- First Year
- As we passed the 'anniversary' date
marking the first year of our on-the-road
adventures and the adoption of a full-timing
RV lifestyle, we reflected on what we have
learned. Here are the main ideas; the things
that we would 'have done differently' and
other ideas that definitely worked for
(Left) is of one of the many murals found in
Twentynine Palms, California.
- Follow your checklist (Some may ask, what's a
checklist? Develop one checklist of tasks needed to be
completed before you 'break camp' and drive away and
another checklist for 'setting up' at the campsite).
Revise the checklists as you become more experienced and
more confident. We will always need and use the
checklists, but we have combined, reorganized, and
updated things. The more comfortable we got, the less we
relied on the lists for completing routine tasks.
Instead, we now use them as a final 'flight check.'
- Keep maps and travel guides handy. We first
kept our maps and travel guides stored in a bay
underneath our RV, but soon found that there were things
we enjoyed exploring regularly. Now we have moved some of
our lesser used items underneath and made space for the
- Velcro is your friend! What did we do before
Velcro? We hated the idea of moving things every time we
headed down the road, so we velcro-ed everything down - -
from clocks and knickknacks to baskets and Kleenex
dispensers. (And then there's duct tape; you never can
have too much duct tape, don't you think?)
- Take the time to unhook and explore. As we
drove through western Texas, we read about a state
historical park called Hueco
Tanks. Traveling through a long stretch of road
construction, we missed our turnoff and noticed that the
road into the park was rough. We considered skipping it;
but then reconsidered our mission. We're not in a race --
why not stop, unhook and go back? It was one of our best
day-trips of the season.
- Get outside every day. RVs get very cozy.
Everything you need seems to be at arm's reach. Remember
wherever you're at - - to take a walk, see the flowers,
and explore your surroundings. In fact that's a habit
that we got into even before becoming full-timers; but
now it is more important than ever.
- Try new hobbies and activities. If a few years
back, you would have asked us if we'd be birding or rock
hounding - - we would probably have laughed. These seemed
like such silly activities. The thought of carrying bird
books and binoculars while looking for tiny dots flying
high in trees was a little loony. Rock hunting was for
'nerdy' geologists carrying rock hammers who couldn't
interact with living things. Now we laugh at ourselves
instead of others as Annette smells tree-bark to decide
if it's a Ponderosa Pine or a Jeffery Pine (Below left).
We consider how silly we look bending over a pile of
skat, trying to decide if it's from a wolf, mountain
lion, bear, or passing pet dog. Now that we're on the
other side of the fence, we almost enjoy watching
tourists giggle at us as one or the other hangs out over
a cliff-face to get a good photograph of a cactus in
bloom. We now take time to explore why so many people do
things that others find so silly. As Mikey says: 'Try it,
you'll like it.'
- Be careful. If you get into a driving
situation that's scary, slow down. If you're unsure, pull
off in a safe place and check-it-out before going on.
We've had our share of icy roads, highway construction,
and traffic jams. People are very understanding.
- Avoid the big interstate highways unless you need
to move fast. Look for good quality two-lane roads
('blue highways') or four-lane state highways. Ask around
for the best routing and enjoy the countryside.
- Check your rig at every stop. Whether you pull
over for lunch, to get fuel., or just take a break, be
sure to do the 'walkabout' and visually check your tires,
tow bar, awnings, and tow vehicle. This routine saved our
tow vehicle when we found a crack in the hitch receiver
during a pit stop in eastern Wyoming.
- Use your navigator. Take the time to visually
check all corners (top, bottom, and sides) before pulling
forward or backing up. Those pesky curbs, poles, and
trees seem to appear out of thin air.
- Pick the signal system that works for you. We use a
combination of hand signals, mirrors, and handheld radios
depending on the situation. Develop a communication
system that's meaningful to you -- whether it's north,
south, east, west, left, right, or passenger-side,
- If someone honks at you, take it seriously.
Are you going too slow, is your tow vehicle's tire
low, or are the people in the other vehicle just from
Texas like you? It's worth the time to consider the
reason. We recently signaled a neighboring driver that
his trailer tire was smoking. Without help, he could
easily have lost his trailer.
- Watch out for each other. Most people are very
friendly. If you see someone with a low tire, loose
awning, or other mechanical problem, don't assume someone
else will notify them. You'd want someone to tell you.
For example, in Salt Lake City we noticed an RV rig with
a cable dragging on the ground. It turned out to be some
wiring from the hitch. It wasn't a huge problem, but we
helped prevent a rewiring job.
- Pick your times to move. On weekdays, the best
advice is to get away early in the morning. Stay put in
the campground through most weekends, especially during
summer vacation times. Arrive at a new location early in
the week for your choice of the best campsite. If you
must travel with your rig through a large metro area
(Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver and the like), early Sunday
morning is the best time. Better yet -- if you must visit
the big cities, park 'Harvey' outside of town and drive
- Pick a schedule that's best for you. On travel
days, rising early is a good idea but sometimes
unrealistic. Stopping by 2:00 p.m.
is also fine unless you have a definite destination. The
most important consideration is safety. You need to be
well rested. That may mean stopping early, taking a nap
in the middle of the day, or retiring early. We prefer to
arrive and set up before dark regardless of when we start
during the day. We enjoy traveling 2 or 3 days, then
staying put in one place for a month or more.
- Plan ahead. Reserve the RV campgrounds for
long stays (weeks or more). Insure that the phone
connection is all set and the mail comes your way. Most
campgrounds have improved rates for weeks and month
stays. Of course, we don't always follow our own rules.
It's often difficult to plan distances when you run into
winding roads, bad weather, and road construction. Be
flexible. You can always arrive a day late, stay in a
travel park, or boondock for the night.
- Enjoy 'window' shopping without the need to
buy. By this, we question how much more can we carry
-- how much do we need? Recently, we did find this neat
custom-made couch in Taos, NM for a bargain price of only
$5,200 - - and someday we might even go back and buy one
like it. But for now if we buy something new, its even
better if we can give away or discard something of
approximate same size and weight.
- Plan what you buy. We changed our buying
habits. We used to take expeditions to Sam's Club and
purchase everything from toothpaste to bulk rice. Now we
have quickly discovered that we don't have or need the
storage room for bulk purchases. However; we have three
exceptions to that rule. We don't want to run out of
deodorizer for our toilet/septic system, so we stock up.
We also go through lots of paper towels and drinking
water, so we buy those in bulk too. We're also readers,
so we still go to Sam's Club for good prices on books.
But, we now give them away when we're done reading.
- Keep a grocery list. Did we use the last
tomato sauce? Do we need more tuna? Are we running low on
paper plates? We can never remember the answers to these
questions when we enter the grocery store. It's not a
problem when you own a home. You just buy the tomato
sauce and put it in the pantry with the other dozen cans
you already had. In an RV, you don't have that extra
space. Create a master list of supplies and check off
what you purchase.
- Keep cutting back on the wardrobe. During the
first year, we weeded our clothing every few months.
On-the road, we found our needs were totally different.
At our previous home, we each had work clothes, play
clothes, and home clothes. We had clothes for every
season of the year. Now that we work and live on the
road, we still need sets of 'professional' work clothes
but not nearly as many as previously. We pick clothes
that travel well and that can be mixed and matched. Our
main wardrobe now is focused on comfort and service for
outdoor and casual activities. For example we do lots of
hiking, so which shorts are best? Finally, the home
clothes have changed. When you lounge around the RV, you
can wear practically anything. Remember that in RV
campgrounds, you really want comfortable but presentable
clothes. In other words, we don't want to be embarrassed
to sit at the picnic table or take a walk. With that in
mind, we noticed that during the year our clothing
improved. At first we relished wearing T-shirts everyday.
Then we recognized that though we wanted to be
comfortable, it also felt good to dress just a little
nicer. These days we are more often found in casual,
sport shirts than T-shirts.
- Get rid of duplicates. When we started out, we
took all our towels. Fancy ones, everyday, and car
washing towels. We've found that we wash clothes
regularly, so we don't need many towels. Without a
"guest" bath, there's little sense in 'fancy towels.'
We're down to indoor and outdoor towels. We each have our
favorite two bath towels and a few towels for pool and
- Toss extra appliances. Do you really need a
popcorn popper, breadmaker, and salad shooter? Microwave
popcorn, locally made bakery bread, and a hand-sliced
tomatoes are just fine. We're down to a stove top,
microwave/convention oven, and a toaster oven. On the
other hand, we found that a couple of new appliances were
helpful. A Dirt Devil is the one vacuum that we need. A
small portable humidifier is great for dry winters and a
small air filter comes in handy if you're prone to
allergies (we are -- another reason that we like the
- Downsize over and over again. The final word;
it takes two or three or more times to downsize. Keep
tossing! Keep organizing! Keep improving!
- Maintaining the
- Be careful with awnings. Do not leave awnings
out while you're gone, particularly in the west and
southwest U.S. It a shame to watch one swept 'over the
top.' Remember, out west it blows all the time, so never
leave 'home' without the awnings rolled up. We're not
kidding! We've seen at least a half-dozen ripped and torn
awnings in dumpsters this year.
- Keep it clean. Do routine, scheduled
maintenance and rig cleanup. Rather than trying to tackle
the entire chore in one day, work in steps. Clean one
section of the RV or one bay at a time. Most campground
don't permit 'rig washing', but they don't mind a sponge
and bucket approach over several days. It's easier to
clean the rig when the bugs are fresh. We try to arrive
at the campsite early enough to clean the windshield and
front end before it gets dark.
- Watch your water and sewer lines. Keep your
holding tank drains closed and empty them every two or
three days. Use your gray water to flush out the line
after emptying your sewer. Also, we'd recommend investing
in a triple wall drain hose. We went through a couple of
cheap ones pretty quickly when they developed pin hole
leaks when parked on gravel lots. A 'slunky' (used to
keep your hose off the ground) can also save wear on your
hose. Some parks even require them. Lastly take care with
freshwater versus gray and sewer water drains. We've
never had a problem; but keep them separate and your
water supply uncontaminated. Maybe we are rabid about
water but because of the changing supply sources, we buy
our water for drinking.
- Keep your LP full. In the winter we like to
fill up the LP whenever we get the chance. We don't want
to run out, and it's a pain to go out and refill once you
have gotten comfortably situated in a park. Especially
when it's cold and maybe even snowy! On the other hand,
why camp where it's cold? We actually did enjoy a little
snow in the winter as long as it was gone by noon (And it
was, photos below were in New Mexico).
- Visit your manufacturer. During our first
year, we scheduled a visit to our RVs manufacturer's
Repair Center. With a 'big rig,' we found some things
that needed attention. Our manufacturer found and took
care of lots of other things while we were there (Some
that we were not even aware of) and the RV was still
under total warranty. An added plus was that we picked up
lots of other good ideas and information from other
owners. We're not sure about other manufacturers, but we
found Holiday Rambler to be very supportive.
- Keep Your Eyes
- Reorganize. When we first moved into our RV,
we placed things based on our knowledge at that time.
Once we gained experience and found out what we used and
don't use, we began to rethink our use of storage areas.
We questioned what things should be rearranged or moved.
Were different storage containers needed? Could a bag be
used instead of a paper or plastic box? Could the item be
stored in a storage bay rather than in the kitchen?
- Do the TP check. We quickly found that the
special RV toilet paper was expensive and not always
easy-to-find. After doing our own 'closely-controlled
scientific study,' we determined that a single-ply toilet
paper (we prefer one particular brand - Scott) worked
just as well and was much cheaper. Be on the alert for
that rare manufacturer's change in the product
- Look at other rigs. Learn how other people
have setup and 'customized' their RVs. You can pick up
some useful ideas from others who have 'been through it.'
People are happy to share their ideas and
- Keep your ears open too. We have met some
interesting and diverse people out on-the-road. We have
met Bob the television weatherman who is camped behind us
right now (We will be watching for him on the Weather
Channel during hurricane season, I believe that's Bob
there on the beach), a full-timing family who are
home-schooling their two young children, and the
3-generation Brown family who run one of the finest
campgrounds that we have encountered. Each have told us a
part of their 'story' and shared part of their lives. Now
they are part of our story.
- Keeping the
- Keep a log. The time will go fast and you
quickly forget all your interesting experiences. If you
don't think of yourself as a writer, start with something
simple. Try a campground journal. Record the date of
arrival and departure, the campground and specific site,
and the things you liked and disliked.
- Keep a journal. There are many different kinds
of journals. Try a diary, campground, personal, nature,
people ... journal. Share your journal on the web through
photos, text . . . timelines.
- Created by Annette
- Updated, 7/00
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