Category Archives: Life on the Road


008I am sooooo behind in blogging!! Time has simply gotten away from me, but I’ll do my best to catch you up!

After departing the Hendersonville area, we traversed to a spot between Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Our campground was located about 45 minutes from Sean’s place in Greensboro, a bit farther than we would have liked, but it was the only suitable place for us. I’ll do a full campground review later.

Our main purpose for being there was really just to be able to spend time with Sean and Marissa. The weekends were the only time they were free, but we made the most of the time we had! We rode bicycles along the local greenway, caught a movie, enjoyed meals together, and even fit in a Broadway show (Aladdin) at the Durham Center for the Performing Arts. (The show was highly entertaining!) One Saturday we travelled to nearby Pilot Mountain State Park to hike and watch Sean show off his (impressive) rock climbing skills.

It was fantastic to see how they are settling into their new home. Sean’s rock climbing gym is 10 minutes away, and some of the best climbing in the East US is within an hour or so. A beautiful bicycle greenway literally travels through their apartment complex, providing immediate access to a variety of mountain biking trails. His new job is going well. Marissa’s medical residency program is extremely demanding, but she takes advantage of the recreational opportunities as her schedule permits. All you want as a parent is to see your children happy and successful. It’s all good!

During the weekdays, we explored the area. We discovered a little gem of a park: George and Julia Brumley Family Nature Preserve. The park includes a network of flowy mountain biking, hiking, and multi-use trails that worked perfectly for our regular work-outs. As the weather cooled during our month-long stay, we got just a taste of chilly fall weather and changing leaves.

During our stay, we also had plenty of time to catch up on chores such as washing the bus, sanitizing our fresh water tanks, changing water filters, and such. It is a pleasant area, but it’s not a particularly exciting place to visit. If it weren’t for Sean and Marissa living there, it would not have been on our radar!

The only fly in the ointment, literally, were those darned stinkbugs! As we prepared to pack up and leave Greensboro, we pulled in one of our slides to find dozens of those pesky critters imbedded in one of the slide seals! We likely picked up the infestation at our Hendersonville location and carried them unknowingly to Greensboro. We squished all we could find, cleaned out the seal, and went on our way, knowing that there were likely plenty that we had missed. After reaching Florida, we went on an intensive bug hunt, through basement and cabinets, high and low, seeking and destroying. Nearly a month later, we still see an occasional stinkbug emerge from some unknown crevice. It’s rare though, so — I think — we’ve got a handle on the little stinkers.


Attack of the Stink Bugs!

presentation1.jpgLiving in the woods as we do most of the time, one has to expect wildlife. But, by and large, we’ve had very little bug-intrusion into our living space. We did manage to pick up black ants in Alafia River State Park during our first few months of RV living, but ant traps and months traveling through the desert eliminated that issue. We may see the occasional spider or fly inside the bus, but that’s about it. We saw more critters living in our South Florida house.

Until now.

220px-Pentatomidae_-_Halyomorpha_halys-001Enter …. the brown marmorated stink bug. We had been happily drifting through Tennessee and North Carolina, blissfully unaware of this unpleasant nuisance. However, when we arrived at our current camping spot near Greensboro, NC, we extended our slides to find that at a dozen or so had invaded our living space. We weren’t sure what we were dealing with at first, as these square-ish insects flew clumsily around, bumbling into walls and windows.

After catching and squashing the initial infestation, it became quickly apparent that we were dealing with stink bugs! I don’t know whether we had picked them up in Hendersonville and brought them along or acquired them here. But, as we started looking around, we realized that they were everywhere.

The brown marmorated stinkbug is not native to the US. Accidently imported from Asia into Pennsylvania in 1998 (presumably in cargo), it has spread throughout the US. With no native predators, it has become a particular pest in orchards in the east, causing millions of dollars in lost crops. And we are in one of the hot spots.

The stinkbugs survive winter by seeking inside spaces in the Fall. They don’t eat anything or reproduce, they just hibernate there until Spring. But, during their Fall drive for inside, they can worm their way through the tiniest cracks into your home. And, although our slide seals seem to be adequate barriers for most unwelcome visitors, these little buggers seem to be able to get through. And they are tough little buggers — conventional traps and insect sprays are ineffective. You just have to catch them and either squash or drown ’em.

So, now we’re on stinkbug patrol. We make rounds a couple of times per day, inside and out, disposing of any stinkbugs we see. The weather is getting much cooler here and we’ve noticed that the bugs are far less active. It looks as though we’ll be able to clear our bus of stinky stowaways before migrating back to Florida.




Faucet Frustration

After our successful visits to Entegra and Spartan Motors for our warranty and service work, we have been enjoying a time of defect-free camping! At least, until a few weeks ago.

Our original kitchen faucet was lovely, but had a screw-on handle that began corroding within a few months, causing it to detach and fall out. At our 2 year warranty visit, Entegra replaced the faucet with another that was, frankly, sort of cheap looking. It didn’t appear to be the same quality as the original but it was what they had, so we went with it. It worked, which was all that really mattered.

After a pleasant morning at DuPont state forest, we returned to the bus to find water dripping from the bottom of the kitchen slide. That was NOT normal! We immediately searched for the source of the water leak, only to find that the 3 month old faucet had sprung a leak! The cheap plastic attachment that connected the pull-down sprayer to the faucet unit had failed and was leaking profusely under the sink. We quickly shut off the water flow, mopped up the leaked water, and began assessing our options.

Now for a quick primer on motorhome plumbing. Individual sinks don’t come equipped with shut off valves – the only control point is the main water valve into the bus. So if the kitchen faucet is out of commission, there is no water at all. No bathroom sink. No toilet flushing. No refrigerator cold water-through-the door. Nada.

A call to Entegra revealed that, although they could ship us out a free replacement faucet, it would take days. We had experience replacing faucets from our stick-and-brick home days, and could surely handle this on our own. So, off we went to a nearby Home Depot to shop for a suitable replacement. We purchased a Delta faucet of similar style and dimensions, and bore it triumphantly home to install. A faucet is a faucet, right?

Not exactly.

Our RV plumbing is equipped with screw-in fittings, while residential faucets come with pressure-style fittings. We hadn’t even opened the new faucet box before we realized this. I guess we should have looked at that first …. but never mind. We noted a Camping World not too far away, perhaps they would have a proper RV faucet? Off to Camping World only to find … no joy. They had a few (cheapo) faucets in stock, but nothing in the style we needed.  By now, it was getting to be late evening. Back to Home Depot to return the faucet we had purchased earlier and then buy plugs to temporarily cap off the kitchen sink water lines. Installed, the plugs allowed us to re-pressurize the rest of the bus and at least have water overnight while we evaluated our options.

We commenced researching and identified a suitable adaptor that would allow us to install the residential faucet. Jeff was concerned about leaks springing from fittings not designed for RV application, but further research indicated other motorhome owners had used the adaptor successfully. We were in business!

The next morning we headed back to Home Depot to repurchase the Delta faucet that I had previously selected and the aforementioned adaptors. We finally opened the faucet box only to discover that Delta, in its infinite wisdom, had “improved” their units by attaching non-flexible plastic supply lines in place of flexible metal-clad lines. Since we needed those supply lines to bend like a pretzel, this wasn’t going to work. GAAAAH!

stainless-steel-kohler-pull-down-faucets-k-r18594-sd-vs-64_1000Back to Home Depot. By now, the employees knew our names and our life story. We exchanged the Delta faucet for a comparable Kohler faucet. We opened the box on the spot to verify fittings and supply hoses. All good!  Back at the bus, the actual installation went smoothly. We now have a beautiful, and functional, high-quality kitchen faucet that should last as long as we own our bus. Entegra even sent us a reimbursement check.

Life is good. But we kept those water line plugs …. just in case ……



Campground Memberships: Our Experience

I originally published this article a year ago, but it is all still true! We find that the best way to hold down costs is to simply stay longer at campgrounds and take advantage of weekly or monthly rates. Enjoy this Throwback Thursday Post!

Member Stamp Shows Membership Registration And SubscribingGoing into this full time RV life, I knew that one of our largest ongoing expenses would be our camping costs. As I researched the lifestyle, I also looked for ways to reduce those expenses, such as investing different types of campground memberships. Since we’ve been at this for almost a year, I thought I’d share how the various membership schemes have panned out for us.

Passport America  Billed as the “original 50% discount camping club”, we find its utility to be somewhat limited. Many of the campgrounds we’ve stayed in either don’t accept PA or accept it only within strict limits (such as, not in high season, or only for a few days). However, we did find a couple of places so far that have taken PA; one near Boerne TX and the other near Durango CO. Both of those parks were fantastic, and the discount rate made the stays total bargains. In fact, just ONE of those stays fully justified the $44/year cost. And, if you spring for a 3-year membership, the current cost is $109 or about $33/year.  I will definitely keep Passport America in my wallet because it only takes one use per year to pay for itself and then some.

Good Sam:  We have found that many of the campgrounds we’ve visited do give a Good Sam discount. It’s only 10%, but that 10% can really add up over time, especially at the higher priced parks. The membership cost is a modest $29 for one year. Good Sam often provides incentives to join; right now a 2 year membership is $50 and they give you a $25 Camping World gift certificate! (3 years for $75 / $50 gift certificate). Other Good Sam perks that we take advantage of  include discounts on Camping World merchandise and Pilot / Flying J fuel. We may also switch to their mail forwarding service next year at a discounted rate. This is definitely another discount card that pays off for us.

KOA Value Kard: This membership is specific to KOA campgrounds only and I have a bit of a philosophical problem with paying $30/year just to get a 10% discount. In general, I find KOA’s to be expensive for what you get and variable in quality. I stay at a KOA when it’s the only campground in the area I want to be. I sprung for the Value Kard last year when I had KOA reservations and knew the card would pay for itself. The 10% discount price plus small rebates you rack up with accumulated points almost brings the KOA cost down on par with similar resorts. The good news is that if you rack up enough points in a membership year, the card is renewed automatically (free) for an additional year. So far, I haven’t had to pay to renew it, and I’m not sure I would. I suspect we’ll end up staying at KOA’s just enough each year to get the renewal for free.

Harvest Host:  I really like the Harvest Host concept. Basically, you pay an annual fee ($49) for a listing of wineries, farms and museums that allow you to park overnight at their facility for free. The host facility hopes you’ll patronize their amenities, and you get a safe and interesting dry camping parking space. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able take advantage of any Host locations yet. We only need an overnight spot when we’re in transit to another area and there has never seemed to be a Host location where we need it. They are usually a bit off the beaten path, and we don’t want to travel out of our way. Also as a very big rig, many Host sites can’t accommodate our length. I paid for a multi-year membership so I haven’t given up on it yet, but it’s unlikely that I’ll renew.

Thousand Trails  Thousand Trails is a general name for a portfolio of complex and confusing camping membership contracts. The most basic membership is an annual $575 Zone Pass which allows you to camp “for free” at certain campgrounds within a geographical zone. You are limited to 14 days at a time, then out for at least 7 days, then you can stay again for 14 days. You can pay up to $thousands more and get more campground choices, more days in, no days out, and earlier reservation windows. There are myriad flavors of these contracts, each with their own stipulations, up front costs and annual fee rates. My biggest objection to their campgrounds is that all are “find your own site” places. You don’t reserve a space type guaranteed to fit your needs,  you take your chances on finding a suitable site upon arrival. Since most of these campgrounds are older, finding a big rig site is chancy. Not to mention that their largest network is still limited, and not necessarily where we want to stay. We tried out one TT campground in Arizona, and were not favorably impressed. No thanks – not for us.

Coast to Coast  Owned by the Good Sam parent company, C2C memberships are another abstruse and confusing membership scheme. First, you have to buy a membership at a C2C campground, which becomes your “home” resort. That usually requires thousands of dollars up front, plus annual fees (total cost depends on the resort). Then you “add on” the C2C network for an additional annual fee. That entitles you to stay at other C2C facilities for $10/night. Just like Thousand Trails, I find that these campgrounds are typically older and not in our desired locations. And they also subscribe to the “find your own” site philosophy, which is very risky for a Big Rig like ours. I much prefer to get to a campground confident that we’ll fit into a site! We stayed at one C2C campground in Mississippi and suffered through the high-pressure sales pitch. (We declined)  At least we stayed for free!

We could probably get more out of these memberships if we planned our travels around their campground networks – but we don’t. We decide where we want to go, and look for suitable campgrounds near that location that are easily navigated, highly rated, and suitable for our bus. Whether or not they subscribe to a specific discount scheme is way down on our list.

I truly wish we could find a campground membership for higher end resorts, but one simply doesn’t exist. We are finding that the simplest way to control campground costs is just to stay longer to take advantage of weekly / monthly discounts. So, that will be our best strategy for now.


Engaging Upper Peninsula

For such a sparsely-populated area, this are of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has a surprising number of things to do. When we weren’t hiking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or biking Grand Island National Recreation area, we went exploring the Munising and Marquette areas.

Marquette is the epicenter of Upper Peninsula civilization. Home to Northern Michigan University, it is a medium size town with shopping, restaurants, and a lovely network of bike trails. Similar to Bentonville, we were able to park at a trailhead that offered access to paved trails (for me) as well as mountain bike trails (for Jeff). We spent several days on these trails as we each got our respective work out!

030Marquette was originally a significant port city for the iron ore shipping business. In the mid-1800’s, the industrial revolution was in full swing with an insatiable need for iron ore which was mined and smelted along the Great Lakes shores. Originally, cargo ship loading was a laborious several-day process involving 20 to 30 men and wheelbarrows. To improve efficiency, a pocket dock system was developed which loaded a series of holds (pockets) atop a long dock which could be rapidly emptied into ships below. This reduced loading time from days to hours, and several ships could be loaded at the same time. Remnants of a giant pocket dock stand proudly in Marquette’s harbor. Historical artifact? Industrial art? Eyesore? You be the judge!

031We always check theater offerings wherever we go, and lucked into a performance of “What a Wonderful Feeling” on the WMU campus as part of their summer theater schedule. The musical takes place in a rehearsal studio during the filming of “Singin’ in the Rain” and brings to life the little-known story of the tempestuous love triangle between Gene Kelly, co-director Stanley Donen and their assistant, Jeanne Coyne. The play director was also the playwright and did a fantastic casting job. The one-set, 5 actor play (6 actors when you add the piano player) was set in a tiny 100 seat theater, but the singing, acting and dancing was amazingly professional. There were loads of fantastic tap dancing and jazz choreography, in period musical style. Kathleen and Jay – you would have Loved It!!

Along the way, we stumble into the most offbeat gems. Such is the Lakenenland Sculpture garden, located between Marquette and Munising. The owner has built dozens of giant sculptures out of scrap iron and planted them along a half mile trail for viewing – for free! Curious, we stopped in and meandered through the trail,  awestruck of the scale of the works that range from whimsical to artsy to downright political. Later that week, we stopped back in for a music festival held on the property. We listened to a surprisingly good hometown band play country music favorites to a local crowd. The best things in life are free!

A small fishing fleet still resides and operates near Munising so we stopped in several times to stock up on fish dip, fresh-caught lake trout, and smoked whitefish. Yum!

We’ve really enjoyed our time here in Yooper land. Aside from a couple of rainy days, the weather was mostly fantastic with cool nights and warm sunny days. The lake views are just beautiful. Living so close to the ocean for so many years, the lake plays with my head. It looks like ocean, but doesn’t have that slight salty/fishy tang that I always associate with the sea.

But, it’s time to move along. After spending the better part of 2 months in Michigan, we’re moving on to Wisconsin – a new State!





Throwback Thursday Post: Show me the money

Published first a year ago, this post explains how we are able to swing the finances for our early retirement mobile lifestyle. Almost two years in, it’s all still true! I hope you find this Throwback Post to be informative.

finances-copieIn a prior post, I addressed some of your questions about how we manage business affairs while living this nomadic lifestyle. However, there’s one question that people don’t ask because it is so personal: How in the world can we afford to do this? After all, we retired in our late 50’s, bought this fancy bus and are traveling the US full time.  How did we get here, financially, to enable us to live the dream?

We saved early and often. We were blessed to be able to obtain college degrees and good jobs which provided a good income. But, we never spent all of that income. Neither of us came from moneyed background, so our needs and wants have always been modest. Beginning in our 20’s, we saved a significant percentage of our paycheck and increased that percentage with every salary raise. We worked very hard to achieve success in our professions which helped the income side of the equation, but we always chose to spend significantly less than what we made. That difference went to our savings.

We invested for the long term. Jeff became a student of investing and placed our savings in a range of investment vehicles that would perform well over the long term. We took full advantage of any benefits offered by employers such as tax deferred 401K plans and, over time, worked up to the maximum allowed annual contribution.  We didn’t touch our savings for short-term gratification items such as vacations or new cars. We also made it a priority to eliminate debt, never carrying credit card balances and always paying off any loans (car / home) earlier than scheduled. Jeff ran annual net worth statements so we could monitor our progress and keep us on track. By our early 50’s we were completely debt-free. Jeff also took the opportunity to invest in a business partnership, which proved to be an excellent decision.

We set a goal. As we evaluated retirement options in our 40’s, we solidified around the concept of fulltime RV travel. It was a vision that really excited us and we knew it was achievable. So we began a 15 year (on and off) process of research to learn all we could about what we would need, and what it would take to accomplish this goal. We went to RV shows, read books, and surfed the web to study all of our options.

We crunched the numbers. As we hit our 50’s, we started getting serious about  retirement timing. I am fortunate to have a pension coming from Motorola, but we won’t draw it until we hit 65 and our full Social Security retirement age is almost 67. For a successful early retirement, we had to have sufficient savings (or income) to pay the bills until those pension income streams kick in. So, we calculated our estimated annual budget for life on the road. We made key decisions, such as not keeping a home base or storage unit, which would help reduce our spend. We figured the savings we would need to fund an early retirement and started driving toward that number.

We received an unfortunate windfall. We received a sizeable insurance settlement as a result of our son’s accidental death. Frankly, I didn’t want it at first. It felt wrong somehow, like blood money. I wanted Nathan back. I’d still give it all back in a heartbeat if I could have him instead, but I can’t. Over time, I’ve come to see it as his parting gift – a mechanism to give us the freedom to move forward into the life we had dreamed about. The windfall allowed us to buy a nicer bus and go sooner than we’d originally thought possible. I figure we owe it to Nathan to live this life with all the gusto we can muster.

We executed the plan. We sold the house. We gave away all of our stuff. Jeff quit his job. We bought the bus, left our place of security, and moved forward. It’s all good to plan and save, but actually doing something this drastic takes quite an effort. It’s worth it, though!

So now, 7 months in, how are the finances working out?  Pretty darned well. Our actual spend is fairly close to our previously estimated budget. We have a modest income stream from my part-time consulting work and our two rental properties. And Jeff’s business stock sale is paying out over 10 years, so it’s like getting a monthly paycheck. Essentially, our income is covering our current expenses, so our savings can continue to grow against future needs. Sweet! We’re doing just fine.

Kilwins Chocolate Factory

006The chocolate shop chain Kilwins just so happens to be headquartered in Petoskey! And they offer free tours!

The main shop is just off the bicycle path and we tried to tour during our 4th of July bike ride, but alas, the tours were cancelled that day. We attempted to go that weekend but alas, no tours on the weekend. (Obviously we weren’t attentive to their tour sign OR the website.). The third time being the proverbial charm, we finally made it on a proper day and time to take advantage of this feature.

Kilwins has 113 locations in 23 States, so I had seen it around before, but had never been inside a shop to the best of my recollection. Each Kilwins location makes certain things in-house: fudge, caramel apples, caramel corn, brittles and such. But other items such as marshmallow candies, tuttles (their version of turtles), enrobed and molded chocolates – are only made in their Petoskey shop and shipped to their franchisees.

The “factory” area is surprisingly modest, considering how many stores they supply.  We grouped at the appointed hour and listened to a brief overview of the franchise history and products. We then donned very attractive disposable hair covers (Jeff got a bonus beard cover) and shoe covers before heading through the magic doors.

This is a high-end, small batch, manually-produced product line. That’s why it’s pricey! But it was fascinating to see brownish gel get cooked up and then whipped up onto snowy white marshmallow gooiness. Poured into a large tabletop mold and allowed to cool, it is then coated with powdered sugar and manually cut/packed. Farther along, we watched two long chocolate enrobing machines (one each for dark and milk chocolate) coating various centers with chocolaty goodness.

Upstream of the enrobing machines is where the magic happens — fair trade high quality cacao nibs are massaged, married with sugar and cream, and processed into liquid chocolate in a continuous flow process. Pumps and pipes carry it overhead to the enrobing machines. Two taps allowed our guide to extract samples of each type of chocolate (milk and dark) and skillfully dipped out spoonfuls for each of us. There’s something about the silky-smoothness of just-right-temperature melted chocolate that’s just over-the-top good. Mmmmmmmm. I felt a bit like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory and wanted to dive into a pool of the stuff! Oh. My. Goodness.

Side note:  One of the guests asked our tour guide how long it took before he didn’t eat the chocolate anymore. He said one month …. and hasn’t had chocolate for over a year! Working around it so much, he’s not even tempted a bit to sample any. I guess even a good thing can be over dosed.

At the conclusion of our tour, we were given a tuttle sample and a coupon for 20% off, which of course we promptly used. The candy IS pricey, but nice for a splurge – once in a while.

Avalanche Preserve, Boyne City, MI

001As we travel, we often find these little hidden gems. Avalanche Preserve is a former (tiny) ski slope that was later developed into a city park. The park offers separate trails for biking and hiking (which I prefer), and a disc golf course.

Neither the hiking or biking trails are super-long (just a few miles), but the hilly terrain offers a nice little workout. While Jeff hit his trails, I ventured onto the hiking trail, which was touted as being 2.2 miles but ended up to be more like 2.7. No biggie. The hiking trail winds in and around the bike trail, then merges with the disk golf course. Eventually the trail leads you up to the top of the hill, to a beautiful overlook. If you just want to see the overlook, you can take two hundred something stairs to get to the same place!

After we completed a lap on our respective trails, Jeff and I hit the front nine of the disc golf course. If you don’t know what that is, it’s essentially Frisbee golf. We purchased a set of “official” discs a couple of years ago (before we started fulltime RV-ing), but have only pulled them out a couple of times. You start off from a “tee” spot and fling your disc toward an elevated metal basket (the “hole”). Some of the holes are quite long (400 yards or more), with challenging obstacles like a forest and hills! I’m really not very good at it, but it is fun to hack around. It’s not like I’m keeping score!

We like these little parks as a way to get outside in nature and get some healthy exercise. And best of all, it’s free!


Petoskey RV Park

046We’ve been here a couple of weeks now, almost halfway through our stay. I thought I’d give a shout out to the RV park we’re staying in, which is QUITE nice! (I’ll do a traditional campground review later.)

This park is part of the Sun Communities group of parks, which we have had good experience with. The first one we stayed at was The Vines in Paso Robles California, one of the nicest parks I had (have) ever seen! That was the one with the chandelier in the bathhouse! This one isn’t quite as glamorous as all that, but it is definitely upscale. Orange City RV Park , that we stayed at earlier this year in Florida, was also a Sun Communities resort, but it was older and not nearly as fancy as the other two.

058First, the sites are nice and big, with level concrete pads. The interior roads are wide, easy for a big rig to maneuver around. The park is beautifully landscaped with ponds, waterfalls, flowerbeds, tidy RV pads, and two rows of  pastel colored, one-bedroom cabins for rent. Very scenic.

One of the best features is the clubhouse – it is gorgeous! Surrounding the large common room is a card room, billiards room, and small theater. The beautiful locker rooms are equipped with showers and sauna. Outside, of course, there is a pool, hot tub, putting greens, tennis court, and horseshoe court. It’s like staying in a very nice country club. I’m really getting spoiled by the showers, some of the nicer ones we’ve seen on our travels.

One of the best perks is the free continental breakfast, served daily in the clubhouse main room. They offer coffee, orange juice, donuts, bagels, granola bars, fresh fruit, yoghurt, and cereal. Pretty sweet!

All of the reviews and information I read indicated this was a nice place to spend a few weeks, and it hasn’t disappointed! It’s a great place to park it, for a few weeks.



Frequently Asked Question: How Do You Plan Your Itinerary?

Banner-825x510In our travels and discussions with folks, one of the things we often get asked is: How do you decide where to go? It’s actually quite a process!

We have two overarching goals:  follow nice weather and see cool stuff. Like most snowbirds, we aim to head north in the spring, explore the northerly sections of the US in the summertime, and swing back south as winter approaches to stay out of ice and snow as much as possible. We joke about following 70 degrees, which is a great goal, but not always easy to do! This means that each year we’re crafting a “loop” which takes us north around and through various scenic spots and back south to a winter-over spot in either Florida or Arizona. We typically stay in one place the longest over winter, waiting for nice weather to arrive at points north.

Going into this fulltime RV life, we already had developed a fairly extensive bucket list of things we want to see and do. This includes National Parks, cultural and historical sites, mountain biking areas, favorite vacation spots, and areas where we can visit family and friends. For example, in our first year of full timing we completed a West Coast loop, focusing on visiting National Parks and mountain biking areas. (You can see a summary of our past itineraries by clicking on the “Our Travels” tab at the top of the page).

So, the first thing we do is to pick a general route  — do we want to loop through the East, West, or somewhere in the middle? We’ll pull out our personal bucket lists, research “best things to do” in the States we’ll travel through, and highlight areas of interest.

Then, we use the Allstays app to identify campgrounds in and around each area of interest. We check reviews on TripAdvisor and Campground Review web sites and look at the aerial photographs on Google Earth. We’re too big to stay just anywhere, so we are very particular to check big-rig friendliness: Are the roads wide? Are the sites level? Do they have 50 amp electrical hookup? Is it easy to get in and out? Not too many trees? We will venture farther away from our point of interest in order to stay at a campground with good reviews and big-rig-friendly, open sites.

Once we have our areas and campgrounds identified, we decide how long we’d like to stay in each area, depending on how much there is to do. Because it’s a lot of effort to move this beast, we generally stay no less than 1 week and may stay up to a month at any given location. We have found that we enjoy ourselves more when we take our time at each place, moving less frequently. We then chain the campgrounds together into a rough route with desired time frames. We typically plan a route that departs our winter spot around April 1 and returns south by late October to mid-November.

THEN, we start booking campgrounds. The need for advance booking varies wildly depending on the campground. Some campgrounds don’t open their booking window until January of that year. Some campgrounds can be booked almost at the last minute. Some campgrounds fill up more than a year in advance! Because we’re big, and like to stay longer than a few days, we try to book a year ahead – especially around holidays. We can always adjust later, if needed. You do have to watch for campground cancellation fees, however, that can be hefty if it’s done at the last minute.

Completing route planning initially takes several days of research to rough out the year’s schedule. Making the actual campground reservations requires several months of follow-up, depending on their booking windows. Sometimes we have to adjust our route around campground availability. I keep track of everything on a spreadsheet, including deposits paid and site notes.

We always have a rough idea of what we want to do a year or two out. The first year was West Coast. This year is a Midwest loop and next year will be the Northeast. The year after that will be West Coast again, hitting areas we missed the first time along with some favorite locations. After that who knows?? It’s nice to have a plan, although we’re never locked in. We can always change it up as we go along, and we certainly have done that!

And that’s how we do it!