Ed & Marilyn 'The Happy Wanderers' travel blog


Two Years on the road

After spending two years on the road, it is time to give you a report on our thoughts about our decision to become full-time RVers, and the results of that decision.

The Beginning:

Due to the stock market crash of 2000, we were unable to retire at age 65 and continued to work for two plus additional years.

I was 67+ years old and Marilyn was 63+ years of age when I retired.

We took into consideration that Marilyn would not be eligible for medicare until she reached the age of 65, which meant that I would have to obtain some medical coverage for her during that interim period. That cost us several hundreds of dollars per month.

We ended up giving away most of our possessions, selling some and keeping primarily the items of sentimental value, rather than monetary value.

The home we owned was nearly paid for, with a balance around $14,000 remaining.

Although we were debt free except for the mortgage on our home, we didn’t have nearly the amount of money in our retirement funds as we had at the beginning of the year 2000. We felt however, that we could live on our social security and the very modest retirement pension from my work, without touching our investments.

One bit of advice here. If at all possible, be debt free when you go on the road. It makes a huge difference. One more thing is to take advantage of all the resources you can find for information.

One of the finest resources we found was the “www.rv-dreams.com” web site. Howard & Linda have become friends and their web site is an extremely valuable resource for anyone wanting to know more about this lifestyle.

We were convinced that our long time dream of retirement and being full-time RVers could become a reality, if we were careful.

Our new truck arrived in August, 2006 and our new RV arrived September 8th. We took delivery of the new RV, worked out a few minor problems and towed it to Wichita.

We lived in the RV while we moved out of the house, and when we closed on the house at the end of September, we were on the road.

Spending the next 2 ½ months in Hannibal, MO so that we could put on a wedding for our daughter, Jennifer, was not all fun and games.

We had been through a lot of stress with retirement, selling our home and divesting ourselves of most of our worldly goods. Now, at last, we had the good kind of stress, learning to live as full-time RVers, and putting on a wedding for our daughter.

The winter weather we experienced, however, was a whole new learning experience. When I say winter weather I mean the 1 ½ inches of ice which coated our RV, covered with 14” of snow, the result of a huge winter storm just a few days before the wedding. You can read of it in our journal.

Once Steve & Jennifer were off on their honeymoon, I had time to clear the RV of the snow and ice, and Marilyn & I finally headed south toward Texas.

When we were all set up at Admiralty RV Resort in San Antonio, we began to experience the joy which is a very real part of this lifestyle.

A few weeks later we were at Llano Grande RV Resort in Mercedes, TX. Now we began to relax and really enjoy being retired. Palm trees, warm weather, wonderful new friends, many activities, great fresh seafood, and balmy breezes.

Now, this is living!!

So, after that auspicious beginning, how are things going?

We have learned that there are some things you need to know to make this lifestyle easier. Learning the ins and outs of the RV itself is not difficult but seems to remain a continual process. We are still learning new things about the care and operation of systems which are part of our RV.

One of the things which make it easier is the friendliness of other full-timers. Many have been on the road longer than we have and the varied backgrounds of these good people provide a wealth of experience for whatever sort of problem or issue you might have.

We had a problem with hitching up and getting unhitched at first, and we decided that trying to act like we were experienced would be foolish. We just told it like it was. “Hey, we’re new at this. Could you give us a hand?” That worked like magic because everyone else has been through this same sort of thing. Not once did anyone decline to offer assistance. The people are wonderful!

So, let me attempt to list some of the pros and cons of living this lifestyle.

The Pro’s:

The People we have met. I used a capital P for people because they have been absolutely wonderful! We have always enjoyed great friends in our lives and we found no difference in the new friends we met along the way. Many of the people we have met along the way have become very close friends, and will be close friends for the rest of our lives. In fact, the primary reason that full-time RVers return to the same place each winter is because of the people they have met the year before.

The Places we have visited. Living this lifestyle gives us the freedom to go places and see things that we might otherwise miss. When you are working for a living and go on vacation, you visit the highlights and miss much simply because of the time constraints.

In this lifestyle you can stay as long as you like, and experience not only the tourist attractions, but the culture and the people. You have the time to explore! We love to ask the locals for places to visit and places to eat. We have discovered some wonderful places like this.

The Climate we experience. This is a subject often overlooked, but is a real advantage for us Full-Time RVers. We have the opportunity to live wherever we like and that means that we have the freedom to select the climate we like to live in. Marilyn & I have experienced a requirement to be in winter conditions twice since becoming full-time RVers, once for a wedding and once for the birth of our first grandchild, Colby. Normally however, we choose to be where the temperatures are warm in the winter and moderate with low humidity in the summer. We have spent the last two winters in the Rio Grande Valley and loved it! Our plans are to return for a third winter this December, staying until nearly May, before returning to Missouri. Other RVers choose Arizona or Florida and a variety of other warm climates for the winter months. Thus the term, “Snowbirds”, as it applies to us full-time RVers.

This summer we have spent mostly in the mountains of Colorado. The weather has been wonderful and we plan to return for the months of July & August next summer.

There are many summer destinations to choose from and we will explore other options after next summer.

The Freedom we have is one of the most enjoyable parts of this lifestyle. We are free to wander, to explore, to visit old friends, to travel with or visit new friends, to spend time in State Parks, National Parks, Campgrounds, or RV Resorts. We are free to travel as slowly as we wish, to extend our stay or to leave at any time. Don’t underestimate the feeling of being free!

Cons:

I have mentioned some of the best parts of living this lifestyle. So, what are the downside items? Surely there is a downside to all of this.

Sure, there is a downside to everything.

So, let’s list some of the Downside Items:

Tiny Home: We live in a 300 sq ft home with a tiny bathroom. That is true, but you should see the size of our back yard! Oh, I forgot for a moment that I was writing about the downside. OK!

The home we live in is small. There is an unwritten rule for RVers. It is the 6/4/2 rule.

Room enough to have six for drinks, four for dinner, and it sleeps two.

Well, of course, that rule is flexible and many RV’s sleep at least four, some sleeping six. It is up to you.

Marilyn & I try to help each other with the chores and by now things are pretty routine. We also give each other space. We can sit together and read, without conversation and be totally comfortable, or we can enjoy cooking together while sharing wine, music and good conversation. We enjoy the same things so we have no problems in that regard.

Leaving the Family: The one thing all RVers talk about is their family. It is very difficult to leave family behind and to be far away from them. At least it is in our case. We miss our daughter and our grandson very much, not to mention the other relatives we don’t see when we are far away from Missouri. We aren’t alone in that regard.

Many RVers have family scattered all across the country and they find that the full-time RV lifestyle gives them an opportunity to visit each part of that scattered family, and sleep in their own bed every night while they are doing it!

We have family in Missouri and also on the east coast and we hope to travel out to visit the east coast relatives, spending as much time as we wish with these wonderful family members. That may be in the spring or summer of 2010 for us.

We stay in touch with friends and relatives around the country via e-mail and our cell phone service, which has been great everywhere we have traveled, except for the Mountaindale RV Resort near Colorado Springs, CO. In this location we have to go about 1 mile down the road to get cell phone service.

Most of the resorts and many campgrounds now have reliable, free Wi-Fi service. This is a big plus for us as I write a daily journal and need internet access.

Basically, that is all of the downside items for us. However, there are several items which need to be discussed.

Discussion Items:

Cost: The cost of living this lifestyle can be whatever you want it to be, within reason. Basically you control the expenses just as you do when you live in a “stick & brick” home. We live on an annual income of just over $33,000 per year. We have not had to touch our investments.

We do have a budget and try to live within our means, but we aren’t making huge sacrifices to live this lifestyle.

So, what are the expenses associated with living on the road as we do? I will not even attempt to list them all. I will simply cover a few of the basics.

Eating out: We have found that one of the costliest expenses is eating out. You can save a lot of money by eating in. Because of the climate we choose, we usually have fresh fruits and vegetables available to us, from Farmer’s Markets or from stands along the road. This helps to cut down on costs for food. This expense is all up to you.

I must say that eating out is one of the great pleasures in our life. Going out to eat with a group of friends is a great joy and we have enjoyed many wonderful evenings with friends, over a glass of wine and a great meal. This is one of those areas where we will cut back somewhere else to be able to enjoy this activity on occasion.

Fuel: Another cost that people ask about all the time is the cost of fuel and how that expense impacts our lifestyle. Fuel sure is expensive and that is a fact we have had to adapt to. In two full years of driving the truck, we have driven just over 20,000 miles, about 7,200 of those miles were towing our RV. We have put a couple of thousand miles on our Van, which we keep back on the farm in Missouri. This is an average of about 11,000 miles per year. When I was working, we averaged about 24,000 miles a year for the two vehicles combined. Many people put more miles on their cars that that when they have to commute to work each day.

One of the ways we combat the high cost of fuel, is to stay put in one place longer than we might if fuel were cheap. This has an added benefit, in that most places we stay have a monthly rate and it saves us additional money over the daily cost of staying in a campground or resort.

We also take turns driving when we are camped somewhere with friends. The truth is that we spend less on fuel now than we did when I was working for a living and living in our “stick & brick” home.

One more item which figures in to this fuel situation is the cost to heat your home. Since we live where the climate is as perfect as we can select, it costs very little to heat our tiny 300 sq ft home. We did select a well insulated RV with thermo-pane windows. It cost a bit more and adds to the weight but we think it was a good investment.

Again, you have some control over these costs, and living the RV lifestyle costs less than living in a stick & brick home.

RV Repairs: This is a definite downside because, just like a house, your RV will sometimes need something fixed. While your RV is under warranty, there is usually no problem, as long as you contact the factory with your problem first. Normally, they will advise you to get it repaired and send them the bill. Sometimes you must take the RV to a dealer for your brand but they can’t always fit your schedule. We have found very little inconvenience with the repairs we have required and the factory support from Doubletree has been wonderful.

The real downside of this is that you may have to drive miles out of your way to get something fixed. That is simply one of the realities of living this lifestyle.

Sightseeing: One of the things we found difficult to adapt to, especially when we first began living this lifestyle, was that we are LIVING in these wonderful places. We are not tourists on vacation! So we tend to spend less on sightseeing than a vacationing couple might do. If there is a special place we want to see, or if we have company come to visit and they want us to show them around, we save up for the added expense. We plan ahead for this. One recent example was eating the Sunday Brunch at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. It was a wonderful experience, shared with good friends who were visiting us, but it cost $100 for the two of us. We knew that was a planned activity so we saved and cut back in other areas. We have enjoyed many wonderful scenic adventures which cost very little or nothing at all. Again, you control this expense.

Mail, Taxes, Auto, Truck & RV registration, Medical care, Haircuts, Shopping:

We had to learn about how to handle these things while living “on the road”. Again, the website by Howard & Linda Payne was a wonderful resource; www.rv-dreams.com

We didn’t do everything just the way Howard & Linda did it, but we read a lot and asked questions. We communicated with Howard & Linda by e-mail and with our cell phones. They always took the time to answer our questions and to give good advice.

We chose to use “Alternative Resources” in Sioux Falls, SD for our mail forwarding. We also became residents of South Dakota, driving there to become residents, get new drivers license, and have our vehicles registered there.

We get our mail once a month from our PMB (Postal Mail Box) address in Sioux Falls. Alternative Resources also takes care of getting our new license plates for our vehicles every year, and mailing them to us.

We have medicare and a supplemental policy so we can get medical service just about anywhere we go. This has not been a problem.

Nearly all of our regular expenses are paid automatically from our bank account. The only monthly bill we have is our credit card, and we have only one of those. We do keep a debit card also.

If you read my daily journal, you have heard about the $41.00 dollar haircut, but we normally find a barbershop or beauty shop nearby whatever campground we are in. Of course, there is always Wal-Mart, which brings me to the subject of shopping.

Because of the high price of fuel, it is pretty common for friends who are making a trip to the local Wal-Mart or other store, to ask if you need anything. We do the same for them. That may take a few extra minutes for you to pick up an extra item or two but it saves everyone and is just the RVer way of helping our neighbors.

Work Camping: One of the easiest ways to save or earn money while living as full-time Rvers is to work at the different places you visit. Once again Howard & Linda cover this subject extremely well in their website. As for us, we spent the first summer on the road at Mark Twain Cave Campground in Hannibal, Missouri.

It was here that we worked all summer long. I worked a 40 hour week as a tour guide while Marilyn worked 24 hours in the gift shop or the fudge shop, each week.

In return for that labor we received a free campsite including utilities, and were paid $6.50 per hour for each hour worked. That gave us a place to live in an area we wanted to be in, and an income of approximately $1700.00 per month. Of course we had to pay taxes on that income including Missouri State taxes.

The type of job you would like and the place to live is all up to you. Marilyn & I have decided not to work full time. I do help out here at the Cave during the time we are here, in return for a free campsite, but there is no schedule for me and I am not on the payroll.

Marilyn chooses not to work at all. That is simply our choice. There are many options open to you. Simply do your homework and decide what is best for you.

Do we have any regrets? I have talked this over with Marilyn and we are in agreement. We have no regrets. If we were to rephrase the question to: “what do you miss the most?” we would have answers to that. Besides missing being near Jennifer and Colby, Marilyn misses the screened in porch we had on the home we built on the golf course. She also misses our little convertible. The one we sold to Herb & Deb in Wichita. I also miss Jennifer, Colby, as well as the friends and other family we left behind.

People constantly ask me if I miss flying. With more than 18,000 flight hours, the large majority of it in jet aircraft, flying in and out of 44 states and a dozen foreign countries, the answer is no. I do not miss flying, but I do sometimes miss the people I met along the way in that wonderful career. At the age of 67, it was time to hang up my wings and enjoy life, being at home with Marilyn much more than I used to be. I could never have asked for a better wife and now we are together all the time.

What would we change: I can’t think of much that we would change in our home. Our little home on wheels is only 300 sq ft but we have a well built coach with a large refrigerator, including an ice maker, electric fireplace, central vacuum system, 42” LCD/HD TV with surround sound, king size bed, and all of the amenities we could want.

We opted not to install a washer/dryer and have not been unhappy with that decision, even though some RVers would not be without that appliance.

The truck, a Ford F-350 diesel with dual rear wheels has done a great job for us. Like the RV, we ordered the truck with the convenience items we wanted on it. It is very comfortable to ride in and we are currently getting 16+ mpg when we are not towing our fifth wheel, and 10 mpg while towing.

I hope this little summary of our thoughts after two years on the road is helpful to some of you readers.

For a really detailed summary of costs associated with the RV life, see Howard & Linda’s web site. It is wonderful!

We hope to meet you on the road someday!



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