Kevin and I are fortunate enough to be able to fulfill our dream of spending the winter in a warmer climate than the Indiana Dunes. I can’t say that it’s been a lifelong dream, but I have had a lifelong fascination with travel and a gypsy lifestyle.
I had every intention of writing most of the blog posts for our Odyssey, but Kevin has been doing such a good job of it that I have ceded that task to him. Much like I ceded all cooking responsibilities to him once I realized how talented he is in the kitchen. Now that we are within a week of returning home, it’s now or never for a post from Maureen. So I will answer the two most commonly asked questions from my friends: what is your home like, and what do you do all day?
We bought a new 23 foot Lance 1985 travel trailer in September, 2014. I have loved it from the very first, and it suits our life perfectly. It is 8.5 feet wide and has a slide-out for the dinette. This dinette turns into a bed, which we have used exactly once for my six year old nephew, Cole on an overnight camping trip near his house last summer. He pronounced it “really really fun.” I do hope to take other nieces and nephews camping, but probably for short trips and probably one at a time. The beauty of our Lance dinette is how spacious and comfortable it is for reading and lounging. We had considered a foldaway bed that converts to a sofa but decided against that due to cost and extra weight and we have never regretted it. There is plenty of room to stretch out on a rainy afternoon or a late evening. So our dining room is also our living room and it’s quite comfortable.
Another feature that we love is our Queen sized, walk-around bed. Many campers have a full-sized bed, turned sideways so that one person has to crawl over the other to get out. We knew that if we were going to live in this thing, the bed (and making the bed!) had to be comfy. The original mattress was fairly comfortable but we bought a memory foam mattress topper and it is heavenly. Linen sheets, a light summer blanket and a down comforter make this bed one of the most comfortable I’ve ever had.
The kitchen is basic and small but well-designed. The three burner stove has a lid that provides extra counter space and a round cutting board covers the kitchen sink. We have a small counter that flips up next to the door, so we (read “Kevin”) manage quite well. There is limited cabinet and refrigerator space, but we have adapted. I hate buying a half dozen eggs and half gallons of milk, but that is the price you pay for being on the road. We eat out only once or twice a month and grill everything we can. That makes for easier cleanup, reduces the cooking odors and grease spatters in the kitchen, and it’s delicious. Our microwave only works if we have electric hookup but we rarely use it anyway.
The bathroom is small but functional. One absolute must that we both had was a “dry bath”, meaning that the shower is separate from the toilet. Some of the smaller RVs have a “wet bath”, meaning the shower head hangs directly over the toilet. You cover your toilet paper and towels and then proceed to soak the entire bathroom. That might work well for some people but Kevin and I both knew it wasn’t for us. In fact, we added two additional towel racks and we have a drying rack that attaches to the ladder outside for drying towels on sunny days. I was amazed and impressed that you can dry bath towels in under an hour in the desert!
We have a TV, stereo and DVD player. As it turns out, we rarely get a TV signal, since we usually camp near mountains or in unpopulated areas, but we haven’t missed it a bit. We can use our phones to tap into the Tablo over-the-air DVR system that Kevin installed at home, which means we are actually watching the TV back in Beverly Shores, but that means we have to have a good strong cell signal, which isn’t always the case. We’re actually usually too busy to watch TV anyway, so we haven’t taken advantage of that technology much either.
Which brings me to Question 2: what do you do all day? First of all, it takes much longer to just take care of the basics of living when on the road. There is no dishwasher, and since the place is so small, I do dishes right away, after every meal. The garbage must be disposed of right away since there is no garbage disposal and it is often a walk and sometimes a treasure hunt to find a dumpster. If we are close to grocery stores, we usually shop daily due to lack of storage space. We have to find a laundromat and do laundry, about every 7-10 days. The advantage and efficiency here is that I can do four or five loads at once, rather than one at a time at home. But you are a captive at the laundromat, and can’t do other errands at the same time. As I mentioned, we rarely eat out, so shopping, preparing and cleaning up seems to take half of our days.
Planning our next stop and making reservations takes more time than you can imagine. Kevin takes care of all of this, so I don’t even realize how involved it is. When we need internet access, we often find a local library and spend several hours there, researching campgrounds and routes. We have a hotspot, but this saves data. Since we are towing our home behind us as we travel, Kevin checks how curvy the roads are and how steep the hills are so that we can plan the optimal route. We usually spend three or four days at each site, although they have been as short as overnight and as long as two weeks. Fortunately, the GPS in the Jeep is very good so we usually arrive with minimal difficulty.
And then there is the fun! We have stayed in some gorgeous National and State parks and we try to hike as often as we can, usually every day. I also have been able to do both yoga and Tai Chi using videos that we downloaded to my iPad. I wish I could say that I’ve done that every day but I’m just not that disciplined.
Since we are both retired, we can read the newspapers at a leisurely pace and savor the experience rather than rushing to get to work. I’m nearly caught up on my old issues of The New Yorker, and I’ve read several novels that I checked out as eBooks from the Valparaiso library.
Whenever we stay in private RV camps or Co-ops, I join in every activity that I can in order to get some social contact. I’ve been to classes on yoga, Flexercise, meditation, walking groups, movie night, and pot lucks, in addition to many Happy Hours. RVers are a convivial bunch and we have been welcomed wherever we go. I still miss my friends and family quite a bit, but these social activities do take the sting out of the isolation.
We have been able to visit some family and friends along the way, and gone to some interesting museums and historical sites. Just driving around a new city is educational and entertaining and we really enjoy learning the culture of a new place. I won’t go into detail about all that we have seen, since Kevin has done an excellent job of describing most of the highlights, but both of us have grown and changed just seeing something new every day.