Our Planning Techniques

THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM A.K.A. PLAN AHEAD

A big takeaway since launching as full-timer RVers on July 29, 2018 is to plan ahead. The popularity of RVing continues to grow with retirees as well as for those in their 20s-50s. According to a November 12, 2018 Washington Post article https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/11/12/million-americans-live-rvs-meet-modern-nomads/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5034530e11aa, 1 million Americans live in RVs! Especially for those still working, our digital world makes it easier to work remotely as a “digital nomad”. Also, a growing number of families are home-schooling their children while RVing across the country. We met one family doing this and follow several other families on Instagram. As for the Early Bird, this past year we quickly discovered that to stay at the more popular national park and state park campgrounds, we needed to reserve several months to a year in advance!. With a 30’ trailer we don’t fit into just any spot! In fact, many state and national parks have a 30’ length restriction.

LAYING OUT A PLAN
This past year we traveled at a fast clip. We intentionally planned several trips within a year’s time based on a desire to see many family members and friends, to visit national parks and state parks, and to more fully embrace a full-time RV lifestyle. Laying out a plan depends on our goals, the amount of driving required, and our camping budget.

Our Goals
Our goals vary from long term goals (visit the 407 national parks and monuments) to short term goals. Last year we wanted to visit as many friends and family as we could. It involved driving many miles and having many shorter trips. This winter we will be exploring Arizona State Parks, which should be less driving and longer stays. Along the way we like to visit museums or local attractions, pause to enjoy quirky Americana, taste pies and ice cream, hike, and bike.

Ice Cream Sundae at Yesterday’s Soda Fountain & Restaurant, Ennis, Montana
California State Capitol, Sacramento California
Jebediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

Amount of Driving
After having driven 45,000 miles since March 2018 when we purchased our pick-up (that’s 15 months), the amount of driving required to attain our traveling goals translates into costs in fuel, tires, maintenance, and wear-and-tear. This is changing because we cannot keep up this pace. Longer driving days and multiple days in a row can be fatiguing when pulling a trailer.

Camping Budget
As retirees, budget considerations are key since we are attempting to live more frugally. RV resorts, while they have some lovely hotel-quality amenities, can be quite pricey. We stayed in a KOA resort in Tucson when there were no other options when planning last minute. We stayed at other KOA campgrounds across the country when state or national parks weren’t an option. For KOAs, there are budget, mid-range, and resort franchises, with the resorts often near larger cities. We have stayed at several privately owned RV parks. An even more budget-friendly approach has been to reserve in state park, national park, county or municipal campgrounds. A free or nearly-free option has been staying on Public Lands i.e. BLM (Bureau of Land Management), U.S. Forest, and National Recreation Areas. With public land stays, there are typically no hookups and even water may not be available. Beginning this summer we hope to explore more public land stays in Colorado. Over the winter, we will check out Utah, Nevada, and Arizona public lands.

Park pass discounts have made a difference. We both have a Senior Lifetime National Park Pass. Besides free admission into National Parks and Monuments, we also receive a 50% discount on campsite fees. When we anticipated staying in a state park longer than a night or two, we explored the cost savings if we would purchase an annual pass. Several state park passes have already paid for themselves thanks to the discounts on campsite fees. We also have a KOA Value Card membership which provides discounts.

TRIP PLANNING TOOLBOX
By early June, we had our goals for the remainder of 2019 and up to mid-June 2020 identified. We spent several hours planning through April 2020. To plan, we used resources from our trip planning toolbox, which are highlighted below:

Pad of Paper
A good old-fashioned pad of paper and pen or pencil works for us to jot down notes, ideas, and dates as we refine our plans.

Google Calendar
We have a Google Calendar that is just for travel. In fact, it is a shared calendar with our children so they can check on our upcoming travels and vice versa.

Facebook RV Groups & Instagram RV Travelers
We are on Facebook with several RV groups, which have been invaluable for ideas, trouble-shooting concerns with the trailer, and connecting with RVers. A main “go-to” for us is “Where’d You Stay RV” with over 20,000 members! Using the search feature, we search by city, state, state park, national park, and so on. Once we had a list of campgrounds that we liked, we wrote down the dates when people had stayed there.

With Instagram, we are following a growing number of other full-time RV travelers. Similar to the technique with Facebook, we revisited a handful of Instagram friends’ photos and posts. One couple in particular are also retirees and last year traveled with their RV through Arizona from West to East, lower elevation to higher elevation across the winter months. Their posts were extremely helpful for gleaning campgrounds, dates, and weather.

Weather Underground
Once we had the places and dates, we used Weather Underground’s website: https://www.wunderground.com/. For instance, I entered “Lake Havasu City, Arizona” and searched for January 16, 2018 (last year’s information). Of course, the weather changes from year to year, but we thought it would at least give us a base reading and avoid weather extremes.

Google Maps
When we’re at the campground’s website and have the campground map showing the campsites on our laptops, we also open Google maps in satellite view. On the laptop screen, we place the campground map and satellite view side by side. We may look for some shade in the warmer states or sunshine when we might not have an electrical hookup and rely on our solar panel. Orienting north-south and east-west, we can usually see “shade” or “sunshine” in the satellite view. We like to avoid being adjacent to the toilet facility, refuse area, and the RV dump station. We identify the primary road through the park or busy highways and railroads nearby. We select the campsite that we like based on the map, satellite view, and the information that is usually given about the particular campsite i.e. length, hookups, and if it’s a level site.

Your Thoughts?
Some of you camp in RVs or tents. What are some of your planning techniques? We’d love to hear from you and learn some additional tips.

We’re attempting to live “Life at the Speed of Sanity”!

~ Diane and Steve

 

Family & Friends Tour Concludes: Part Two of Two

This Part Two recap of the Family & Friends Tour provides statistics and other details of our trek across the miles.

Diverse Landscapes
We certainly experienced diverse landscapes these past 8 1/2 months. Miles of vastness met us over the Great Plains of the Midwest, across the windy flats between volcanic remnants in New Mexico, and throughout the high desert of western Texas. Crashing waves along Oregon’s coastline were thunderous and persistent, whereas the surf along the Gulf Coast in Alabama and Florida was much smaller and quieter in comparison. The many ranges of the Rocky Mountains with jagged and rocky precipices were stark in contrast to the more rolling and gentle Great Smoky Mountains. The hub-bub and traffic of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was a night and day difference to the much quieter and sensible pace of my hometown of Belle Plaine, Iowa.

Pacific Coast, Brookings, Oregon, November 2018
Hiking at Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson, Arizona, February 2019

Dotting the Map
From July 29, 2018 through April 15, 2019, we stayed at 59 different locations. This includes private/national park/state park/city/county campgrounds, boondocking on BLM/National Forest Lands, overnight drycamping/parking in casino or rest area parking lots, parking the trailer on the driveways of family or friends thereby staying in their comfy homes, and several hotel stays with the truck/trailer combo taking up parking lot space overnight.

Welcome to California! November 2018

We have camped in 23 states, yet been in 25 states. The two states where we didn’t camp were South Carolina and Florida for day-trips without the trailer. The 23 states in which we’ve camped (listed in order) include: Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. In 14 of these states, we stayed in State Park campgrounds. In several states we have  12-month State Park passes to enjoy discounts. Our National Park Senior Passes save us roughly 50% on national park campground fees. In our future slower pace, we look forward to more national park, BLM, or National Forest stays to support a more budget-friendly retirement!

Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson, Arizona, February 2019

Travel Highlights
Some of our favorite travel highlights includes places and cuisines. Favorite places include Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado), Craters of the Moon National Monument (Idaho), Redwoods National and State Parks (Oregon/California), Death Valley National Park (California), Brazos Bend State Park (Texas), San Antonio Missions National Park (Texas), Gulf Islands National Seashore (Florida), Bandolier National Monument (New Mexico), and adding South Carolina to our list of states visited. [Steve’s up to 49 states and I’m up to 44.] It’s of no surprise that we visited numerous national or state parks, since it’s part of our retirement goal.

An American Alligator in Brazos Bend State Park, near Needville, Texas, February 2019

Another highlight was the more regional cuisines across the United States with a virtual bushel-load and bakery-case of tasty, local flavors. Clam chowder along the Oregon coast, a Friendsgiving feast in Reno, Nevada, Tex-Mex fare in New Mexico and Texas, barbecue across the southern tier of states, and fish (fresh and fried) in Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. Hands-down, one of the most festive food stops was at the Elberta Sausage Festival in Elberta, Alabama (rich in German heritage).  Family and friends often prepared delicous home-cooked meals. Suffice it to say, the abundant caloric intake from both of us now has us on a journey to decrease our mid-sections!

Elberta Sausage Festival, Elberta, Alabama, March 2019
German Sausage with Sauerkraut

Mileage to Date
As of May 22, 2019, we have covered 27,967 miles in the truck and 16,215 of those miles towing the trailer. Perhaps not so surprisingly, we have acquired many additional truck miles in instances when we’re visiting several different family members or friends in a general locale or making the most as tourists or outdoor enthusiasts. We also put the trailer in storage for three weeks in Tucson for most of January 2019 in order to make just a road trip to and from Denver with the truck.

Concluding our Family & Friends Tour, Virginia, April 15, 2019

More Details to Come
We have been asked what our full-time RVing costs look like. We are currently in the process of calculating diesel, DEF fluid, truck & trailer servicing, campground fees, etc. Once we have reviewed these costs, we will share them.

I hope that you enjoyed this two-part recap of our Family & Friends Tour.

“Living Life at the Speed of Sanity”

– Diane (and Steve)

Family and Friends Tour Concludes: Part One of Two

We officially concluded our 8 ½ month Family & Friends Tour (F&FT), which we launched on July 29, 2018 from Denver, Colorado, in conjunction with our full-time RV lifestyle. As a perfect finish, we dined with my cousin, Jeff, and his partner, Mary, in Warrenton, Virginia, on April 15, 2019. (We hadn’t seen Jeff in 10 years and hadn’t yet met Mary). What an amazing and memorable Tour! Then the next morning Steve and I drove away from Charlottesville, Virginia to begin a quick dash west to Colorado and then Montana.

This post is Part One of a two-part recap of our F&FT.  Part One provides insight as to why we visited folks across the country and how fulfilling we found it.

July 29, 2018 Speed of Sanity Kickoff from Denver, Colorado and with daughter Stephanie’s good wishes for us!

Family, Friends, Acquaintances
Our hearts are absolutely full after having experienced time with many many people as part of the F&FT. These folks include family members, friends, acquaintances, and lovely visits with townspeople or other RVers along our journey. Our first trip out of retirement was to commit to possibly 8-12 months of travel to visit many people, to see beautiful parts of the United States, and to experience Americana along the way.

Life is about the Relationships
For years we have championed the significance of the many relationships and connections that we have made over the years in numerous communities and settings. Our mantra has been: “Life is about the relationships, not the stuff!” With respect to the mindset of our tour, have you ever been to a reunion? This tour was much like having many reunions over the months.

Over our lifetime, we’ve had many opportunities to share in carefully planned reunions or informal gatherings with family or friends. There were also baptisms, confirmations, graduations, weddings, and memorial services, where family and friends come from near and far to celebrate together.

For our Tour, we had fun planning our route based on family and friends, who we could visit while at the same time appreciate the beauty of our country plus escape wintry weather. Over and over again, we gathered with loved ones in their homes or at a favorite restaurant of theirs. It was like a reunion, but done almost one on one or family by family without a large gathering. We had time for longer and/or deeper conversations. Hands-down, it was such a pleasure and something that will remain with us.

McLennan Plumb Descendants gathering in Belle Plaine, Iowa, August 5, 2018

An Example of Small Town Hospitality
There were frequent times when we’d pull into a small town’s gas station or step inside a community’s public library, where we immediately experienced warm hospitality through a very nice conversation. In these situations, curiosity tends to lead the way whether we are the ones asking questions or the other party is seeking information from us. Where else can one enter a small town such as Cawker City, Kansas with its population of 469 (according to the 2010 Census), and end up having exchanges with several people over the course of two hours?

Our brief time in Cawker City will remain imprinted on our memories, perhaps since it was our first planned stop as full-time RVers. After all, we wanted to see the world’s largest ball of twine!

Largest Ball of Twine, Cawker City, Kansas, July 31, 2018

The folks we met included: Kathy, the librarian at the Cawker City Library; Linda, the caretaker of the largest ball of twine; the college intern (we didn’t want to interrupt his thoughtful work to catch his name) intently cataloging a rock collection at the historical society located in the former Hesperian Library; a trustee of the Cawker City United Methodist Church (he paused, rolled down his pickup window, and told us who he was) offering to open the church for us to view the historical 1886 Pilcher’s Brothers organ plus gave us a fresh muskmelon; and, Steve Richardson, Historical Society president and restoration specialist enthusiastically provided us an impromptu tour of the ongoing façade and interior renovation of the 1869 Ledger Building.  

Family & Friends Tour Concludes on April 15, 2019 with Dinner in Warrenton, Virginia with Jeff and Mary

Thank you to everyone who cheered us along our Family and Friends Tour! Despite having this Tour officially concluded, we look forward to seeing more of you who we weren’t able to see this past year. Stay tuned for Part Two of our Tour recap!

“Living Life at the Speed of Sanity”

~ Diane (and Steve)