One of our favorite things to do in our travels is put some extra miles on our hiking shoes. There are countless trails across America just begging for your feet to join in the steps of so many others before.
Now, I’m not saying that we are hard core hikers, or even intermediary. To be perfectly honest, we are lazy hikers, and usually only motivated by the thought of getting some exercise and seeing something spectacular at the end of the trail. So we look for trails that lead us to a magnificent view such as a waterfall or scenic overlook. We’d even settle for a unicorn along the way, or a taco stand run by leprechauns at the end of the trail. Yes, we need motivation.
If there is no “reward” at the end of a trail, we’ll tend to just walk until we feel we’ve had enough exercise for the day, and then head back to the car. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy the journey. Although, whenever Al looks over his shoulder to check on me, he comments that I don’t look like I am enjoying myself. I simply do not have a poker face, and so you can plainly see that I struggle as we climb in elevation. But I tend to skip along without a care in the world when we are heading back down hill.
We hiked Bull Of The Woods Wheeler Peak Trail last week. It is classified as difficult. We were above 9,000 feet in elevation, so we felt the breathing challenge. But the temperature was perfect, we were surrounded by dense woods, and there was a luscious river keeping us company as we climbed up the mountain. We stopped and chatted with a guy along the path to ask him if the trail led to a scenic overlook or lake. He told us he had been hiking for about 8 hours that day, and was picking mushrooms. 8 hours? Why are we asking him for directions when he is obviously lost? And for goodness sakes, I wouldn’t even know which of the thousands of mushrooms we had seen on the trail were edible. For all we knew, that guy was tripping on those shrooms.
A few days later we hiked the Slot Canyon Trail at Tent Rocks National Monument. This was a shorter hike than Bull of the Woods, and only about 10 floors in ascent compared to the 25 floors we did at Wheeler Peak. But this trail would prove to be my ultimate challenge.
We arrived around 12:30pm, in the heat of the day. I think the temp got to 96º that day, which felt well over 100º in the direct sun. The park ranger at the gate informed us that the top of the trail closes at 3:30pm, and that he would be up there to usher everyone off the mountain top at that time. The reason for this is so that everyone gets down and off the mountain before the sun goes down and they close the gates. He can also make sure that no one is stranded or hurt along the trail as he follows the last person out.
As soon as you step foot on the trail, you begin to feel the climb as the sand trail makes every step more of a challenge than it needs to be. There are parts of the trail where large boulders block your passage and require that you climb over them. And then you begin a steep climb up the mountain. It all amounted to my perfect storm. I was huffing and puffing, my head spinning from the heat, and fighting the urge to throw up my lunch. My legs were weak and wobbly from the constant climb. Al was a great partner and helped pull me up quite a few times. But I was quite determined to make it to the top of the mountain.
This got me to thinking about ego. My ego was taking quite the pounding because I thought I was in better shape than that. Ego is like a double edged sword. It looks out for your comfort and survival, but it also makes you do some stupid shit. So in a situation like this, ego can make you give up because you’re just too uncomfortable and it’s just too hard, or it can give you a fierce determination to continue on and push past your discomforts. So, it can be seen as your ego fighting your ego. Which side of your ego will win?
I’m proud to say that I made it to the top of that mountain, and spent about 30 minutes trying to recuperate before we headed back down. I could see that others had a much easier time going up that mountain than I did. But I am not in a competition with anyone but myself, and I am proud of what I accomplished. On another day, I can maybe do that climb with much more ease, grace, and strength. It truly is a beautiful trail, and I would be happy to do it again. But maybe first thing in the morning rather than in the heat of the afternoon.
As we lingered at the top of the mountain, I thought about that park ranger saying that he was going to be up there at 3:30 to clear everyone out. I began wondering if he had a secret elevator that takes him to the top. Or maybe a helicopter. We passed him as we made our descent and he was headed up. I couldn’t believe it. He makes that climb everyday!!! I joked with him about my secret elevator theory. He replied that the Bureau of Land Management would never invest money to make his job easier. This broke my heart, these unappreciated rangers who work so hard to keep the parks in a condition to be enjoyed by all of us. They truly are the caretakers of this land. I assured him that I would be willing to pay extra in taxes to make his job easier. But if I had to guess, just feeling appreciated by all of us for the work they do, and picking up after ourselves, would make a world of difference in their life’s.
And so, this wraps up our westward journeys this year. We make our way east tomorrow, looking for lower elevations and higher humidity. See you on the road.
Written by: Elizabeth DiPace
Today we celebrate our 2 year nomadic-versary in Taos, NM. Looking back at our blog entries, it seems we have only done one other entry since or 1 year nomadic-versary. We’re pretty good about posting pics to our Instagram page once we leave South Florida, but we thought we’d be better at this whole blogging thing than we are. The reality is, we have a lot that we juggle, and this is low on that list.
WORK AND TRAVEL
Between us, we have 5 Instagram pages, and 3 Facebook pages, and 3 blogs that we manage for personal and business purposes. And even the business accounts don’t get as much attention as we would like. There are many travel bloggers who have made their living as a “professional travel blogger”. We, on the other hand, saw where the business we already had in place could easily go mobile. We feel we have been very successful in owning our own profitable business, and making it fit into a lifestyle of freedom and travel that we craved.
It’s not always been graceful. I work from home, but Al flies all over the world for his clients. This may mean a 6 hour drive to and from the airport to drop him off, depending on where we are staying. A lot of times, we only have a month notice about a job. We obviously need to plan our campsites much further in advance than a month if we want a good site, or if we want to avoid having to move the RV from site to site within the same campground. While I do fine on my own, I do not want to have to move this RV by myself. So, this all requires a lot of planning, as well as the need to stay very flexible.
But our business does take us back to South Florida every year for about 5 months. Because this just feels like “home” to us, even though we are still in the RV, we don’t tend to post pics that often during those months. It’s when we leave South Florida that we get inspired by all the beauty that is so different from what we take for granted back home. And what’s there to write about when you’re just home, working, paying bills, and stationary? I doubt anyone wants to read about my trips to Publix. It’s as if the inspiration is “out there somewhere”, like the New Yorker who never visited the Statue of Liberty.
We’re a big believer in keeping our private lives private, and we don’t like to post the negative stuff. Not because we want to create an image that all is peachy and perfect, but because harping on it doesn’t correct the situation. But we realize this leaves others who may be planning to take the BIG JUMP without enough information, and therefore they are mentally unprepared for the challenges that may arise. So here is the real low down on being full time RV’ers: It is a love / hate relationship.
There are times when Al and I are visiting some amazing bucket list place, and I find myself so grateful for the freedom and experience. I realize how lucky we are to be standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon and looking out at the vast beauty before us. This is why we do this, and this is what makes life worth living for us.
Our costs are definitely way down, and we view possessions and money much differently than we did before. We have been able to see our first full fall season in over 25 years, which was a big treat for us (there is no fall season in South Florida, no leaves changing colors). We were also able to spend extended periods of time with our nieces and nephews while they are still kids, and not quite yet teens. We are able to pick up and move easily when a hurricane threatens, which has been a big comfort during hurricane season. Al no longer has to mow the lawn, or worry that the roof will spring a leak every time it rains, resulting in shelling out another $500. He doesn’t hear me nagging him about something I want fixed or updated (I don’t nag, but that’s the word he would use).
But on the flip side, I feel very isolated at times. Many RV’ers talk about the close knit RV community. We’ve not experienced that. We are shy and keep to ourselves. We spend most of the time inside our RV because we are working. And we find that we have a different neighbor every few days. For me, the isolation has been the hardest part. I love my alone time, but everyone has their limits.
Another challenge has been space. I wish with all my heart that there was more room inside to exercise or do my yoga. If you are energetically sensitive, as I am, an RV can be just too small for your aura and energy field. If we have to run the generator, I feel bombarded. The AC is incredibly loud for me, and so close to my head. And I cannot focus on anything at all when the dryer is running. And if I cook curry, fish, or onions, it will smell in here for at least 3 days.
And FYI, it doesn’t matter how great of an AC system you have, it can only cool your RV by 10 degrees compared to the outside temp. So, if it is 96 outside, the coolest you can get it inside is 86. We were in Utah once, and the temp reached 114 outside, and about 99 inside. I must note here, if you are able to get a shady spot, the cooling capabilities are much more significant.
To be honest, there have been times when I really felt “stuck” in this lifestyle, and could not see a way out. Al loves it. Me, not so much. Or at least, not 100% of the time. I want him to have the life of his dreams. Does this mean we have to go our separate ways? But Al will always chooses me over this lifestyle, and tries to find ways to make this work for both of us.
At one point, when I was close to an absolute breakdown, and was expressing my discontent, Al asked me “Then what’s the point of the Our Big Windshield blog and Instagram account? Is it just for show?” It was an honest question. I explained that it is a way to keep reminding myself of all the amazing things we have been able to see and do as a result of this lifestyle, as well as a way for me to be engaged with the RV community in some way.
Al is amazingly considerate and looks out for my comfort at all times. He setup a wireless audio system so that he can listen to the TV on headphones as to not disturb me while I am sleeping. He switched out the recliner system for a very cute purple couch so that I feel more like I am in a house. He takes care of all the exterior breakdown and setup on RV moving day.
I don’t have to do any of the destination planning. I just tell him what I’d like to see and where I’d like to go, and Al makes it happen. When planning our trek from point A to B, he tries to keep the drive days to no more that 5 hours (when practical) because he knows I really cannot function after a long day on the road. And he makes sure that any campground he books is really nice, while sticking to our budget.
Now, I realize all of this makes me sound terribly fussy, and Al seems like a saint, and you may be right on both counts. But truth be told, Al likes really nice things too, so he doesn’t do all of this just for me. And he truly enjoys the research and planning of our travels.
When I had reached my wits end, we discussed renting a house or apartment somewhere for 6 months or year and taking a break from the RV life. But where? One of the major reasons we made this big lifestyle change is to sample different areas and see where we would like to move to permanently and put down roots. We’ve not found that yet. In short, we don’t know where we want to live temporarily or permanently. So finding a place to rent temporarily feels like we’d be forcing something.
And yet, as we start planning out our spring and summer for next year, I am excited at the prospect to traveling up and down the east coast of the US, spending time in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and Nova Scotia.
So, these are the hard truths to consider if you are planning to go full time in your RV. As much as we did our research beforehand, there are things we just could not anticipate. If you’ve already taken that big leap, and you are finding the dream has many unexpected pitfalls, you are not alone. And if you had to give up the dream quicker than you thought, that does not make you a failure, nor does it mean you made a bad decision. There are many things to be gained from this experience. It will transform you in ways you did not see coming, and that was the whole point anyway, wasn’t it?
So, as Elizabeth pointed out, I do love this RV Living Lifestyle. It’s far from perfect, but I’ve found it satisfying on many levels. I think my approach to it was quite reasonable and realistic. Especially compared to so many others I’ve seen online sharing their experiences. According to a lot of other full-timers, they didn’t research enough and got themselves into RVs that ultimately didn’t suite them. I get how not completely understanding what your situation is until you’re living in it. So, I’ve felt very fortunate that the motorhome we bought ended up suiting us relatively well; and we really didn’t looked at that many. We just knew we wanted a Class A, not being pick-up truck people. We were looking for something used but in decent shape, not a fixer-upper. We were just adamant we needed a bath and a half, as well as a washer & dryer, because giving up certain creature comforts just wasn’t part of the arrangement we were looking to have. That quickly weeded out a good chunk of unwanted RVs. So it was just a matter of us, together, climbing into enough rigs that met our criteria, to find the one we’d end up buying. That happened the first day visiting an RV dealership.
Two years later, I’ve been pretty happy with our slightly used, 2016 Thor Challenger 37LX motorhome, with no desire to trade it in or upgrade. We’ve all heard the horror stories of folks buying their brand new RV, just to have to return ‘em to the dealership for repairs. Sure, we had our initial period of shoring up and fixing things, most of which we figured out on our own, or was able to have serviced while at our campsites. This process just allowed me to get more acquainted with my RV, which I greatly desired. Figured the more I understood the inner workings of this RV, the less stress I’d feel living in it. Being able to easily troubleshoot when things malfunction, just gives me a lot of comfort.
I entered this RVing lifestyle with the attitude that it was going to be challenging at times (hence the motorhome’s name Challenger). I was going to be learning a lot on how my RV operated and how it’s different systems worked and how to manage them. I was prepared to deal with things not working correctly at times and did my best to educate myself on how to deal with those. I wanted to master this lifestyle!
Mastering this lifestyle also meant learning how to adapt our everyday life to it. Luckily our business was a relatively easy fit, and I personally didn’t find the slimmer quarters problematic. Having the half bath (which is essentially my own private little room), a bedroom that can be closed off from the rest of the RV, and Bluetooth headphone technology made sharing the smaller space a easier than I even expected. Figured we’re still better off than most sharing a NYC apartment.
Having the outdoor space, complete with built in TV, which I admit to snickering at when first seeing it, also offers yet another way to spread out some. Of course, enjoying the outdoor space doesn’t always prove doable as conditions aren’t always ideal. The awning can only help so much against rain, angle of the sun, gusty winds, extreme temperatures, and mosquitoes. Even when all those issues are good, your neighbor’s smelly sewer hose being a tad too close can kill the atmosphere.
But I digress, back to mastering this lifestyle. And when I say mastering, I mean living this nomadic life so that it feels relatively easy and stress free. Going through all of the different processes of moving the RV, setting it up, living in it, packing it up, and moving it again without crying out “what the hell was I thinking?!”
Not sure if I’d call myself an RV Master now, but I’ve definitely learned so much in the past 2 years that now days this RVing thing seems like a breeze. Far less angst, malfunctions, and energy spent on overcoming undesirable situations. Much of that was realizing we were moving around way too much. We now stay longer in fewer campgrounds. We stayed in 41 different campgrounds our first year, compared to 24 this last year.
Dealing with our tandem tow dolly, which has been a huge source of anxiety due to its size and weight, has also improved. Seemed like we were always having to unhitch it, and rarely under optimal conditions. Then there was that time one of its wheels flew off while driving down the interstate, but we won’t get into that now. However, lately with our “Move Less, Stay Longer” strategy, as well as learning to book our sites a more carefully now, it’s also been less of an issue.
Ultimately, the most important thing I learned was how Elizabeth dealt with it all. I assumed a lot about how we’d live and travel, based on my own approach to things. Not realizing a few things would be more difficult for her. For example, I love to drive and figured there would be times when I’d forgo a campground stay to drive late into the night to get the miles in. We’d just pull into a Walmart or rest-stop whenever I was ready to sleep. While I’m driving, I assumed she’d just enjoy the ride, maybe do some work on her laptop or phone at times, watch some TV or go in the back and sleep or nap as she pleased. Turns out she really wasn’t that kind of passenger. She couldn’t sleep so she’d stay up front with me, concentrating on the drive almost as much as myself, eventually needing us to stop due to her own exhaustion. I don’t schedule us on drives like that any more, and everyone’s happier now.
Isolation is another aspect I didn’t anticipate. The incredibly friendly RV community was one of the things we heard so much about, but never materialized for us. I’m guessing the main reason is that we’re simply younger and still working compared to the typical retirees we find parked around us most of the time. Both Elizabeth and I operate well on our own, so being alone isn’t that big of a deal. But I travel a lot for work, leaving Elizabeth spending extended periods of time alone in places where she doesn’t know anyone. I know that it takes a toll. And even when I’m home, it’s just the two of us most of the time, and I do miss us interacting with friends or family. Thank goodness for social media.
All in all I feel blessed that we’ve been able to experience this lifestyle and pull off this experiment of sorts, rather successfully. I appreciate the opportunities it allows us, to change course whenever we want, the countless options it affords, and to go to places we probably wouldn’t see otherwise. I really like that as we move forward, we can continue to make adjustments so that this lifestyle is comfortable for both of us. Not locking us into any particular routine, travel pattern or place. We’re essentially free to go where we want for as long as we want. I’ve never felt as in control of my life, as I do now, and I really like that.
Love, Al and Liz