Full-time RVers share triumphs and pitfalls
2019 Year In Review
Wow! What a year! Most of you know that in April of 2018 we put our house on the market, hired a friend to watch our rental properties, bought an RV, and on May 3, 2018, we left Ohio to see the country – full time for as long as it takes or until we aren’t healthy enough to continue. Probably the best decision we’ve made since getting married.
The following is a summary of our #RV experiences (good and bad) in 2019. And for those of you who want more details of this exciting life of ours, you can follow us on our travel Facebook page – its70degreessomewhere – and/or web page – you guessed it - www.its70degreessomewhere.com . You’ll find stories, photos galore, and even some occasional insight into RV living. No politics on those sites…for that you can go to John's personal page. Well here goes.
2019 Raw Statistics. Honestly folks, we ARE retired. It probably won’t seem like it when you see how busy we’ve been, but it’s all (well, almost all) been really, really fun. . You’ll find stories, photos galore, and even some occasional insight into RV living. No politics on those sites…for that you can go to J personal page. Well here goes.
States Camped In – 19. Ten of those states were “first time” camping states for us. In total we’ve now camped in 29 states. We’ve still got the West Coast (2020) and East Coast (2021) states to complete.
Miles traveled with the RV (a 45-foot fifth wheel toy hauler) - 8,927. That’s down nearly 6,000 miles from our first 12 months. You’ll find this and some of the other statistics have declined due to our experimentation with “Workkamping” - in our case, a 6-month stay in West Yellowstone, MT so that we had enough time to thoroughly explore and enjoy this unique and special national park.
Miles traveled in the truck (a 2017 RAM 3500, crew cab, long bed diesel we’ve nicknamed “Clyde”—short for Clydesdale) – 20,467. That’s also down over 6,000 miles.
Camp Set-ups - 40 (That’s the number of sites where we’ve camped for at least a night. That includes the 6-8 times we spent overnight in a Walmart/Cabela/Tractor Supply parking lot or other 1-night stand where we didn’t unhook from the truck). This stat is way down – from 76 in our first year on the road – because we’ve finally learned to slow down and smell the deer and bear scat (sorry, not too many roses in the state parks).
Black & Gray Tank Dump Occasions – Sorry I didn’t keep records on this…not a highlight, I assure you!!
Places we’ve seen. Honestly, the itinerary is more completely covered on our FB and web pages (see above), but these are some of the highlights:
8 National Parks and Monuments –Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Carlsbad Caverns, Yellowstone, Saguaro, White Sands, and Grand Tetons.
Several really nice State and Municipal Parks - a few of our favorites this year: Skidaway Island S.P. (GA), Conchas Dam S.P. (NM), Juniper Campground (Ririe, ID), Mounds S.P. (IN), and Tickfaw S.P. (LA)
Historic places like Tombstone, AZ; Route 66 (esp. Tucumcari, NM); The Alamo in San Antonio, TX; St. Augustine, FL; and yes, Graceland (Memphis, TN).
All of Southern Utah – from Lake Powell to Bryce Canyon and on and on. We need to come back this way for a more extended visit.
Things we’ve done. Where to begin? Of course, there have been considerable sightseeing and hiking and fishing and campfires and such. Again, see the FB page for more details. But, more importantly, our travels have been orchestrated around several very important events:
Our daughter’s wedding –Caroline married Justin Russell on March 2, 2019 in Buford, GA.
Closing November 1st on the sale of our restored Victorian house after two years on the market.
March and November visits to Memphis to see my 95-year-old mother, (much) older brother Tom, and most of the rest of the Bauer clan.
Three months of mission work doing volunteer construction and maintenance work at Christian camps: Lake Swan Camp, Melrose, FL (Jan/Feb) and Tejas Camp and Retreat Center, Giddings, TX (Dec)
Attendance at the 100th year of the Cody Stampede, one of the world’s most renowned rodeos.
Old Friends and New:
What a delight to see old friends and family:
John's mom, brother, nieces, nephew and great nieces/nephews on our visits to Memphis.
A late Christmas dinner with Druann’s sister, Marie, and her husband Huey including a fun evening playing bridge in Houston. Druann’s brother, Marc, and his new wife, Denise, were also at the dinner along with Marc’s stepson, Scott, and his
family and Marie’s son, Brian, and his wife.
Special friend Liz Barnes (husband Gary wasn’t able to make the trip) and their 3 grandkids – Xander, Dominic, and Bella – stayed with us a few days in West Yellowstone, MT where Liz got to see her first moose in the wild!
It’s impossible to list all of the new friends we’ve made along the way, but we have to say that one of the mission groups that we joined (SOWERS – servants on wheels every ready) has blessed us with so many wonderful new relationships:
From Lake Swan Camp in Melrose, FL – Perry and Toni Rollins, Frank, Tim, and the rest of the staff and volunteers Gary and Vicki (FL), John and Robyn (PA), and Joel and Lora (TN). Hope to see you all again soon.
From the Tejas project in Giddings, TX – Camp Director Paul and his staff as well as a number of other SOWER couples and even some “independent” volunteer RVers.
Stuff Happens: We’ve had our share (maybe more) of disasters along the way. You learn to roll with the punches and scramble to keep up with the enormous learning curve. Honestly, all of these things occurred during our 2019 travels:
“The Sofa” – In November, 2019, we FINALLY received the rest of the warranty replacement of our sofa that malfunctioned in May 2018…that’s right, nearly 18 months. Don’t get me started on this one.
“The Wind Storm” - Dixie RV replaced an awning/slide cover in Nov ’18 and told me that we didn’t need the “keeper” that’s designed to prevent unfurling of the awning fabric as you drive down the road. Jump to March 13 in Oklahoma where the headwinds reached gusts of 70 mph (added to our speed of 75 mph). Let’s just say, we needed the “keeper”. That fabric cover is now deceased and the 18 foot roller is stowed under the RV waiting for reinstallation at some future date. Thank you again, Dixie RV.
“Tailgate/Crunch-gate” - In the rush to try to get leveled and set up before dark, I forgot to pin the jaws of the hitch and dropped a 10-ton trailer on the back of the Ram truck/tailgate. As I said, stuff happens and you learn to roll with it.“Eli” – We lost our American Eskimo to cancer. Still not completely able to “roll” with that one. But, our other fur baby, Angel, is alive and well and keeping us busy.
“Gimpy-Gate” – Although our plans for West Yellowstone included perfecting our fly fishing capabilities (we bought our season licenses for the Park at $80 each in our first week there), God had different plans. Druann broke her foot before it warmed enough to get our lines wet. Old bones heal slowly; so, after 8 weeks in a cast and another 8 in a boot, the season was too far gone. On a brighter side, it saved us hundreds on float tubes, flies, and other expensive equipment. Oh well, there’s always the summer of ’20.
“Solar-gate” – While camped at West Yellowstone we contracted with a mobile tech to buy and have installed a state-of-the-art solar system to allow us longer stays “off the grid”. She came highly recommended by the campground owner and was even camped about 50 feet away. Let’s just say that she clipped us for more than $8,000 leaving us with some batteries (Vietnamese built), a couple of solar panels screwed to the roof (without sealant around the screws), a couple of other parts, and NO INSTALLATION. Expensive lesson learned – THOROUGHLY VET any service technician prior to agreeing to any work.
“CoachNet to the Rescue” – In planning for our 2020 travels, we noticed that we had never completed the sign-up process for roadside assistance…YIKES! So before we left Findlay after selling the house, we signed up for the premier level of service with CoachNet, a company that specializes in roadside assistance for RVs of all kinds. Less than 100 miles outside Findlay we had our first breakdown. Able to pull over to a safe spot at an exit ramp, we called and CoachNet came to the rescue in superb fashion. Yes, we had to wait nearly 7 hours for a towing service because…did I mention we were trying to escape a heavy snowstorm?
Still, CoachNet was able to locate a RAM dealer that could work on the truck the next morning AND that was within walking distance of a shopping area where we could “overnight” in the RV while the truck was repaired. Then they coordinated with a towing service to have 2 tow trucks (a 5th wheel to pull the RV and a flatbed to cart our dually truck). When we learned it would be about 7 hours, we scrambled out of the truck and into the RV where we could use the propane heat to fight off the freezing temps outside. The truck issue was a minor electronic sensor covered under warranty, but the star of this episode is Coachnet.
I shouldn’t have ended on this down note. Overall, the year has been spectacular and we are eagerly awaiting the next adventures (even with the “stuff happens” that we know will occur).
For 2020 our plans include:
We left Giddings, TX on Jan 2 and headed to Yuma, AZ where a well-vetted mobile tech will install the solar system (see disaster above) as well as take care of two Federal Safety Recalls on the RV that we’ve been trying to address for nearly a year! Nothing major of course…just potential brake failure on the RV and the possibility that our 20 gallon gas tank for the “toys” that we haul might FALL OFF!
We have month-long mission projects scheduled in Phoenix (Feb), Oregon (Apr), Tennessee (Nov), and Alabama (Dec). Along the way, we hope to hit most of these California National Parks – Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Redwood. Plus Crater Lake (OR), Mt Ranier (WA), and Craters of the Moon (ID).
But the FOCUS of 2020 will be 4 months in Alaska and the Western Canadian provinces! But that will require a separate blog.
If you want to see how this year goes, please follow us on facebook and subscribe to our website www.its70degreessomewhere.com
John and Druann