Six months after selling our house, getting rid of almost all our possessions, and hitting the road, our life has changed for the better. We’ve visited four states, traveled nearly 19,000 miles in our truck, both towing our Fifth Wheel and taking day trips. It’s been quite a journey so far. We decided to share our thoughts on the RV lifestyle and how it has impacted us. We’ve stayed in 13 RV parks, three of them twice. Our travels have taken us to 242 locations including:
- 7 art galleries
- 3 breweries
- 1 bus ride
- 4 casinos
- 2 deserts
- 4 cemeteries
- 5 farmer’s markets
- 4 food trucks
- 3 forts
- 5 gardens
- 10 heritage parks
- 5 lakes
- 8 mountain peaks
- 10 museums
- 13 national forest, national monuments, and national parks combined
- 3 ranches
- 3 rivers
- 10 state parks and a state forest
- 95 towns/cities (not including those we just drove through)
- 4 trails
- 2 ghost towns
- 61 restaurants
- and 1 singing highway
What do you miss?
Dan – Because we chose to not pull a trailer behind the fifth wheel that we were already towing (as a newcomer to this), we don’t have my motorcycle with me. There have been so many beautiful places to ride, but I haven’t had a bike to enjoy them. I also miss riding with my Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association (CVMA-23-7) brothers and sisters. Oh…and I’m partial to TEXAS BBQ!
Diann – Because I worked in the travel and tourism industry for 20+ years, I miss seeing and visiting with my colleagues on a daily basis. Fortunately, our travels have afforded us the opportunity to see them along the way. Also, while I haven’t missed too many things, I have missed a bathtub. Of course, I had an opportunity to use one at an antique store in Bandera, TX, but I thought better of it.
What don’t you miss?
Dan – The CITY! While I’ve driven through a number of major cities towing the RV, which was stressful in its own right, including Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, El Paso, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, we’ve avoid staying in most, unless the park is on the outskirts of the city.
Diann – Without a shadow of a doubt, I don’t miss traffic. As Dan mentioned above, we’ve driven through major cities but we haven’t spent a great deal of time in any of them, aside from a few day trips. Fortunately, because we don’t have traditional schedules (another thing I don’t miss), we are able to take day trips to cities, avoiding rush hours in order to visit attractions in the area. And while I wasn’t someone to hit the snooze button on my alarm clock, I haven’t missed setting an alarm. That said, we still wake up at our usual 5:30-6:30am so we can get our day started watching the sunrise with a cup of steaming coffee.
What surprised you most?
Dan – I loved having our home, the yard and patio, and the garage for my tools to tinker around with. I was such a homebody for the most part, so I was somewhat apprehensive to leave all that. But that feeling left me a lot sooner than I had imagined. I love this RV life more than expected.
Diann – I would have to say the ease in which we fell into our new lifestyle was a surprise. Since Dan was retired when we started, he was used to being home more than me. RVing offers us the best of both worlds with traveling while staying in our own home on wheels. And, for an added bonus, we don’t have to do yard work and it takes less than an hour to clean the entire RV!
Of the more than 200 places you’ve visited, which have been your favorite?
Dan – Wow. We have seen so many places, and so many times we’ve said…”WOW.” I’d say the Texas Mountain Trail Region (Fort Davis/Alpine/Terlingua), the Grand Canyon, Eagle Nest/Angel Fire, NM, with the Vietnam Veteran Memorial State Park, and the Petrified Forest Petrified Forest in northeastern Arizona. We saw as many National Parks as we could, and if you’re a Senior Citizen, the Lifetime Pass is $10!Diann – It’s funny. We asked this same question to RVers along the way and they all implied it was a list and not one thing. Now that we’ve been on the road a while, I’d have to agree with them. Of course, the majestic Grand Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyon’s State Parks, and Big Bend National Park in Texas are must sees for my list. I would also include seeing the Salt River Wild Horses in AZ, tasting the food at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, exploring the ruins of the Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos, NM, learning about history at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, TX, and photographing the tombstones at the Terlingua Cemetery.
What have you learned about the RV experience since hitting the road?
Dan – The HUGE downsize in space has been a lot easier to get used to than I imagined.
Diann – Those of you with indoor plumbing in your stick and brick home, which I would assume would be all of you, may not have much of an appreciation for this statement but my RV friends will absolutely get it. Dumping the tanks is a necessity and should be added as a calendar reminder. No, we had no incidents, aside from our gray tank filling up as I was preparing to take a shower. But, this “expletive deleted” is serious business. Don’t trust your sensors. The black tank is only your friend when you treat it with the respect it deserves.
Is there anything you would do differently?
Dan – I can only think that we could have done this sooner.
Diann – Definitely would have started sooner had we known how much we would enjoy it.
Do you have any regrets?
Dan – Not really. I may look at a way to bring a motorcycle later on though.
Diann – None.
What were your favorite places to photograph?
Dan – This is really Diann’s area. I don’t take very many pictures that we use in the blog. Visually, for me, the Grand Canyon earns its name.Diann – So far, it has been this photographer’s dream come true. If I had to choose, I would have to include the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, the Red Rocks near Sedona, the town of Congress, AZ, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos, NM, KashaKatuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in Cochiti, NM, Cadillac Ranch and Jack Sisemore RV Museum in Amarillo, TX, the night sky at New Adventure RV Park & Horse Hotel in Coldspring, TX, Fort Union National Monument in Watrous, NM, and everything in the Big Bend Region of Texas.
What was your favorite restaurant? Favorite home-cooked meal?
Dan – We were so surprised at Harry’s Roadhouse in Santa Fe that we ate there three times. Great food! As for home cooking, Diann is a very good cook, even with this down-sized kitchen. But of all the things she makes, I’m partial to her pizza. I’ll take it over ANY pizza place I’ve been to, (Marion’s Pizza in Dayton, OH, might be an exception!)
Diann – As Dan said, Harry’s Roadhouse truly was a culinary delight for us but I would also add Guzzi Up in Alpine, TX, which offered great Italian cuisine, plus our first visit we had a very entertaining waiter. Dan mentioned our smaller kitchen so when I successfully made a lattice-crust cherry pie from Santa Fe cherries in my toaster oven, I was pretty excited. Purchasing fresh green peas from the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market and shelling them at home to make creamed peas was also enjoyable.
What was your favorite place to hike?
Diann – Hiking to the top of Hancock Hill on the campus of Sul Ross State University was up there for me. The bonus was arriving at the top to an incredible view of the town of Alpine below and the surrounding mountains.
What was your favorite drive?
Dan – I’ve driven the River Road (Route 170) out of Terlingua, TX, a few times, including once on my motorcycle. Love this drive!
Diann – I don’t know that I’d say they’re my favorite drives but I do have a couple that were pretty interesting. The most harrowing was taking the fifth wheel through the windy and rock-lined road near Globe, AZ. I was never so happy to get out of the truck. And a close second was when I drove the truck to the small town of Jerome, AZ. As I said earlier, it’s a big truck and the mountain climb was less than enjoyable. Dan recorded the drive on his phone and I still don’t like watching it.
What attraction was your biggest surprise?
Dan – A new attraction opened in Bandera, TX, since the last time we’d visited – the Bandera National History Museum. I didn’t know it was there until we discovered it and didn’t expect that kind of quality of exhibits to be in such a small town.Diann – While searching for a place to buy RV items, we came across Jack Sisemore RV Museum in Amarillo, TX. The number of unique RV’s, camping equipment, and motorcycles this FREE museum housed blew me away. And who can forget the Gornike bus from the movie RV. So cool!
What’s been your worst experience?
Dan – We didn’t double-check our hookup, and when I pulled away with the fifth wheel while staying in Santa Fe, the RV slipped out of the coupling and dropped on our tailgate. Fortunately, there was no other damage, and we replaced it with a new tailgate we’d been wanting any way. It just happened a little sooner than we’d planned.
Diann – While Dan is kind to say ‘we,’ the tailgate was my $500 mistake. And, I cried like a little girl when it happened. I felt terrible about it. Then I started reading a number of RV forums and was reassured that it’s really just a matter of when something like this will happen and not if. The horror stories I’ve read about other RV incidents makes our tailgate dilemma seem pretty insignificant.
What’s been your best experience?
Dan – Our children are in the three states, so vacations to get around to see all of them has always been a challenge. Now, we’ve traveled to all three states and we get to see our grandchildren more. THE BEST!
Diann – I’d have to agree with Dan on this one. Spending time with our kids and grandkids was part of the reason we made this decision. We would still like to see them more but their lives are busy so we’re happy to get time with them when we can. We’ve also reconnected with family and friends along the way and that’s been a tremendous and unexpected bonus.
What have you planned next?
Diann – We determined when we first started this journey we would go for a year and then decide what to do from there. Honestly, if we could travel in the RV for as long as we wanted, I think we’d both be thrilled. I’ve gotten some photography and tourism consulting work while on the road and hope to increase it enough to allow us to continue. I’d love to see the fall colors on the east coast, visit North and South Carolina, and some day make it to Alaska. We’ll see what the next six months brings and how many more magnets our refrigerator will hold.
What advice do you have to offer based on your recent experience?
Dan – IF this (or anything else) is something you really want to do, make it happen sooner than later. There are no guarantees in life and that includes TOMORROW.
Diann – Life is far too short to make excuses why you can’t do something. You may never be in the best shape, money may always be tight, and what ifs can send you to an early grave. But time will eventually run out. Your last words shouldn’t be I’d planned to do that but never got around to it.