October 19th. When the day finally arrived for us to hit the road, we could hardly wait. The frost had arrived and the snow was threatening to show up at any moment. We were eager to head south and seek out a warmer climate.
The route for our first week as nomads was to travel south through Wisconsin and make our way over to Ohio. This allowed us to reconnect with family members that were long overdue a visit. Looking back, it is always surprising how life quickly becomes busy. We tend to get wrapped up in our own lives and priorities. It is easy to become complacent and not make an effort to see family and friends that are far away. It was so wonderful spending time reconnecting, hearing stories from long ago, learning about family members we didn’t know about and exposing the kids to where they came from and who they are. We enjoyed spending a few days and not feel rushed through a quick visit. We do regret that it has taken so long to make it happen. If you have something on your to do list like this, schedule it. Today! You won’t regret it, you will only regret not doing it.
Our fifth wheel home spent the majority of its time parked in one spot this summer. This was a great way to transition from a sticks and bricks home to living in a camper. This let us ease into this new lifestyle, get used to living in smaller spaces and figure out the mechanics of a home on wheels. Our knowledge base has expanded now that we have a few thousand miles under our belt. Here are some rules of the road for us.
- Use Google Maps when route planning. In the past the Waze app was my go to gps. Now that we are close to 60 feet long, the faster routes that Waze likes to give, are not necessarily big rig friendly. Even using Google Maps, we have found ourselves on some roads that were a little to curvy and cozy for our comfort level.
- Stick to the planned route. Do not be lured into that civil war battle ground location sign. Let your navigator troubleshoot the route before the driver gets impulsive. It may lead you into the hills of Kentucky. On a side note we did find some roads that would be fun on a motorcycle.
- Certain places allow rv’s to park overnight for no charge. It is a best practice to contact the manager of where you stay at and ask permission. This is an option for time in between campgrounds to save both money and time. Before hitting the road we were aware that Walmart and Cabela’s may be a good option for a quick night’s rest. What we did not know was that the some of the Walmart’s do not allow you to put your slides out when parked. This is a problem for us. We are not able to access anything other than the master bedroom and bathroom without putting our slides out. Since we started driving more, we discovered that Cracker Barrel restaurants, truck stops and some rest areas are also options. Cracker Barrel has a section designated for buses and rv’s to park. Unfortunately, we are often too large to fit in these spots. Truck stops have worked out all right for us too. We read the reviews on the truck stop beforehand to make sure it’s a good, safe spot. We found a helpful app to use is Trucker Path. The biggest negative we have found with sleeping in a truck stop is that they are quite noisy. Trucks are coming and going at all hours of the night and morning. It is a good option when we have a long way to go and a short time to get there.
- Meal planning is very important for when we plan our driving days. As we travel throughout the day, we can’t exactly run through a drive through to get our meals. Also, eating out can become expensive very quickly. Having a plan for each meal is important. We try to pack up and pull out of campgrounds around 10:30-11:00 a.m. We don’t want to pull over and stop soon after leaving to eat lunch. Therefore, I try and pack snacks and lunches, especially for the kids, to last for at least 2 hours after we depart. We try to arrive at our destination later afternoon or early evening. I make sure we either have leftovers or something easy to prepare for the first meal in a new location. Traveling all day is not exactly labor intensive, but it is amazing how tired we are at the end of the day. We really don’t feel like cooking too much. Having something ready to go tempers the temptation of trying the local pizza delivery options.
- We did not make any future campground reservations prior to our initial departure. This was in part to not knowing my husbands work schedule in advance, and we also did not want to be too restricted. Not knowing where exactly we were going and planning about a month in advance was the plan. Since we left Wisconsin so late in the season, we found that many campgrounds were closing for the season. As a result, we decided to head south quickly. We are part of a few Facebook groups that are about fulltime families like us. It seems like this lifestyle is becoming very popular. Baby boomers retiring and the ability for people to work remotely has created a boom in the RV industry. This leads to more people wanting to camp. From what we hear campgrounds are filling up much faster than they used to. This is presenting a challenge, but we have still been able to find some very nice locations to hang out.
- My biggest pet peeve since hitting the road is recycling. I always try to recycle when I can and it has become quite difficult while on the road. From Wisconsin to Florida, there was only one campground that had a recycling bin and it was only for cans. Thankfully, our current campground is better.
Overall the past few weeks on the road we have put on many miles and gained many memories. We have reconnected with family and reconnected with each other. There have been tense moments, times when Fred thought mom and dad may actually argue about something, moments when we have questioned what the heck we are doing and moments where we were so thankful for what we are doing. This is only the beginning of our journey. So far, so good and no regrets.