the cell phone does not talk to Google Map from the website.  For some totally awesome reason we ended up taking 321 South of Maryville.  The Google Maps on my iPhone directed me at a random time to pull off the main road.  I ended up on an amazing route called Foothills Parkway.  On Google on my laptop browser I couldn’t make my computer plot a map through the parkway.

route correction smokey mountains

The Foothills Parkway Road we traveled on.

 

The parkway was AMAZING.  Every few miles it had places to pull over and take pictures.  It was breathtaking.  I want land over here!  Even better it was February.  That means no tourists.  We only saw 1 other car the entire drive.  It was so refreshing.  I was emotionally pumped up to see the beauty around me.

foothills boy

The crazy part is that these are the foothills of the Smokey Mountains.  It only took about 50 minutes from my house to get here.

I had no idea where we were.  I am pretty sure my phone lost data for a while south of Knoxville and then when it “found” us again it just did an emergency route here.  I don’t really know how I found this road but I am so glad we did!

I also didn’t know where the Tail of the Dragon started.  The road was nice and twisty so I kept wondering if we were on the road?

At the end of the parkway we turned left and followed a beautiful river for a bit.  Then we noticed a sign that warned of no large trucks.  Then we saw grave stones.  And lots of warning signs to go slow.

Found it!

The Tail of the Dragon is unbelievably hilly and curvy.  Halfway into the pass we took a break.  Partly because my hands were burning from the steering wheel sliding around.  The main place to stop had a cool stone wall where various drivers painted their names.

name wall tail of the dragon names 129

All along the path were various stopping points for one car so you could watch other vehicles drive.  This was the only place that had great views on the trail.

The main draw are the turns and twists.  The curves were actually banked.  No guard rails.  You periodically saw little crosses and markers were people died.  The road is full of blind corners and various places to plummet to your death.

My truck is not a sports car.  It is a 21 year old 4×4.  I was often doing 10 or 15 mph just to stay in my lane.  Crazy!  I can’t imagine the pandemonium that must take place when people from all over the world show up to ride motorcycles and race cars through the passage.

After the ride we stopped for pictures.  The famous bar and tourist trap is closed for the winter, but we still jumped the gate and took pictures!

tail of the dragon 129 dragon dragon selfie

Winter means nothing is open.  We saw 1 other car at the Tail of the Dragon.  All the stores were closed.  I was actually feeling a little dizzy from driving the section.  Lucky a few miles down the road we found a diner.  4 hotdogs, 2 drinks and $17 dollars poorer we were back on the road for the trip home.

Again, the GPS messed us up.  Should I also mention the GPS is set to not use U-Turns?  I accidentally went the wrong way out the diner.  Instead of telling me to turn around it took me 5 miles down a twisty road.  Into a picnic area at a government run dam.  We then proceeded to climb a dirt road that Google can’t find anymore.  I did manage to find the road in satellite view.

offroad map offroad trail tva

I am not going to lie.  I had a lot of fun and was glad we got lost!  I did get a little scared because some of it was really muddy and rutted.  There was no place to turn around and no guard rails.  The road was very steep, and I am not so sure I was supposed to be driving it.  A few places had just been timbered.  I have a feeling some trees recently blocked the path and someone else cut a path through the fallen trees.  If you lived in the area this road probably saves you about 15 minutes of driving if you have a 4×4.

At this point we realized we wouldn’t be home until 5pm and Tracy needed the car by 3pm.   I had no cell coverage for hours so I was expecting a lot of trouble.  Lucky for me Tracy had her tutoring gig cancelled for the day.

With as much excitement as the boy and I had, we still had a lot to go.  The last leg was driving the Smokey Mountain Parkway home.  The people at the diner called the park service and found out the road was open.  Apparently the road gets shut down from ice and snow a lot in January and February.

Lucky for me and the boy it was all open!

top of smokey mountains mokey mountain topper

The fact is I am bored talking about how amazing it all is.  The imagery of the blue in the sky and the peaks of mountains still burn in my retinas.  The frozen waterfalls down the sides of the mountains.  The fast flowing rivers, the acres of forests, and the piles of snow all clash together in my mind as a collage of scenes that I can’t imagine ever forgetting.  The views and vistas remind me of my place in the universe.

The entire drive is full of overlooks and info boards explain the history of the land.  Fun Fact: Apparently we chopped every tree down by the end of WW1 so we could build a lot of airplanes to blow Germany up with.  What we see today is the results of the 2nd seeding when the national parks were created.

With all the getting lost and breaks we ended up driving for about 7.5 hours.  It ended up being pretty exhausting.

When I close my eyes and remember the day I still feel the elevation changes and see the beauty I was surrounded with.

I can’t wait to go do it again soon!

 

Unexpected Neighbors

Extend-a-Stay

Extend-a-Stay

RV blogs and travelogues are about alternative housing, exotic locations, self-reliance, and adventure.  We talk about the joys and the thrills.  Where to get great deals on overnight camping, and the best way to maximize your gas budget.

I want to talk about another aspect of RVing that is  almost never talk about.  Percieved Poverty.

There are RV parks all over the United States with some strict rules.  No RV allowed over 10 years old, Age limitations, Number of Campers in a Spot, and Strict Guest Allotment standards.

These rules are not in place because RV park owners want to be dictators.  These rules are established to keep impoverished RVers out of parks.

I am convinced the #1 secret to a great ranked RV park is directly related to how many poor people have managed to establish residency into the RV park.

Almost every park I have stayed at has had an area of down and outers.  I have walked through areas that I am sure are great locations for a Breaking Bad style meth lab.

This year I met families that lived in tents.  Multiple kids, grandparents, and parents all living in a single slide 24 foot bunkhouse trailer.  I have seen RVs with collapsed roofs and attached giant blue tarps.  RV decks made from pallets and turned into heated rooms.

I see sights like this in nice campgrounds.  I see people living like this in freezing cold South Dakota, scattered through the country side of the West, and along the highways of the South.

At first I think I was put off by this.  I didn’t like the fact I could hear families screaming and fighting.  I didn’t like the fact that the park owners didn’t round up the dilapidated RVs and tow them out.

Over the last 3 years I learned tolerance and acceptance from my fellow RVers.  I learned that some people just didn’t care about their living conditions.  Why not live in a crappy trailer when you only are home to sleep?  Why have a working bathroom when the park campground will buy you toilet paper?  Why not have a really nice truck and get a new crappy trailer every few years instead?

My son was playing with another kid his age at a park.  After I found out he lived in the park year round I asked him what he liked about living in an RV.  He said he liked the fact they finally had a home.

I try to talk to as many people who RV as I can.  RVing is a equalizing  experience.  Rich or poor.  It doesn’t matter if you go big or small.  It doesn’t matter if ended up forced into an RV because of finances or if you moved into an RV for nomadic freedom.  When you start RVing you don’t need a lot of money or even nice gear.  When you pull into a park you all are living in a temporary home with crappy insulation.  It’s just a matter of time until your RV is the one with a blue tarp on it.

I have met a retired guy who had a scary looking RV.  I found out he traveled all over the country.  When the RV dies, he gets another one.  He lived grand adventurous life.  If I would have chosen to ignore him because of his housing I would have missed out on meeting someone cool.

I think it’s important to make sure you consider adjusting your view on what is acceptable if you want to travel.  If you come from the suburbs you may be in for a surprise at how close your half-million dollar rig is going to be to a pop-up camper with a pitbull tied to it.

You can choose to panic, or you can choose to wait until the owner comes out to yell at his dog and invite him over to your fire.

Part of seeing the country is meeting the people.  As you visualize what your new nomadic lifestyle looks like, make sure you understand your days of living in an economically protected area are over.  Understand that you will be interacting with both rich and poor alike.  That RVing is your common ground.  That even the most expensive RVs require you to go outside and empty your poop tank, just like everyone else.

 

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