As I write this morning, the birds are singing and the cats are at their window perch. I’m deep into my second week of RVing and just days away from heading to my next destination. Generally, my stress level has dropped exponentially and my happiness level has spiked upward. Not a bad intro to RV life. Here’s how things are shaking out.
Driving to the Mountains
Rushing is Never a Good Thing
On May 27, I had promised to be out of my house by noon so the realtors for the new owners could do the walk-through. Despite all my great planning, there I was in my RV parked in my driveway at 11:45. I felt rushed, and that’s never a good thing. Just when I thought I was ready to pull out and start hitching up the Jeep, I realized I hadn’t put my jacks up! Can’t go anywhere when the wheels aren’t touching the ground. Finally, I circled the neighborhood in the RV so that I could line up the Jeep behind it on a level surface. In doing so, I realized I forgot to dismount my Ring security camera (affiliate link). It was definitely time to create a checklist.
Hitching up for the First Time
I pulled the Jeep up behind the motorhome – it took two tries to get it the proper distance for the hitching bars to reach. I had watched the RV technician hitch everything up and I took notes, but this was my first time ever and I was alone. Except I wasn’t – this was the time when a couple of men from the neighborhood approached me and started a conversation. And of course, they had advice – always be weary of someone who starts a sentence with “word to the wise” – and that someone has never driven an RV or hitched up a vehicle. Uggghhh!!! Fortunately, I had created a checklist for getting the Jeep in tow mode and connecting everything, so I carefully followed the checklist, made sure the electrical connections between the RV and Jeep were functioning, and pulled out of the neighborhood.
Driving Is Alright
I had driven the RV with the Jeep behind just once, and that was from the RV shop to home. So here I was driving a 32-foot RV with a 15-foot Jeep Cherokee in tow. Yikes! I had entered the length, width, height, and weight of my RV/Jeep combo into my Garmin RV 785 (affiliate link) so I trusted that she would keep me on a route suitable for my size. But I knew I would have to take a detour to fill up the gas tank in the RV. Despite my anxiety, I stopped at a truck stop and had no problems pulling in and out of the station. In fact, I spotted a propane tank and called the attendant to fill up my tank. Unfortunately, they had lost the adapter that is needed to fill up RV tanks so that’s on my “to do” list for the next leg of the journey.
About 30 minutes into the drive, I discovered a lever on the right side of my steering column with an image of a trailer and an arrow directing me to press in a button. Hmm . . . I should probably press that since I am towing? I did and along with cruise control, found the RV very responsive as I entered the mountainous area of western Virginia. The drive went fine – the weather cooperated, traffic was light, and I was able to stay in the slow lane.
Time for a Margarita!
Finally, I reached the campground around 4:00. I had a drive-thru site so I didn’t have to worry about backing in. Unhitching turned out to be a snap and setting up was a lot easier than taking down. I was out looking for dinner by 5:00. And feeling quite relieved! A take-out margarita was definitely in order.
I am new to RVing. I never drove one before my purchase. Never even set up camp in an RV. So beginner mistakes are part of the learning process. Here are my early lessons.
Where’s the Breaker Box?
I have a 30-amp rig. That means I can use up to 30 amps of power. The problem is there’s no meter in my rig, so how do I know how much power I am pulling? I learned the hard way that A/C + convection over will blow the circuit! So there I was making a healthy meal on day #2 and the power blew. I knew there was a circuit breaker lever by the generator, so I tried that first. No luck. And I knew their was a breaker box in the RV – but where? When the RV technician gave me the tour of my RV, he never pointed it out. And my RV manual did not tell me WHERE the darn thing was.
I have no problem confessing my ignorance. So I walked tall to the campground host, explained that I was a newbie and the trouble I was having. He also had a Winnebago so he walked back with me to the rig. And he couldn’t find it either! Finally, after 25 minutes we found it in what now seems like an obvious place – on the wall by the steps. We pulled off the cover, reset the breaker, and heard the lovely sound of the A/C kicking back in. Yea! Lessons: Know your RV and ASK FOR HELP!!!
Then there’s the Little Thing Called Fresh Water
I can laugh now, but it didn’t feel very funny at the time. The RV shop de-winterized my RV, and I figured I was then set with fresh drinking water. Oh my gosh! There’s this process called sanitizing the water system that I didn’t know about. My water came out of the faucet a little smelly and foamy. It was not fit to drink. I googled how to sanitize the water system and found some good advice. But the problem was I needed plain old bleach, and COVID-19 has made bleach difficult to find. I couldn’t find it at the small country grocery store so I asked my friends to grab some and bring it here when they visited over the weekend.
I had invested in a really nice water filtration system and I knew I had to reroute my hoses to bypass the filters when adding bleach to my tank. Once I bypassed the filters, there was no easy way to get the bleach (the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of bleach for every 15 gallons of water your tank holds) into the tank. I never thought of packing a funnel so I poured the diluted mixture into the hose and then filled up the tank. It was messy, but it seems to have done the trick. Once the tank was filled, I had to release the water. I searched the manual for the water release lever and found it hidden in one of the storage compartments. After the tank was sanitized and re-flushed, I reconnected the hoses to the filtration system, which was not so easy. But I did it! LESSON: Check your Water!
The Gremlins Keep Hiding my Stuff
I don’t know how else to explain it – but gremlins are hiding things! There’s not a lot of space in the RV, so how can I be missing things? The big item is a wallet that I used for holding all of my RV-related cards, including insurance and roadside assistance cards. Where is it? I tore this place up looking for it, and still no luck. I clung to that wallet for months, usually keeping it in my purse. Hopefully, it will turn up. In the meantime, I printed out all of my membership cards and added key information into my contacts list.
Other things that have turned up missing? A harness and leash and an adjustable wrench. The wrench is particularly puzzling as I had it in my hand to work on the hoses and it couldn’t have walked away on its own! I’ve had to reorder items from Amazon and have it shipped to a friend and a sister so that I have replacements. I’m glad that I stayed close enough to my old home so that friends could visit, and that my next trip will put me in Tennessee, where I’ll see my sister and her family. Lesson: Don’t go too far from “home” on your Maiden Voyage.
My cats are family. So I was very concerned about uprooting them from the home and keeping them safe and happy in the RV. I was especially concerned about their first road trip. How did they do? Okay. All three cats hung out in the bedroom at the rear of the coach. One of the cabinets had flung open so the most timid of the three – Ginger – holed up in the closet. She was also the last to emerge in the evening. But no crying. And they stayed clear from me so didn’t interfere with my driving. Hopefully, they will begin to recognize our travel days when the slides come in and go to their respective “safe” places.
I have probably gone overboard with the cats, but I don’t care! I rigged up a catio that allows them to go back and forth between the RV and the tent. Well gang, this system has worked great – even better than anticipated! Some naysayers warned me that the cats will demolish the screen and tunnel under the tent. No such thing as the cats know they are safe inside the tent. When they get nervous, they scamper back up the ramp into the RV. Now I only let them into the catio when I am able to spend some time out there with them. So they are always monitored.
My oldest cat, Dolly, is the only of the three who used to spend some free time outdoors on her own. And sometimes the younger two (aka “the rascals”) pick on her, so I wanted her to have some alone time with me. I decided to see how she’ll do in a harness and leash – check out our first ever “walk”. She’s always been a super awesome cat, but now she’s even more awesome. Dolly has taken to the leash quite well and seems very happy to explore beyond the catio and have this special privilege.
A major reason for moving into the RV and touring the country is my health. I’m obese and out of shape. I have not prioritized my health and I was so fed up with running my business from the dining room table. But could I make healthy lifestyle changes simply by moving into the RV? I think I found my answer: YES!
The sale of my house freed up a lot of money that will sustain me for years to come. And that in itself released a huge source of my stress. As a financial coach and online course creator, you might think I were a high-earner. But the truth is that after two years, I’m still working hard to create a steady income. Now I have an additional cushion that will allow me to focus on the marketing and social media components that have been lacking from my business efforts. The immediate pressure to produce is off, and that’s a huge relief. I’ve been sleeping better than I have in years.
Healthy Decisions Seem Easier
I’m making better health decisions, but the decisions feel “natural.” No longer can I run to the local convenience mart to grab chips and beer. Instead, I’ve gravitated toward packaged salad mixes, tea, and water. I’ve certainly treated myself to a burger and beer while I’ve been at the campground, but those have become rare events. It seems easier to eat healthier now that I am surrounded by nature and it’s not very convenient to drive into town.
One of the final items I decided to leave behind was my scale. Initially, I was going to do weekly or monthly posts showing my progress. In the end, there wasn’t room for the scale. Honestly, I am tired of letting a number rule the way I feel about myself. I’m a serial dieter and I’ve been frustrated too many times by doing all the right things only to find that the scale didn’t budge. No more. When it’s time to buy smaller shorts and when I can fit into a Medium-sized t-shirt, I’ll know I’ve made progress. As long as I am active and keep my fridge loaded with healthy food, the weight will come off and I’ll start to feel proud of my body again. The number doesn’t matter.
Surviving my First Big Hike
Speaking of being active, my first solo hike was a crazy one – 5.5 miles on the White Rock Falls trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was not intended to be crazy at all. It was marked as “easy” – I learned later that it’s only “easy” if you catch the trailhead at a more obscure overlook. Perhaps I should have taken my own personality in mind before I set out? Because I almost never turn around. Once I heard the waterfalls, I kept my head down and my feet moving forward. I climbed boulders, stumbled my way around tree roots, and even crawled on hands and knees to get under a fallen tree. And did I mention I am obese and out of shape? Oh my! What a hike. I was thankful I brought my trekking poles (affiliate link) with me, especially as I made my way down from the falls on lousy knees.
Happiness Takes Center Stage
I’m sure the novelty of RV life will wear off, but for now, I have had so many moments of sheer happiness and contentment that they fill my entire being with joy. Yesterday’s arduous hike was followed by a relaxing meal in the catio, with the cats. Happy! Meeting up with another solo woman RVer for lunch. Happy! Spending time with my very good friends who came to visit. Happy! Having lunch at the picnic table. Happy! Reading a good book. Happy! And there’s another feeling that I had lost a long time ago – excitement. I’m enjoying each day here in the mountains, but I’m feeling excited about the next leg of the journey. Oh, it feels so good to be excited about life again.
What about Work?
One of the additions to my RV is a ToGo Roadlink, which gives me a WiFi network. It worked flawlessly. My first week in terms of work was anything but typical. I accepted a gig reviewing proposals for a federal agency. And the turn-around was fast – just one week to complete 13 reviews. The review process took a lot of time as I offered comments and scores for each component of the proposal. The work kept me busier than I had hoped and it delayed my return to my primary work – Dr. Brenda Money Coach and Dream Big Money Academy.
Now that my gig is almost over, I have to think about my work schedule. The fact is that the weather has driven my schedule. When it’s a rainy day outside or it’s unbearably hot and humid, I like to be working on the computer. But on a day like today, I’m already looking forward to finishing this post and going on an afternoon hike. I’d love to keep that amount of flexibility, but that doesn’t work when I have coaching clients. For now, I’ll let the weather dictate my work schedule. After all, I’m here following my dreams and I don’t want to miss out on anything.
What do I miss about “Home”?
I lived in Williamsburg, Virgina, in the same house for almost 19 years. The house served its purpose and was a great place to raise a child. The best thing I ever did while in Williamsburg was become a Virginia Master Naturalist. I made great friends and enjoyed so many outdoor activities. So I miss my “besties” – Lisa, Ginnie, Helen, Carola, and Chuck. My Busch Gardens gang and my naturalist pals.
Certainly, living in an RV takes some adjustment. My showers have to be quick (there’s only so much hot water). I don’t have lot of space in which to change clothes. I have to find a laundromat to wash my clothes. My bathroom is the size of a closet. I can’t quite get the temperature in the RV regulated to my liking. But these are all adjustments. Maybe I’ll miss my house over time. Right now, I’m happy to be living in an RV.
I am SO LUCKY!
I can’t tell you how many people I meet who have told me I am living their dream life. RVing is not for everyone but the idea of being free to travel and having a flexible schedule is a popular dream. And I don’t take for granted the circumstances that have allowed me to chase after my dream. My adult child is independent. My remarkable mother is healthy and independent, and I have siblings who can help out when needed. And I’ve saved and invested enough money to afford to make this move. Yes, it’s taken courage to take this step. But I also know that many are not in the position to make the same move. I AM LUCKY!
Dr. Brenda is a financial coach, educator, researcher, and sociologist. In addition to blogging at The Five Journeys, she writes 30-day challenges at BetterLifeChallenges.com. Her passion is guiding people on their journey to financial freedom through coaching at DrBrendaMoneyCoach and online courses at DreamBigMoneyAcademy.com.
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