Our First Year as Full-Time RVers

Updated: May 19, 2019

Wow! What a year! For those of you who haven’t heard, Druann and I 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. It’s probably the best decision we’ve ever made -- other than getting married in the first place.

RV rig
Clyde (our truck) and The Beast

For those of you who really aren’t interested, you can hit your “delete” button right now because what follows is something of a summary of our first year. 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. You’ll find delightful stories, photos galore, and even some occasional insight into RV living. No politics on #its70degreessomewhere…for that you can go to my personal page. Well, here goes.

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.

travel map
Map of the 25 states we've visited.

States Camped In – 25 (we’ve posted a map if you want to know which ones)

Miles traveled with the RV - 14,751 (a 2018 Seismic fifth wheel toy hauler L 45’ 9”, W 8’ 6”, H 13’ 7”, Wgt 21,000 lb; think semi trailer)

Miles traveled in the truck – 26,863 (a 2017 RAM 3500, Crew Cab, Long Bed, 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel, with AISIN 6-speed transmission, and 4.1 ratio rear axle; most of you know that I don’t understand any of that jargon but our research suggested that this might be the only truck on the market that would easily pull the monster RV). We call our truck Clyde—as in the clydesdale horse.

Camp Set-ups - 76 (That’s the number of sites where we’ve camped for at least a night. That includes the 8-10 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)

Black & Gray Tank Dump Occasions – Sorry I didn’t keep records on this…not a highlight, I guarantee!!

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:

6 National Parks – Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Badlands, Carlsbad Caverns, and Glacier.

Innumerable State Parks - some too beautiful to describe, others too boring to even include on the online sites (actually, that’s a lie…I have a record of where we spent every single night of the last year…so they aren’t innumerable.)

Bison ranch in North Dakota

A bison ranch a few miles from the Canadian border in North Dakota – thank you Dennis Sexhus.

A few U.S. Corp of Engineers sites (almost always on man-made lakes and almost always truly special) – e.g., Hellsgate campground on Canyon Ferry Lake outside Helena, MT, and McKinney Campground on Lake Alatoona outside Atlanta, GA.

The entire area around Rapid City, SD with the #Badlands, Mt. #Rushmore, #Custer State Park, and so much more.

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 Caroline's wedding

Our kids weddings – our son Michael married Alison Gallaspy on May 12, 2018 in New Orleans, LA; and our daughter Caroline married Justin Russell on March 2, 2019 in Buford, GA.

My 94-year-old mother’s hip surgery just after Christmas in Memphis, TN – the first time that I’ve been around to help out instead of leaving it to my (much) older brother, Tom. It was terrific to be able to be there with her at the hospital as she recovered.

Four months of mission work doing volunteer construction and maintenance work at Christian camps at Flathead Lake, MT (July ’18), Huntington, TX (Dec ’18), and Lake Swan Camp, Melrose, FL (Jan/Feb ’19).

We even scheduled in a national RV conference of other “Escapees” in Sedalia, MO (May ’18) where we spent a week getting to know other full-time RVers, taking a two-day on the road RV driving school, and having our first official “weigh in” to see how badly the weight was distributed in the RV and truck. Surprisingly, it was ok.

Old Friends and New:

What a delight to see old friends and family:

Mark and Deb Thomas and Pete and Deb Corteville in Atlanta

Robin Donovan and Kim Mickelson and my other buddies from Bozell in Omaha

My mom, brother, nieces, nephew and great nieces/nephews in our 3 visits to Memphis

beach house
Gene Placke (left) and John. Our dog Angel is in the middle.

Druann’s sister, Marie, and her husband Huey, including a fun afternoon playing bridge in Houston

Friends Kip and Karla Falls outside of Traverse City, MI

Special friends Liz and Gary Barnes and their 3 grandkids – Xander, Dominic, and Bella – in Phoenix

And even a couple of weeks with friends Ruth and Gene Placke at a beach house on Bolivar Peninsula, TX while our RV was in the shop for hail damage repairs.

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 Ever Ready) has blessed us with so many wonderful new relationships:

From our initial contact with #SOWERS in Sedalia, MO - Jan and Skip Pratt (from FL)

From our Forest Glen Camp (Huntington, TX) project – Doug & Barb Weberg, and Tony Vejar (SD), who endured my excruciating round of golf, while he mastered the soggy course that we played.

John Venturini, a co-volunteer at Lake Swan Camp in Melrose, Florida.

And from Lake Swan Camp in Melrose, FL – Perry and Toni Rollins, Frank, Tim, and the rest of the staff, and volunteers Gary & Vicki (FL), John & Robyn (PA), and Joel & Lora (TN). Hope to see you all again soon.

Then, there are those who step up and lend a hand in times of trouble – thus, a shout out to Dan & Amy Knowles (NY) who helped us when we were stuck in sand while trying to leave Lone Rock campsite in Utah. They, too, are new full-time RVers. Thank you guys.

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.

“The Tree” - At our third ever campsite after leaving Findlay (May 6, 2018) – and in front of our dear friends, the Thomases – we managed first to back into the wrong campsite (a beautiful backing job I might add) and then to hit a tree with our main slideout and then bottom out in a ditch, before limping away to a different site with a very abashed look on my face (and some lasting damage to the RV). SOME of this damage was eventually repaired in Indiana in September.

Large hail severely damaged our truck and RV

“The Hail Storm” - The biggie came a few weeks later on June 29 near #Sturgis, SD creating what became a $30,000 insurance claim with repairs that weren’t completely repaired until November…actually, the Dixie RV (Breaux Bridge, LA) dealer who did much of the RV work was so bad that we’re still dealing with many issues from “The Hail Storm”.

“The Sofa” - Did I mention that we are still waiting for a warranty replacement of our sofa that malfunctioned in May 2018…that’s right, a year ago. Don’t get me started on this one.

“The Wind Storm” - Back to Dixie RV who 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.

“Tire-gate, Tailgate, Crunch-gate” - About to leave Tucson area and noticed a flat inside rear tire on the truck. God’s way of protecting us again. When I got to the Goodyear store I noticed severe wear and damage on a front “steer” tire due to a really bad front end alignment – a blowout waiting to happen. Worth the long delay to replace those two tires, but it put us into our campsite rather late. In the rush to try to get leveled and set up, I forgot to pin the jaws of the hitch and dropped a 10-ton trailer on the back of the truck/tailgate. As I said, stuff happens and you learn to roll with it.

Our 8-year-old American Eskimo, Eli, died of cancer on April 1.

“Eli” - Except that the next day, our 8 year-old fur baby, Eli, wasn’t acting right. So we took him to the vet, found a huge cancerous tumor in his belly, and we had to put him to sleep. Still not completely able to “roll” with that one. But, our other fur baby, Angel, is alive and well and keeping us busy.

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).

Future Adventures

Year 2 – starts with 6 months in Yellowstone workamping. We will be doing a series of blogs about our workamping adventures and #Yellowstone Park. This will be followed by another 4 months of mission work (TX, AZ, OR)

Year 3 – summer in Alaska, winter mission work in the Southeast (perhaps returning to our friends at Lake Swan Camp in Florida)

Year 4 – East Coast from SC to Newfoundland

Year 5 – with a little luck, our house in Findlay will finally sell!

If you endured this long, you should either get a life…or follow ours. Please follow us on facebook and subscribe to our website, www.its70degreessomewhere.com.

Blessings to all of our friends and family.

John and Druann

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