19817. That was the odometer reading as we returned to the same Summer Village parking lot in Westford we’d left 10 months earlier. We’d completed 17644 miles over 315 days. (See the first post of our trip: 2173)
Note: The WordPress editor shows an embedded map above, but not the live blog (no matter what we try) It’s a detailed map of every one of our camping locations. You can still see it on roadtrippers.com (if there’s a pop-up, just click on the map to dismiss it)
How it Started
For a least a decade prior to his retirement, Mark had dreamed about one day saying goodbye to cubicle life, and hitting the road in an RV to unwind and see the USA.
Lori was somewhat leery of the idea, not seeing herself as much of a “camper”. She was not refusing however; on the contrary, love and affection and a feeling that Mark had earned this made her more than willing. 35 years of work (at 6 companies) plus a habit of frugality had made it possible. But she wasn’t sure she was ready for month after month of camping. She definitely wanted some reasonable minimum standard of comfort.
It wasn’t until we attended the Boston RV & Camping Expo in early 2019 that Lori really started to warm to the idea. So many options! Trailers, 5th wheels, conversion vans, and 3 classes of motorhome! We started to imagine ourselves traveling the country in one of these modern wonders. Shower? Check! Bathroom? Check! Fridge/Sink/Stove/Oven/Storage/TV/Comfy Bed? Check check check!
So, with Lori’s growing enthusiasm, “Lori and Mark’s Big Adventure”, began to take shape. Eventually we’d settle on a 10 month trip in a Class-C Motorhome, which would take us from Massachusetts to Florida to Arizona, to Washington State, before turning for home.
How it’s going
Now that we’re home it’s time to reflect. How was it? Where did we go and what did we do? What were the highlights? Was it different than we’d imagined? Are we done? What was a normal day like? Here are some of the questions we’ve heard the most. If we get more questions after this we can update our answers here.
Where’s Wanda now? As of October 2020 she’s resting comfortably at a secure storage facility in Ashland, winterized to safeguard against freezing.
Where did you go?
- October: Camping in: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Tennessee, finally arriving at Montgomery, Alabama on 10/30/2019.
- November: Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, arriving in Florida on 11/27.
- December and January in Florida (with flights home for the holidays) making it to Key West on 1/17 then Wanda went in for some repairs for the next 2 weeks.
- February: North through Florida gulf coast and panhandle, through Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana to Texas on 2/23.
- March: Texas (Bryan, Beaumont, Austin, South Padre Island and back) then Inks Lake and San Angelo parks.
- April: Left Texas on 4/9. New Mexico briefly, then Arizona from 4/14 through the end of April.
- May: Utah from Monument Valley in the south, to Salt Lake City and the Provo Area, to Bear Lake in the north.
- June: Southern Idaho, Washington State, Northern Idaho until 6/14, then Montana (Glacier and Darby)
- July: Wyoming (Yellowstone) and South Dakota. Minnesota, from Fairmont in the south on 7/12, to the North Shore, through 7/20, then Michigan and Ohio and finally New York on 7/30.
- August: New York state parks, then our last campground in Massachusetts through 7/11.
How many, how far, how much, how long, how hot/cold, …
- 17644 miles traveled over 315 days start to finish.
- 272 days in Wandah
- 43 days elsewhere (Xmas 25, Repairs 14, bday trip home 4)
- 149 days, our longest stretch of uninterrupted camping – from 3/15 to 8/11
- Travel Days
- Longest: 429 miles in 8 hours from Yellowstone to Devil’s Tower (second to that was,
419 miles from South Padre Isle to College Station)
- Shortest: 4 miles between 2 campgrounds in High Springs FL
- Average: 163 miles (17644 miles in ~108 trips)
- Longest: 429 miles in 8 hours from Yellowstone to Devil’s Tower (second to that was,
- Lows: ~28° overnight, ~45° daytime @ Grayson Highlands VA, October 21.
- Highs: ~78° overnight, ~100° daytime @ Lost Dutchman State Park, AZ, April 25
- Averages: ~58° overnight, ~73° daytime.
- Camp sites
- Number visited: 108
- Length of Stay (low, high, average)
- low: 1 day, high: 11 (San Angelo, TX), average: 2.51
- Most Expensive: KOA $61.00 per night
- Cheapest w/ hookups $12 (Intercoastal Park, TX)
- Average : about $30
- Total Cost: roughly $8000
- Weekly grocery $100 x 40 = $4000
- Takeout / fast food once a week, $600
- Restaurants (pre-Covid only) $1800
- Total Cost : $6400
- Average Mileage 15.61 MPG
- Highest price: $3.26/gal in Tennessee
- Lowest price: $1.93/gal in Northern Idaho
- Average price: $2.59/gal
- Farthest on a tank: 405 miles on 24.35 gal.
- Total Cost : ~1130 gallons of Diesel @ $2.59 avg = ~$3000
- DEF : 5 Fills x 2.5 Gal @ ~$12, ~$60.
- Oil changes : 0 (as per recommended 20k change interval)
How was it? Great! Of course in hindsight we remember the joys much more clearly than the struggles, but that’s a good thing, right? And in truth, it really was a wonderful time for us and the good vastly outweighed the “not so good”. We’d recommend it highly to anyone who’s considering it and would love to share what we’ve learned. Drop us a note!
How did you spend your time? Hiking, biking, bird-watching, cooking, eating, shopping, planning, visiting family and friends, creating the blog posts & videos, reading, writing, watching movies, going to the beach or lake. (Pre-Covid we also enjoyed museums, a few movies, restaurants, tours, and shops.)
As it turned out, the pandemic hit just as we were transitioning from the eastern phase, heavy with museums, restaurants, tours, and shops – to the western phase, heavy with scenery, hiking and wildlife, few people, not much Covid around. That meant far less disruption to our plans, than if it had hit a few months earlier (other than us deciding to skip California)
What were some of your favorite places?
- Longwood Gardens, PA
- Wild horses at Assategue, DE
- Luray Caverns, VA
- Nashville, Memphis music and BBQ, Graceland TN
- Gulf Shores, Memorial for Peace and Justice/Legacy Museum Birmingham, Montgomery AL
- Aquarium, Chattanooga TN
- Lookout Mountain, Rock City, GA
- Skidaway Island, Savannah GA
- Magnolia Plantation, Charleston SC
- Dunedin, Honeymoon Island, Key West, Cape Coral, Mt. Dora, FL
- Myakka River, Chassahowitska River, Ginny Springs, Apalachicola, Seaside FL
- Austin, McKinney Falls, Inks Lake, San Angelo, Enchanted Rock TX
- Roper Lake, Sedona, Flagstaff, Horseshoe Bend, AZ
- Moab, Bear Lake, Wasatch Mountain, UU & BYU Campuses, Jordan River Parkway Trail UT
- Shoshone Falls, Boise, Castle Rocks, Coeur d’Alene ID
- Fields Spring State Park, Palouse Falls, Spokane WA
- Logan, Glacier, Darby MT
- Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower WY
- Badlands, Sioux Falls SD
- Fairmont, Gooseberry Falls, Silver Bay, Duluth, Grand Marais MN
- Mackinac Island, MI
- Letchworth, Watkins Glen, Robert Tremen Park, Ithaca NY
What was a typical day like?
Wake up, turn on the space heater if it’s cold, and check the news on our phones while the place warms up. (Even 50 degrees inside on cold nights was fine with a few blankets.) Breakfast, shower, then depending on how far the next stop is, we’d either go exploring for a while or start the 15 point “tear down” sequence – each of us with our jobs to do. We never once skipped our verbal checklist, making sure we didn’t forget something important. Stabilizers! Skylight! Awning! Steps! Water! Sewer! Electric!
About every 12 days we’d do our laundry. If the campground didn’t have a laundry room, then we’d plan to do it on a travel day. It was fairly common to find a grocery store and laundromat in the same shopping plaza, or near enough to combine the two errands, while also getting lunch or dinner. Occasionally, we would grab take-out food but, more often, we would make sandwiches in the RV while the clothes were drying.
On arrival at the campsite we’d do the setup sequence (no checklist needed, because there’s no “consequence” for forgetting something) If there was time, we’d explore or get oriented in the campground.
These varied a lot from occasionally “just hanging out” to enjoying hikes, biking, or even driving the RV to some place or activity. All things food (shopping, cooking, eating, dishes) would use up part of every day. Other than that we’d read, write, learn, art/crafts or write code, edit videos, listen to music or watch shows or news.
Campfires can be nice, but we rarely made one because there are multiple inhibitors. You have to find/buy wood. It’s best on a cool but not *cold* night without bugs which wasn’t super common. It lasts for hours even if you don’t want to be out that long. It makes clothes smell of smoke, and we had limited clothing and laundry opportunities. Since Mark wanted s’mores more often than a fire, he’d just light a small pile of charcoal briquettes and that would work OK (though slowly).
What did you like the best (and least) about it?
- Most days were full of meaningful activity. We never felt “stuck in a rut” or felt like the days and weeks were “slipping by” without anything new or notable happening.
- Feeling refreshed by the constant presence of natural beauty. Land and sky, water, plant life, birds, animals, in every-changing variety.
- Sunsets. So many pretty or even spectacular sunsets, and such variety.
- Learning about new places as we planned the next stops
- Enjoying visits with friends and family along the way
- Regular physical activity with walking, hiking and biking.
- Listening together on the road: Podcasts and Audiobooks.
- A consistent practice of mindfulness meditation increased our appreciation of every day.
- We ate well, healthier than usual. Lots of instant pot soups, salads, veggies, sandwiches. Not as much heavy stuff like casseroles, pasta, meat.
- Frequent need to find lodging in a competitive market meant time online and on the phone. This improved as we became more experienced RV travelers.
- Vulnerability to bad weather – tornado warnings are not fun in an RV! We were very close to the path of a tornado in FL, and during the trip we experienced severe thunderstorms, wind/rainstorms, hail, and even a snowstorm! (Idaho, early June).
- Temperature control in very hot or very cold places
- Some hairy driving situations, tight turns, parking, low bridges!
- Getting RV damage repaired was a huge disruption
- Minor concerns about getting into trouble far from civilization – tires or mechanical breakdowns, storm damage, wild animals, crime, getting lost, getting stuck, etc. None of these happened, but you feel more exposed than usual to these risks, (partly due to inexperience).
What surprised you? Was it different than you thought it would be?
Mark imagined long hours relaxing in his lawn chair, feet up, reading many books. As it turned out, this was relatively rare. For the first several months, we generally spent our days exploring. We were often hiking and biking all around the new areas – or, pre-Covid – we visited many art museums, historic sites, downtown areas with shops and food, etc. Once Covid restrictions took hold (which was later for us in the south and northwest) then we started spending more time hanging out in the hammock and lawn chairs with our books. This was also when we got into bird watching!
We thought using laundromats might be a hassle, but it wasn’t. It was quicker to do several loads at once. We were amused by the variety of laundromats (some rather fancy, some not-so-much) and (pre-Covid) we had some interesting conversations with other patrons. The toughest part was making sure we had enough quarters since they don’t all have change machines.
We thought setup and teardown at each site would be a big pain. It wasn’t. We thought fuel would be a major expense, but it turned out that food was twice the cost of fuel.
Was it difficult having so much “togetherness” in such a tiny space?
There was some adjustment the first month due to the stresses of not knowing what we were doing, and our different priorities for campgrounds. Mark prioritized low cost while Lori prioritized quality (which meant nicer facilities, a level pad, water and electricity), so it took a while to find that balance. It was also an unusually cold and rainy October so we were ‘trapped’ inside more than we expected.
Surprisingly, we never felt like we were cramped or needed more space. The camper’s layout felt plenty roomy for us. It was very comfortable, and it cemented Lori’s dream of living in a tiny house some day. Plus, you can have your own virtual space whenever you want with books, podcasts, audiobooks, videos, the web etc.
Are you done?
No, we don’t think so. We are watching the Covid situation and hope to venture out again when it makes sense, maybe after we get vaccinated.
Thank you so much for taking this journey with us! Your interest made writing the blog more than just a personal journal. We hope it occasionally provided a little escape from the day’s responsibilities as you joined us in spirit.
Lori & Mark