8 Weeks as Full-time RVers!

It’s been several weeks since our last post. The past few days we’ve reflected a bit on what we wanted to convey in this entry. It is our hope that what we share from our experiences will help others who are considering a full-time RV lifestyle. We are still newbies and will consider ourselves as such until we have at least a year behind us.

We’re still smiling!

Hindsight Leads to Insight

The pace that we kept from October 2017, when we decided to shift to full-time RVers, until July 29 of this year, when we launched full-time, was quite daunting. In hindsight, we should have slowed our pace and extended our launch date another few months. Downsizing was by far the largest task at hand, especially after 43 years of creating our household! Anticipating our house rent would increase in the crazy Denver housing market was part of the impetus for setting July 29 as our launch date. We also wanted to gain some experience with the trailer before autumn and winter arrived. (Ahem…we are certainly doing this!)

The reality is that our July 29-September 2 Midwestern Loop schedule didn’t permit enough “down time” for spending at our campsites. We wouldn’t trade visiting our family and friends for anything. Instead, we should have tweaked our schedule. It’s one thing to have a road trip with just a vehicle, but an entirely different situation when towing a trailer that is one’s home! In retrospect, we needed the extra time to decompress from the pre-launch frenzy.

We are now viewing the Midwestern Loop as our “shake down” trip. Literally, we had some screws loosen in the trailer and a fault develop with our truck bed topper! We also had a good dose of reality those first six weeks going from one campground to another and refining our abilities as far as unhitching/hitching and setting up/breaking camp routines. After 44 years of tent camping, this requires a different skill set! Problem solving through various trouble spots has helped us become better acquainted to the nuances of owning a trailer and big diesel pickup!

Back in Colorado

Alas, when we arrived in Colorado Springs on Labor Day, we spent several days as tourists with dear friends of ours from Pennsylvania. Our daughter and son-in-love drove down from Denver to share in part of one afternoon. It was fantastic to hike the Garden of the Gods, drive up to Pikes Peak, tour the Cave of the Winds, and witness the beauty of the Air Force Academy chapels. 

Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs with our Pennsylvania friends.
Protestant Chapel, Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs

A few days later we shifted gears to a week’s stay in the Denver Metro area at Chatfield State Park. We had previously scheduled dental, doctor, and truck oil-change appointments knowing that we’d be back in September. Having time with family was the icing on the cake! Our daughter and son-in-love joined us for camping and hiking at Golden Gate Canyon State Park!

Golden Gate Canyon State Park, hiking with our family.

Truck Issues

The irony of our return to Denver is that with each appointment for the truck, we found ourselves needing to schedule more time in Denver to address truck issues. Thus, our time was extended and reservations to camp at Rocky Mountain National Park were cancelled.

  1.  Our four-month old SnugTop topper had a component break on the rear window when we were in Kansas. The topper was removed by our dealer in Littleton and freighted back to the manufacturer in California for repairs. It’s due back in two weeks. We will return!

    Back to storage we go with items from the trailer or bed of the truck!

    No topper makes a naked looking truck! At least we did some reorganizing and donated more items to ARC!
  2. At Big O Tires, we had a new set of four tires installed and decided to replace the spare too. Oops…the spare tire “key” wasn’t left behind by the previous owner of our truck. (Admittedly, we assumed that everything for changing a spare was packed with the tire-changing kit. Used truck buyer fail on our part). It took some doing with a trip to a different Ford dealer that had a “key” and removed the old spare for us. Back to Big O we went to have the new tire installed on the rim.

    Removing Spare Tire
  3. We left Denver last Thursday to head to the mountains for what we thought would be three weeks only to be faced with a truck engine that was losing power on steep inclines. The turbo boost wouldn’t engage. Fortunately, we made it to Golden Gate Canyon State Park campground, where we stayed for three beautiful days. We were able to schedule a service appointment at our Ford dealer on Tuesday of this week (one week after it was serviced for an oil change) plus get a rental car for a couple of days. Thankfully the drive back to Denver was mostly downhill. Answered prayers were being able to reserve a spot back at Chatfield State Park and having the truck repaired!

    “The Little Engine that Could” Rental Car 🙂

Intentional Awareness

In an attempt to create “Life at the Speed of Sanity”, this is our short list of “intentional awareness” on which we hope to stay focused:
Be flexible.
Be patient.
Balance our pace.
Have a Plan B at all times.
Autumn and winter weather are around the corner.
Smile.
Laugh.

The list looks good. Now to put these into practice.

The mountains are calling!

Colorado Gold at Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Living “Life at the Speed of Sanity”!

~ Diane & Steve

 

Four Weeks & Learning Curves!

Four weeks!

Yesterday was Sunday, August 26 and we observed four weeks since launching full-time! Where did those four weeks go? Admittedly, it is absolutely fantastic to not be madly downsizing and fretting over what to keep, donate, or sell. The full-time RVing lifestyle feels like a good choice for us. We are incredibly grateful to be engaged in this lifestyle. One of our tenets is that “Life isn’t about the stuff, but about the relationships in life!” Thus far, it’s given us opportunities to see many family members and friends.

Yesterday was a leisurely day spent having a phone call with our daughter and son-in-love, having lunch with Steve’s aunt, going to “Incredibles 2”, walking a nice paved trail along a river and recreation fields (rugby, soccer, and baseball), and reading. We remarked that this was the first day of some “normal” activities and not spent driving to the next campsite or having a packed schedule.

Learning Curves!

Our learning curves keep us smiling for the most part. We thought that we’d share a few that we’ve encountered thus far.

A current learning curve is trying to really grasp the size of our gray water tank. This tank captures the dirty water from our kitchen and bathroom sinks, and shower. Despite our efforts, the sensor lights on the gray tank indicate that we are filling it faster than we realize. Today to slow the use of our gray tank, Steve showered in the city park’s shower house. I washed dishes in our tubs that we’ve used for tent camping. Thus far the black water tank, which is from our toilet use, seems to handle our usage. We head to the campground toilets when it is feasible.

We are better mastering the hitching and unhitching process. The largest learning curve has been the weight distribution hitch. We’ve had a sudden “POP” sound take place when we’ve made a tight corner. The one sway bar popped out of position twice. After some research, Steve adjusted the braces onto which the sway bars rest. Fortunately, we’ve kept a nice range of tools, so adjustments could be more readily made.

Sway bar snaps off of bracket!
Keeping the toolbox handy!

Using phone apps has been helpful in many aspects. Love’s App worked great to provide a Love’s near us for refilling one of our LP gas tanks for the first time two weeks ago. We’ve also used Gas Buddy many times to locate diesel for the truck, although the prices given on the app often change for a station several times each day. The KOA (campgrounds) app works like a charm. We’re not staying at too many KOA’s, but when we need to book, it’s an easy app to use. Anticipating travel on county or state roads between Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska, we wanted to be mindful of low clearance bridges or underpasses. The RV Parky App is working well for identifying these areas. Our height with the AC unit is 11’ 6”. We also use the Good Sam Club’s website. Unfortunately, they don’t have a Good Sam App, which we find a curiosity.

Refilling L.P. at a Love’s Station
KOA Campgrounds

We gave up our Cuisinart 12-cup coffee maker when we downsized. First, space is precious in our abode on wheels. Secondly, we may not always have electric hookups that support having an electric coffee maker or grinder! We moved to making French Press coffee. It’s delicious. The learning curves related to making French Press are using a manual grinder, which is frustrating for Diane due to her thumb arthritis, and not having 10 or 12 cups of coffee to gradually drink over the course of a day (our former habit). 😊

Wake up and smell the French Press coffee

Just as we did with our former residences whether in homes that we owned or rented, there are learning curves. We shall see what other curves pop up unexpectedly as we go along!

We are still on our Midwestern Loop and over the next week we’ll make our way back to Colorado for two and a half weeks. The Midwest has provided some picturesque views and for the most part quite green!

A view from a Midwestern city park campground!

~ Happy Trails to you!
“Living Life at the Speed of Sanity”

Diane & Steve

The Pace of All Paces!

It’s day #24 since we launched! We’ve intentionally taken a break from posting on 12mph.com until we have enjoyed some time and experiences along our travels. We post more frequently on Instagram and often with more photos than will appear on 12mph.com. If you are so inclined, please find us on Instagram @speedofsanity.

We have logged many miles in a Midwestern Loop that has taken us to Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin thus far. Our stays have been in four state parks, a county park, and one city park. Originally, we thought that we would “catch our breath” on this first jaunt. The reality is that we’ve experienced very little down time. “Why?” you ask?

We are passionate about the relationships in life. These include staying connected with family, friends, and communities. Thus, we built our trip to see many family members and some friends. In fact, we have seen 96 family and friends as of this post! More visits will be enjoyed in Minnesota and Nebraska!

Several gatherings included a meaningful afternoon at the Belle Plaine Area Museum, family gatherings in Iowa and Minnesota, and reunion gatherings with friends. Incorporating these visits with the anticipation of the upcoming autumn season at higher elevations in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, we knew that we needed to keep the pace moving!

What we’ve discovered about full-timing

Wi-Fi access and cell service are luxuries. Our Verizon Hotspot is wonderful, but once we hit 15 gig per phone, the service is throttled to a slower pace despite being coined “unlimited”. We’ve been to numerous public libraries and coffee shops to gain access to Wi-Fi. We also have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that we use when on public Wi-Fi networks. It provides added security, which is wise. Although we’ve discovered that only one of us can use the VPN at a time with success. The second user signed into the VPN finds an extremely slow experience.  Most of the state parks have little to no cell phone service (much like a national park). This makes for feeling a bit too disconnected from our adult children at the moment, mainly due to these limitations and time zone differences.

Washers and dryers are luxuries.  Our laundering costs are running roughly $15 every nine days. Once we return to a more arid climate in Colorado, we won’t sweat as much and can wear tops and shorts an extra day or two! Plus we will dry many of our clothes on a drying rack instead of using a clothes dryer. Grieder’s Wash & Dry in Belle Plaine, Iowa was wonderful with spic-and-span washers, dryers, and overall cleanliness. How we’d love to replicate this visit! Another laundromat in Two Rivers, Wisconsin had us steeped in a heat-and-humidity sauna with many washers or dryers out of order and significant stains on the carpeted floor.

We should train for a rodeo! There have been some interstates, U.S. highways, and county roads that were awfully bumpy. We felt like we were in Bucking Bronco rather than in a truck named Bessie. We are making a list of the worst roads so as to avoid them upon a future venture to the Midwest.

We are trailer technicians in training. While we’d like to say that the trailer is ideal, we’ve had a few issues along the way. That’s how it goes with new homes, right? At the top of the list is the hitch sway bars. Fortunately, Steve kept a wide range of tools, so he’s been able to make adjustments to the sway bars. We are creating a short list of concerns that we’ll address with the R.V. dealer when we visit them in October. In the meantime, we’ll tend to items that need immediate attention.

Our eating habits need to be revised. The hospitality of family and friends has been heart-warming and tummy-filling. Most of our visits have included delicious meals and desserts. We are grateful for grocery stores and Midwest farm stands with fresh produce. The tomatoes and sweet corn have been amazing! Occasionally we are satisfied with canned fruit that we keep as a pantry staple.

Our pace has tampered with our activity level. While we’ve managed a short bike ride once, we’ve enjoyed several walks or hikes. Nevertheless, we are in deficit mode and anticipate returning to more rigorous hiking and biking with more regularity.  Although, our hike with friends in High Cliff State Park in Wisconsin had a nice ascent with beautiful view of Lake Winnebago.

Heat and humidity made 30-amp service an essential. It didn’t take long to enter sweat mode with very little effort. Some days we’ve showered twice or changed clothes twice. We knew this would be the case, so we reserved campsites two months ago based on needing 30-amp service to run the air conditioner.

The local townspeople are good conversationalists. In Mankato, Cawker City, and Belle Plaine, we’ve passed many a minute or hour with local folks who have been very helpful, kind, and interesting. There’s a pace to rural living that we should all experience. At times we pine for this type of community, in which we were raised or where we visited grandparents.

Where have we been?

Kansas

Lovewell State Park northeast of Mankato. The setting was very pleasant. Campsites in the loop where we stayed were spaced so that we didn’t feel packed into the park. We had a mature Cottonwood tree that gave us shade. Hookups included electric and water. Sunsets were gorgeous. We enjoyed conversations with the locals in Mankato and Cawker City. In Cawker City, we visited the largest ball of twine with over eight-million feet of sasal twine and roughly 20,000 pounds. We also saw a gorgeous restored pipe organ in the United Methodist Church. The organ is the oldest organ in Kansas, which was built in 1886 by Pilcher’s Sons of Louisville. We also visited the Geographical Center of the Continental U.S. near Lebanon, Kansas.

Oldest Organ in Kansas

Iowa

Prairie Rose State Park south of Harlan was a quiet setting with a nice view of the lake. What really captivated us were the songs of birds! Their tweets, chortles, and melodies brightened our days. We had full hookups, so we were spoiled. Harlan is a well-maintained community of roughly 5,000 residents. It offers many amenities including parks and a large public library. As Harlan is the county seat for Shelby County, the courthouse sits on a beautiful town square with many restored façades. On the square is the Sandwich Board where we grabbed yummy sandwiches.

Belle Plaine, Iowa (Diane’s hometown).  The 2010 Census has Belle Plaine with 2,534 residents. It’s along the Lincoln Highway and Iowa Valley Scenic Byway.  At Franklin Park for $10 per night, we had water and electric hookups plus a dump station at this small campground. Views of the park were very pretty. We walked to “downtown” several times due to being just blocks away. The Lincoln Café and the Ice House are popular eateries. The Lincoln has been around for many decades, thus it has a loyal following. Diane once caught the Greyhound bus from the Lincoln for a trip to Colorado as an 18-year old! We spent time at the Community Library accessing Wi-Fi. Across the street is the Belle Plaine Area Museum, which is an absolute gem! On August 5, we had a lovely gathering there where Diane shared a presentation on her great-grandparents along with the assistance of cousins, sister and brother-in-law, and Steve. Several family members brought items for display. We also donated many heirlooms that will be enjoyed by visitors as part of future exhibits. Returning to hometown territory was a walk-down-memory-lane for which we were grateful.

McLennan Plumb Descendants

Illinois

Shabbona Lake State Park in Shabbona, Illinois is tucked back in a deciduous woodland of walnuts, maples, and thick vegetation. It’s only a five-minute drive south of U.S. 30. We had 30-amp electric hookup. Near the entrance of the campground we filled our fresh water tank. They also offered a dump station, which we used upon check-out. The location of Shabbona to attend gatherings in the western suburbs of the Chicago area made for quite a bit of driving. After having lived in the Chicago suburbs for 32 years, we knew the challenges we’d face with the trailer included finding a campground, expensive tolls, and traffic congestion. Thus, it made sense to stay where we did. We had very active squirrels dislodge walnuts from the tree above the trailer. Thud! Several times whole walnuts bounced off the trailer roof or awning.

Camping at Shabbona Lake State Park, Illinois

Wisconsin

Sherwood, Wisconsin is not far from the shores of Lake Winnebago. We had the luxury of parking Tranquility (our trailer) on our friends’ driveway and staying in their guest room. It was divine! Their beautifully landscaped yard was dotted with color from carefully placed annuals, perennials, shrubs, and planters. A variety of birds visited the bird feeders or feasted on mature seedheads. Our friends’ hospitality made us feel like we could stay for days!

Point Beach State Forest is north of Two Rivers, Wisconsin along Lake Michigan. Our family has been camping here over four generations, so it holds a special place in our hearts and memories. We had 30-amp electric. They offered a fresh-water fill and dump station within easy access. Our site was surrounded with thick vegetation and mature trees. We were about 200 yards from the waterfront. Lake Michigan’s water level has risen, so the beach was not its usual expansive play area. It was fantastic to walk the narrow strand of beach with small waves breaking and lake gulls scurrying.

Point Beach State Forest, Wisconsin

Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas….Stay tuned as we finish our Midwestern Loop!

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We’re enjoying Life at the Speed of Sanity!
Diane & Steve Felt