Charley and I have been living on the road for 13 months, 19,000 miles and 21 states. The journey has been wonderful, fun, exciting, confusing, frustrating and sometimes just plain scary. To quote the Grateful Dead: “What a long strange trip it’s been!” So what have we learned in this baker’s dozen of months on the road.
First, the Boy Scouts got it right when they said “be prepared.” This is especially true when you live in a motorhome. Things break and others thing just need regular maintenance. Driving your house down the road tends to shake things lose: Screws need to be tightened, seals treated and seams caulked. Selling our bricks and sticks didn’t eliminate the maintenance list. It created a new one. Driving your house down the road also means things break.
The electric harness connecting the car we towe to the motorhome has been repaired three time in the last year, once by a professional and twice by me. The cable connecting the gear shift to the motorhome transmission shook lose and stranded us in the middle of a driveway in the Washington-Jefferson National Forest for 24 hours. Water began leaking into the house around the dinette slide-out window when driving through torrential rains. It took two trips to rv dealers for that problem before one of them “fixed” the window on the wrong slide-out. Recently, one of the two air conditioners died and had to be replaced. That meant three weeks on one air conditioner in ninety degree weather. Then the other one died too.
While sitting in Mitchell the second air conditioner died. The fine people at Camp Rivervale lent us a portable air conditioner. Good thing too, since the temperatures in stayed in the 90s during our three- week stay. This past Saturday while re-positioning the house the leveling system broke and the jacks needed to be raised manually. Oh, and for good measure the driver’s wiper was about to fall off, the only door on our house would not close correctly and the lock needed to be fixed.
No problem we were scheduled for service on Monday and everything can be fixed. These repairs entailed three days of breaking down camp, packing up in the morning and then setting up again in the evening but all repairs were completed and under warranty too. Yahoo! no cost except for the oil change! This list doesn’t include what I broke.
I ripped the awning off the side of our house by driving away with it extended. I backed into a small tree and damaged the left rear panel of the motorhome. I also did not check a weed patch when pulling out of a campsite and crumpled the exhaust pipe on a hidden tree stump.
So be prepared to play mechanic, carpenter, plumber and jack of all trades as you drive down the road in your house. Stuff happens and not all of it is your fault but you must either fix it or pay to fix it.
Second lesson, learn patience. All of my mistakes were made when rushing instead of taking my time.
Third lesson, be flexible. Living full-time in a motorhome requires a level of flexibility and a willingness to accept the unexpected.
We quickly learned to be flexible in our plans. Our plans called for six weeks on the beaches of North Carolina last fall. We were evacuated twice by hurricanes, we ended up in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville Va.
We had a good time on the beach and enjoyed our unplanned side trips. Our plans called for us to spend last January and February in the Southwest. Minor medical problems grounded us in Pittsburgh.
We volunteered at a local church and a soup kitchen. We spent time with our family and managed to sneak down to Mexico for a week on the beach. Our plans had us working a Habitat for Humanity project in June but it was cancelled. So we ended up on a Nomads’ project in North Adams Massachusetts. Being flexible and ready to make changes to our plans is just part of our trip.
Don’t get me wrong, even though the comments above sound like I am complaining I’m not. We have enjoyed the last year immensely.
We have spent more time with our children and grandchildren then we ever could while working. We can go to Pittsburgh and Waterford and spend more than a weekend. We have camped with family in St. Joseph, Michigan and Cedar Point, Ohio. We rafted on the New River and spent a week with our family in West Virginia. We took the grandkids to Gettysburg and Philadelphia.
Traveling with our grandchildren is fun and we can’t wait to do more of that. Mobility allows us to spend time with our family in between our travels.
Our journey around the Eastern United States has been great. We stood on a mountain top in New Hampshire from where you could see four states. In Acadia we stood on Cadillac Mountain and looked for miles in every direction. In Michigan and Indiana we toured abandoned iron mill and farming communities.
Volunteering for Nomads has taken us to Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, Illinois and Massachusetts. These service projects have introduced us to great people and took us to areas we would never have picked as stops on a road trip.
It has been a long strange journey and we have loved it and are looking forward to continuing down the road. So the final lesson is simple: enjoy life’s journey no matter where it takes you!!