Monday, September 24, 2018

Full Time RV'ing - Becoming Comfortable With It

Getting Comfortable With Full Time RV'ing

Things We Thought We Knew - We've spent the last thirteen months learning how to camp on a full time basis. Starting this venture caused us to question, refine and throw out some of what we thought we knew.  We found out that the things we already knew about camping became vastly different once we were actually full time. Instead of having a weekend or two week vacation to plan, full timing makes the planning process an ongoing job. This can become tedious at times. This is especially for my co-pilot who tends to find ninety percent of our accommodations and then plans the routes we need to navigate.

We found that the process of becoming self sufficient and self reliant on the road comes little by little until you wake up one day and figure out that "we're pretty good at this." If you are reading and think you will never reach the point of full time nirvana, I'd venture a guess that you're probably wrong.

What follows in this blog entry are the things we've learned along the way. Some of these may or may not apply to you or your rig but I'll throw them out there for you to think about.

Old Stuff  and Even New Stuff  Breaks -  Our thirteen year old coach contains thirteen year old furniture, cabinets, chassis, engine, water pump, electrical systems, sewage valves, electrical systems and switches. Who knew?  In our experience as we started using and exercising these systems some of them have broken. But for us they broke in groups. Trust me when I say that if something breaks, something else will follow in a rapid fire sequence.

Attitude vs Repairs - When our stuff breaks or repairs seem imminent we've found that it's best have an "oh well" attitude about it. What else can you do?  Procrastinating about repairing broken stuff tends to snowball. Soon un-repaired items begin to pile up and overwhelm you and your budget.  In reality it's better to keep up and keep things humming along paying as you go instead of swallowing your budget whole trying to catch up.

Budgets - Early on Martha established budgets. We have a food budget, fuel budget, camping fee's budget, maintenance budget, bill paying budget and even one for booze and wine.  All of these have helped us keep moving and have given us the ability to visit the venues we wanted to see for the last thirteen months.

Preventative Maintenance - Take care of your engines (coach, tow vehicle and toad) and they will take care of you.  Our Class A had 38,000 miles when we bought it and we now have 59,000+ miles on it.  Regular maintenance is important.  Just do it, and don't make excuses for not doing it. But budget for it.

Buying Used - Not for everyone. For us this was the only way we could hit the road full time in a coach that fit our needs. Of course you have to make a decision whether to buy new or used based on your own finances, expectations and desires.

For us the advantage of buying used were three fold. First the previous owners absorbed all of the the time it took to do warranty repairs (minor and major) and get the coach sorted out. Second, they took the initial depreciation hit. Buying used was an informed decision based on close inspection. It was an informed decision and we did our best to find a nice coach with minimal flaws near the price point we needed. The third reason is that we got a nice coach for a fraction of what we would have paid for a new one and so far our maintenance budget has kept us rolling.

Tires and Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems -  Another area you should not ignore. Cover your tires when parked for an extended period. UV will damage them if you get complacent. Check tire pressures every time you have a travel day.  Don't forget to check the toad/trailer/dolly tires. Get a tire pressure monitoring system and use it while traveling to monitor your pressures and temperatures.

When it's time to replace them don't "cheap out."  Instead get the best you can afford and then take care of them. Be aware that most motorhome tires age out before they wear out. If your coach or RV has air brakes install an air chuck connection and purchase an air hose and the appropriate fittings. This makes airing up easy.

Establish Routines - Establish a routine for travel and subsequent arrival days. Make sure your
co-pilot knows that you have done something that they normally do, Before moving confirm that each of you has done everything you are responsible for. This will likely morph over time and become more refined as you go. Start out by making a list until it becomes routine.

Practical Storage - Yeah, maybe it's somewhat OCD but moving and storing things for practical daily use, maximum efficiency and compactness is important in an RV. You have limited space so you have to maximize work flow and storage. When we first started full time we took our best guesses as to where things should be stored for ease of use. We failed. Try using things from the places you stored them the first time and then refine, change or maximize as you go. We have gone through several iterations of where things should be stored. Each time it becomes a little more useful and refined.

Get What You Need At The Start Of Full Timing - Don't waffle on buying items that you will need prior to leaving. Some of the things we required and didn't have initially were: tow dolly, portable waste  tank. If you plan to work on the road via the internet purchase a Weboost cell signal booster and two hot spot's (ours are ATT and Verizon) to provide enough data.  We even got a Google Home Mini (which is more of a toy than a tool). The coach has it's own network for for ease of connecting all of our wireless devices. All of these things make our travel and work easier and more comfortable.

Laugh - Above all else you have to keep a sense of humor and be open to committing  yourself to full timing. You need to accept that that everyday isn't going to be unicorns and rainbows. Stuff breaking is going to happen probably more often than you like. Learn to shrug it off and poke fun at it.  But, by the same token you will have many days that are sunny bluebird days with no rain and beautiful views from your parking spot. This makes everything worth it. Sharing your experiences with someone who shares your wanderlust is priceless but being able to laugh about things is golden.

Full Timing On A Shoestring Budget - Yes, it can be done. But sometimes the burden of things breaking can wreck your budget temporarily.  Since we share ownership of our coach with the bank, getting ahead of the ahead of the curve has been frustrating. In order to help us achieve our financial goals we have decided to "Work Camp" next spring. The job we accepted is basically a trade of 14 hours of work time (each person) in trade for full hook up sites.  Since we won't be moving every week we will save on the cost of diesel fuel every few days and the cost of renting camping sites along our route. Since this is a five month gig it will allow us to get ahead financially while still being able to explore an area thoroughly and it will have the added bonus of letting us sit still long enough to make friends. Perhaps this would work for you.

Missing Family And Friends - We have found the the friends we left behind are friends for life. They are generous, kind, loving folks who bring joy into our lives. We love seeing them when we can and we all enjoy those visits.  We also keep in touch by calling and texting and by sending them  postcards from the places we've been. We also started a blog so that we can tell our story in journal form and our friends can follow along. We are also hopeful that we will meet and make new friends in our "work camping" situation.

Just Do It - If you are thinking of becoming a full timer. Just do it.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Custer State Park - Custer South Dakota

Custer State Park & Needles Highway

Custer, South Dakota

Custer State Park is one of those legendary places you hear about multiple times in your life.  But the experience of sighting and becoming one with a herd of Bison is incomparable.

We recently camped in Custer, SD at Beaver Lake Campground with friends from   This has become an annual event and one we hope to repeat.  Being in Custer put us in proximity to the State Park and its wildlife. In a word the park is "magnificent". It is home to the largest herd of Bison in North America.  At any given time there are between 1200 and 1700 Bison roaming freely within the boundaries of the park.  On our drive around the Wilderness Loop we saw bison, deer, pronghorn, and prairie dogs.

Most of us know that they were hunted to near extinction, but here they thrive 

There were once millions of Bison roaming the plains, now that seems a faded memory

Present day Bison were introduced into Custer Wildlife Preserve in 1914. These came from a man by the name of Scotty Phillips.  The original thirty six were part of a  herd  he kept at Ft. Pierre.

In 1919 Custer State Forest became Custer State Park

Custer State Park tantalizes you with species that you've likely never seen

This is a Pronghorn

  In North America they are known as the American antelope, prong buck, pronghorn antelope, prairie antelope, or simply antelope

Prairie Dogs towns are common in the park. They tend towards flatter and wetter loose soil in the flats near creeks or bottom land.

The park is also home to White Tailed Deer, Coyotes, Mountain Lions, many species of birds, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, and Mule Deer.  It also has a population of Burros that were released as part of a herd that hauled visitors to the top of Black Elk Peak.


The highway (14 miles long) winds its way through pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and quaking aspen and up into the rugged granite mountains. The roads name comes from the needle-like granite formations which seem to pierce the horizon from afar as you approach. This road has magnificent scenery.

 The Needles Eye

 Sylvan Lake is near the very end of the Needles Highway and offers hiking, swimming and boating opportunities

Martha and I hiked the trail around Sylvan Lake. It's great walk with great views

A 1-week State Park pass at Custer costs $20.  That allows you to drive all of the scenic loops and use all of the day use areas.  It also is good in other state parks in South Dakota.  It is definitely worth the price of admission.

Our most recent blog

Full Time RV'ing - Becoming Comfortable With It

Getting Comfortable With Full Time RV'ing Things We Thought We Knew -  We've spent the last thirteen months learning how to camp ...