Periodically we do a synopsis of how things are going in our new lifestyle. We had not planned to do such a review today, but we got a reader request for a "One Year Reality Check." Since we did not have much to report for this hot, humid day, I decided to just answer the questions he proposed. So here goes.
1. What has been just like you had imagined - both good and bad?
Good: The liberating feeling of being free to do whatever we want (within our financial limitations) on our own schedule. Also, the feeling of peace and the spiritual connection when we immerse ourselves in nature.
Bad: Emptying holding tanks at dump stations. It's unpleasant, just like we imagined, but it's just part of the lifestyle and not really that big a deal.
2. What had you imagined that hasn’t happened yet - both good and bad?
Good: Experiencing the west and states we have never visited. Also, my imagination had us boondocking by a river or lake with mountains in the background.
Bad: A roadside breakdown (knock on wood). :)
3. What has occurred that you couldn’t have imagined - both good and bad?
Good: That RVers and the people we have met (of all backgrounds) are even nicer than we expected.
Also, that RV-Dreams.com and the Journal have become as popular as they have. It was so unexpected that we would develop a community through the web of such wonderful people. We had no idea (originally) that we would be sharing so much of our lives, but the rewards have been so worth it. :)
We never could have imagined that we would be teaching RVing classes and writing for an RV magazine less than a year after hitting the road.
And Linda says she never dreamed that I could have gotten so good at backing up the rig in such a short time. Yea for HP! :)
Bad: Having to make so many stops for RV service and repair. When we were dreaming, this part of the lifestyle never crossed our mind. However, after being on the road a short time, we learned that there is always something to be repaired, that all full-timers go through it, and that is just part of life. The good news is that we now have an "Oh well, we've got plenty of time" attitude.
Linda says she never imagined that she would have so much anxiety on travel days. It's higher after we have been sitting in one place for a couple of weeks or longer.
4. What has been the hardest adjustment you have had to make?
Living within a tight budget. Going from a life of having anything we wanted and doing anything we wanted to a life where we watch every penny and have to really think about every single purchase has easily been our hardest adjustment. But, the trade-offs are worth it. :)
5. What is the best moment or thing that has happened during the past year?
Most fulfilling: Helping out with Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham, Alabama
Special moments (in no particular order): Canoeing the Loxahatchee River (southwest Florida) and watching a manatee feed on shore plants; Exploring the Okefenokee Swamp (southern Georgia) and witnessing the unspoiled beauty unfold in our rented boat; Canoeing the Myakka River (south central Florida) with all its alligators and wildlife; Watching the sunrise at Hanna Park Beach (Jacksonville, Florida) as shorebirds flew, an osprey snagged a fish from the ocean, and dolphins swam by; Watching a juvenile bald eagle catch a huge fish at Myakka River State Park and try to fend off a half dozen more eagles; Canoeing the crystal clear waters of the Weeki Watchee River and watching a manatee cow and her calf; Discovering a gopher tortoise preparing her nest and laying eggs in Stephen Foster State Park (southern Georgia); Hikes to all waterfalls; Fly-fishing the Citico Creek in the Cherokee National Forest (southcentral Tennessee); Watching great egrets ride logs down the Tom Bigbee River where they would catch fish from the logs and then fly back upriver to find another ride; Every time a hummingbird discovers our feeders for the first time in a new location
Exciting moments: Getting the speaking gig at the Florida RV Supershow in Tampa - for pay! :) and the moment Life On Wheels told us they would give us a try
6. What is the worst moment or thing that has happened during the past year?
That's an easy one and it's fresh. :) The worst feeling I have had by far is when the fifth wheel fell onto the truck due to several stupid mistakes.
The runner up "worst moment" would have to be when our front landing gear (jacks) failed just as we were leaving Pelham, Alabama to run from Hurricane Katrina. However, that led to our most fulfilling time and several other great moments. It was the first of many times when we really felt things (even bad ones) happened for a reason.
7. Anything that you had absolutely planned to do but haven’t done yet?
There are lots of things we had planned to do in the first year, but didn't: Go to Quartzite, AZ for the full-timer Class of 2005 rally, visit friends in Mississippi, spend more time in the Everglades, etc. However, there is nothing that we would consider "absolutely" planned that we have not done. We have learned NOT to plan much and that flexibility provides more freedom and a chance to let things flow.
8. What do you know now that you wish you had known then?
That we should have attended one or two Life On Wheels conferences before we did anything else. Having never RVed before, we should have had a better understanding of RV systems and all other knowledge would have been helpful. With that said, we are glad that we made our decisions quickly and took the "we'll learn as we go" approach rather than making sure we were completely "prepared."
The other thing that I think we will find startling (and didn't really think about before), is how little time there is each year to explore the northern states and Canada before we have to head south for the winter. It's a good thing we have lots of years as slowly as we like to move. :)
9. Any options or accessories for the truck or 5th wheel that you have found to be more important or useful than you had imagined?
Truck: Our custom bed cover that allows us to store items in the back of the truck even while hitched; Dual fuel tanks; Bed liner; All towing enhancement options we could get; Our Pressure Pro tire pressure monitoring system (truck & trailer)
Fifth Wheel: We were just very lucky in our fifth wheel selection. It wasn't until we started looking at other fifth wheels on the road that we realized how many of our standard features are wonderful.
We love our automatic power awning that we put in and out with a push of a button and which has a wind sensor that puts it in just in case we forget and leave it out on a windy day. We love our "convenience center" on the side of the rig where we have all of our holding tank valves, easy access to our fresh water hook-up, cable, satellite, and phone hook-ups (if needed), an electrical outlet, outdoor shower with hot and cold water, soap dispenser, etc. We love our 12 cu. ft. side-by-side refrigerator. We love our electric fireplace, although that is an option we could definitely do without. We love our 0 degree insulation and dual pane tinted windows (privacy, temperature control, and outside noise reduction). We love our Mor-Ryde suspension and kingpin. We love our wide, wide, "double door on each side", "full pass-through" basement and all the storage capacity we have inside and out. We love the extra storage compartment just for sewer components in which we can keep connectors and fifty feet of sewer hose. We love our two "fantastic fans" in the ceiling.
10. Any there options or accessories for the truck or 5th wheel that you have found to be unimportant or less useful than you had imagined?
We can't think of a single option or accessory that is not useful. We never use "cruise control", but that's a pretty standard feature any more. We are considering getting rid of our sleeper sofa (it has only been used once) to reduce weight and replace it with lighter seating. That's it.
11. Any options or accessories for the truck or 5th wheel that you wish you had but don’t?
Truck: For some reason our truck does not have keyless entry on the passenger side and that is a real pain sometimes. Linda wishes our 6-CD player was a CD changer instead of a one CD at a time player. Really important stuff there. :)
Fifth Wheel: A better owners manual specific to our model!! And more cargo carrying capacity. We have tons of storage we can't use because we would be too far overweight. Linda would like to see a small step or seat built into the shower for ease in shaving legs.
12. Any options or accessories for the truck or 5th wheel that you have but wish you didn’t?
13. What are you most looking forward to in year two of your journey?
Getting out west and exploring places we have never been. Just seeing what happens next. :)
14. Any “New Year Resolutions” for the second year?
Try workamping. Increase our income without becoming obsessed with it. Exercise more and eat healthier. Other than that, we really like how we are doing things so far - no reason to change. :)
I hope that little review was informative. Thanks to Grant for giving me something to write about today. Let us know if anything needs more elaboration. Heck, you guys might remember something I left out. :)