FullTime RV Family Adventures
The Real Life Adventures
Of A Family Living Fulltime In A Class A RV
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
So I usually do a lot of posting in December, but this year that didn’t seem to happen. I still have been lax in picture taking, and a lack of pictures makes it hard to post. Job searching also hurts my ability to post. Every week I end up with no job means I have to come back here and post that I do not have a job. That is a bit depressing.
I am actually full of hope and positivity about jobs. Everyday I expect that I can post up and share with everyone what job I found.
That being said, I don’t want this blog to be about my job hunt. I want it to be about living awesome and finding adventure wherever we are. Yes, job hunting stuff will appear here because it is such a large part of my life, but I don’t want that to be the focus.
This year we did what we have done for the last 3 years- we got a hotel room over Christmas!
Spending Christmas in a hotel is the greatest thing we have ever done. Our best friends had the idea, and we never want to give the tradition up! It was a bit depressing to not be able to spend Christmas with our friends, but hopefully next year we can make that happen!
I do feel bad for the Hotel workers. All week the service people were fun and pleasant, but on Christmas Day, they were sort of cranky!
Right before Christmas we ended up running out of Propane. Our RV park is pretty awesome. They rented us a 100lb tank for $4 a month. We now have another 60 days of propane. Much better than last year- we would go through 200lbs a week sometimes!
Tracy and the boy kicked out a plate of Candy Sushi for the holidays. Very Gross. The boy and my brother seemed to enjoy them, but I thought it was pretty gross. I don’t think that Tracy is planning on ever making them again. It was a holiday experiment gone horribly wrong.
No job = a limited budget = not going out to eat. That being said we still sometimes still have coffee. Tracy found a fancy coffee shop that served fancy designs on top of the coffee. The coffee shop was a hipster paradise. The entire place of built out of reclaimed wood and furniture. The wall opened up to the outside tables on the sidewalk, and we enjoyed our coffee sitting in 60 degree sunny weather on the day after Christmas. I had a pour-over coffee, The barista refused to let me have the coffee with cream because it would ruin it. Of course they will make coffee with flavored syrups so I don’t know what kind of logic they are using. They don’t understand that I am a coffee tasting expert.
Speaking of expert coffee tasting, Tracy found a Turkish grocery store and cafe. All the workers are straight from Turkey and the food is amazing. I had my first ever cup of Turkish coffee. It was fantastic. I really enjoyed it. It was hard to drink because the cup was so small your fingers would burn as you sipped the scalding coffee. I drank as much of the bottom grounds as I could. Later on the owner showed me how to swirl the coffee, so next time I will do a better job.
Over the holidays we also went to a live recording. Tracy had pledged to kickstart a local Knoxville musicians cd project. It was nice to do something free and get out of the house. We ended up leaving before the recording was finished, but it was great to see someone make their dreams happen.
Blog traffic was pretty heavy this holiday. That surprised me because I didn’t post anything. I plan on updating our travel map this month, and add a readers guide to help newcomers find and follow the blogs story.
I having a phone interview for my dream job early this week, so any prayers you can send my way would be appreciated. Because of my job search I don’t know for sure what is going to happen in 2015. My only resolution is to write more (5 times a week) and continue to take time to listen to God.
Hopefully I will be able to post up that I have a new job soon, and I can’t wait to find out what it will be!
Being stationary doesn’t mean that nothing is happening worth blogging about. I have wanted to write a bunch of blog posts lately, but I have done a terrible job taking pictures. Yes, blog posts have been pretty slow because I have not had anything to take pictures of! I will endeavor to blog more this holiday, but I will just have to reuse pictures. Or take some pictures and spread them out over a few posts.
Job searching has continued to be interesting. I am working on 3rd and 4th interviews with a few companies. I have had 3 or 4 other job interviews end up not hiring anyone. It was frustrating to go to multiple interviews and at the end have the hiring company decide that they would wait a few months, or that they didn’t actually need anyone at all. A lot of jobs ask you to custom make a video, or do special work along with the interview. It is hard to apply for more than 2 jobs a day at most because of all the custom content I needed to create. The worst is when you have to manually enter all your work history, references, and other details into a database. Then they still want your resume, cover letter, and Linkedin account. I don’t understand why most companies will not pull your data off of Linkedin.
I am close to a job offer with a few places right now. One of my favorite places is located in Iowa, but we are experienced winter campers so it shouldn’t be a big deal. The job would be great because it would let me learn some new skills, yet I could bring a lot to the table with my current skill set.
One of the perks of living in an RV is I don’t have to limit my searches to a specific geographic region. While I am working hard to find a job in the Knoxville area that can support us, I do have keyword searches set up that search for jobs nationally.
I can tell it is time for me to find a job because I volunteered to help a local non-profit with internet marketing. I don’t think I can sit around anymore. I have to find things to do in order to stay productive. Volunteering will let me get out and start networking with people in the community.
I still feel blessed that we took a chance and moved out of our old situation. I am often reminded by family members that we could have stayed, but I don’t think that was the right thing to do. We all can look at the past and second guess things, or we can look ahead and meet new challenges.
Just because you are in distress or facing huge challenges does not mean that you made the wrong choice. Even in biblical times success and blessings was not the sign that you were loved by God. EVERYONE goes thru challenges and problems. Trials and tribulations are precursors to blessings and growth. If you are not willing to accept discomfort then how can you expect to grow and mature?
We have been working on an advent reading as a family. Another blogger wrote the readings for their small children, but for us, the readings have been perfect. Advent is about learning to wait. Learning to trust. Learning to live in the moment. I have been attending a liturgical church for the first time in my life. The messages this month are all about learning to wait.
This holiday season is not about celebration for me this year. This year the holidays are about waiting, about contemplation, about promise. As I learn to wait, I learn to trust. I learn to expect great things.
Things are not as planned, but I still see God’s guiding hand on our lives. I still see that we are not abandoned. Every day God meets us where we are, and I hope this Christmas that you see a little of God meeting you as well.
Every year Tracy and I make a video greeting card. I hope you like it!
People often think that because your home is an RV you are on vacation. It makes sense that people will come to this conclusion. Most people in RVs are on vacation. A common issues is that when people move into their RV they have to train themselves to not be on vacation. Your natural inclination when you enter an RV is to relax.
Unless you live and work full-time in your RV. Then your natural inclination is to clean it up. If anything is out of place in an RV, the entire house looks like a dump. That is why most RVs look pretty decent on the inside. Is your house dirty? Rearrange the pillows on the couch and I bet it looks pretty clean!
We recently decided to make another trip up to Pennsylvania to visit my parents. We just had visited a little over a month ago, but hey, it’s Thanksgiving!
Going on vacation is actually a pretty big challenge. Each RV has its own personality. Some RVs are needy and need a lot of attention, some RVs are fine spending a little alone time. Our RV is on the introverted side. Set the heat to something reasonable (like 50F), turn off the water, make sure the underbelly heaters are on, and leave on the electric fireplace so the cat won’t die if the temperature plummets below freezing for an extended period of time.
Last January Tracy elected to stay at home when I visited my parents. The temperatures often hovered below zero. This year in Tennessee the weather has not been below freezing for more than 4 hours at a time. We all felt the RV was safe enough. We only left for 4 days. If we would travel longer we would have to make some kind of special arrangements for the cat.
Because money is so tight for us right now we also hit up the ride share section of Craigslist. Tracy found someone who was headed to Pittsburgh.
When we picked up our fellow traveler I asked if she had any plans to murder us. She claimed she just wanted a ride, so we loaded up her gear and headed out.
We had two routes we could choose. We ended up going through Virginia and West Virginia because it was little faster then driving through Ohio. The problem was we drove through a snow storm. The trip up and down ended up taking us about 12 hours. Those are long travel days!
Another thing we did was bring a cooler and put food in it. Drinks and food from the grocery store are way cheaper then the gas station or restaurant. Sure you look a little funny making a sandwich and pumping gas, but it saves you $25 a meal!
We also ended up picking up my brother at the airport on our way to my parents. It was good seeing him. I think it was over 2 years since I last had the chance to hangout with him.
My parents also wanted to celebrate the boys birthday while we visited. We staged a “fake birthday” party. The boy loved it, and now he is going to get two birthday celebrations this year!
We also ended up having our Thanksgiving meal at a nearby relatives house. It was fun getting to meet my cousins (and great cousins?), many of whom I have not seen in what may be decades!
It is worth thinking about vacations when you are picking out an RV. Where are you going to keep your luggage? How much attention does your RV need before it is better to just winterize it?
Right now we are doing the math. We want to visit my sisters house for Christmas – will we drive the RV? Just take the car? How long can the house and cat live without our direct intervention?
Lucky for us, our RV is very easy to protect from the cold. The RV is happy to sit for an extended period of time with little to no supervision.
It is great knowing that we can leave the house alone for awhile, but it is always a worry that we will have to deal with that we never had to think about with our brick and mortar house. It’s just another something for you future full-timers to think about.
Has a few swears that are safe for TV, but maybe not for little children. If you visit your parents for the Holidays this video will resonate with you….