After four years of looking and begging my husband, we went to the Tampa RV show in January with family and friends. There we found almost everything we were looking for in a travel trailer. If we had gone on our own we probably would have left without buying anything except some popcorn and beer. However, we succumbed to peer pressure. We even bought from a vendor we swore we would never buy from (General RV). We left excited and looking forward to picking up our new RV the end of February.
My list of must-haves were not many:
Length of trailer should be no longer than 30′
Lots of windows and lighter colored furnishings
A good amount of storage
A large bathroom
Must sleep at least 5/6 people
An outside kitchen
Two doors for entering and exiting camper
Ultra Light weight
A simple exterior without outlandish designs and a neutral color palette
Room for my husband to work with his multitude of electronic devices
Heated and enclosed underbelly
NO aluminum siding
At least one slide with a slide topper
The APEX 265RBSS met all of my wants with the exception of two. The RV has 1 door. I kept weighing the pros and cons and decided I could live without the extra door. It has one nice slide, but no slide topper. That I didn’t think I could do without.
My husband had other items that were important to him as far as the construction and features were concerned. He was happy with the overall construction, however he was adamant that we have two air conditioners. So, we agreed to pay extra for the slide topper and an air conditioner and negotiations began.
We picked up the RV the last week of February and then camped at Lazy Days for two days with our granddaughter. With four years of watching countless videos on camping and RVs, writing posts and interviewing experienced campers you would think we would have this RV camping thing down. HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA
So we thought, no problem, we will take a few short distance trips over the next few months before we hit the road for a long trip. Then Covid-19 happened and we were told to stay in our homes. Yes, we are in that age group, you know, the 60 and over group. One more challenge to our RV dream.
But maybe this is not a bad thing after all. Why do I say that? Well, my next post will address that subject.
A few weeks ago I received a text from a family friend and it said “you may want to read this“. I immediately went to the website and started briefly scanning the article. Then a wave of nausea hit me like a tidal wave. A panic attack…could it be? My immediate reaction was to quickly turn off my computer and hide it under the bed. There is no way my husband could see this. It would support every negative feeling he has about my Camper Crazy dream. He will say, “see, everything I have been telling you is confirmed in this article” and with a quick chuckle finish with a “I always knew you were crazy.”
A few days later peeking under the bed, I stared at the laptop and wondered if I was emotionally strong enough to confront the dreaded list. With sweaty palms and a racing heart, I summoned the courage to reopen that link and start reading. To be honest, I could not read it all at once. It took me a couple days to finish it. It was like trying to choke down a plate of broccoli, brussel sprouts and sauerkraut accompanied with a glass of buttermilk. I could not like it!
Should I just give up on my dream based on this article? At first, I was almost convinced that I should. The article was based on interviews of people that decided to live my dream and their valuable personal experiences, which remarks did not coincide with my dream.
Then my more rational side kicked in a couple of my brain cells. I decided that I would take one item at a time and analyze how it applied to us and how we could overcome. I started with what I felt would be the easier items to confront first.
I had to skip down to Slide 8 before I found a comfortable area to start. Not that dealing with your own waste is easy! However, in our previous article “To poop or not to poop” we confronted that topic with experienced campers. I feel like my husband will be more than capable of taking care of that part of the mess. He is an electrician by trade. That is close to a plumber, right?
Slide 9 discusses how small the living quarters are and how it can create issues between traveling companions. That seemed plausible. We have been married 45 years and there are times I would just like to have the house to myself for an afternoon and have a “Calgon” moment. Is that enough to not follow my dream?
I sent a message to my friend Debbie. She and her husband sold their home and living full-time in an RV for over a year. When I asked her if she thought spending all her time with Joe caused issues, she laughed. Her reply was: “When you retire with your spouse what difference is there between hanging together all the time at your house or on the road in a camper? Either way you are together, so why not spend the time enjoying journeys?” Boom! Good Answer. Two down, eleven to go.
Slide 10 deals with the challenge of driving an RV. It is one of the things that sort of scares me. Not that my husband is a bad driver. But, lets face it, when one retires and ages, you look forward to losing your hearing and your eyesight. Uggg!!! It is always easier to drive when you can see where you are going. One of the things we learned from Dan & Mary Ellen, (the owners of the Pleasure-way) is careful planning helps. They plan their trip each day so they are only driving six hours a day. They can start after rush hour and arrive at their next campsite in late afternoon. A great plan!
I realize it is best if I learn to drive whatever camper we purchase in case of emergency or when my husband just doesn’t feel like driving. However, if we purchase a fifth-wheel or a travel trailer, I have zero experience. A Class C is not as scary to consider since I have driven the largest U haul trucks packed with furniture across the country.
Shanna and Brent ended up getting a fifth wheel to replace their totaled trailer. (refer to “Griswold’s in the making” article). Today she drove through Fancy Gap, VA on I-77. She said it is much easier towing a fifth-wheel than the previous Grey Wolf trailer.
Driving through Fancy Gap in a car scares me, so I am pretty impressed that she drove the F-250 with the new Elkridge. I was even more impressed that Brent wasn’t on his knees praying the whole time she was driving since the F-250 is his pride and joy.
Lynette and Mark from one of our previous posts drive a Dodge dual wheel pickup with a Jayco fifth-wheel. She tells me not to worry, it is easy. So I guess, if nothing else, I have Shanna and Lynnette to give me driving lessons if we buy a fifth-wheel.
Slide 11 discusses problematic overnight parking but gives suggestions on some apps you can utilize to find overnight parking. Easy enough we can do that. Note to self: download apps. 4 down!!! My blood pressure is now normal!
Slide 13 made me sigh. I am not a hoarder exactly, but very sentimental and like to keep things, that in all honesty.. I don’t need. However, I feel that someone close to me may appreciate the fact that I kept something that they may appreciate in the future. My husband on the other hand loves tools and wire, and nuts and bolts. We have made great strides in reducing the stuff we have over the past year. It is just stuff that will rust and deteriorate over time. For those things like old photos and letters and cards that are so dear to my heart, I am hoping my children will help me scan and maintain electronically and maybe keep some of the originals. Renting a storage unit is an option but costs extra money. We can’t forget that once we retire we are on a fixed income. A difficult obstacle for the emotional side but we can overcome!
Slide 14 deals with the fact that it is not easy to pull up your roots and leave friends and family. There is absolutely no way I can go for several months and not see my kids and granddaughters. We would both go insane. Another tip I learned from the glampers Dan and Mary, is when they owned their Class A is to invite others to join you along the way. Often they would have their kids, grand-kids and other family members and friends fly to a city on their journey. They pick them up at the airport and they travel together in the RV for a week or so and then drop them off at another airport to fly home. That way they continue their travels but share their journey with the ones they love. That can work for us as well.
Slides 2-6 &12 is what stresses me out. Those items started the heart palpitations and doubting my sanity. According to the article, RVs can be expensive, can cost a lot to repair, they depreciate, get bad gas mileage, can cost a lot to update if you buy used, and insurance can be a pain (see our blog on things you need to know about RV insurance).
While at face value those are accurate statements, what about the flip side? If you sell your home and purchase a condo to retire in, you may have huge assessments that come along as the association implements upgrades. Or like many that retire in Florida, they purchase mobile homes in 55+ communities. What happens when the AC goes out or the hot water tank breaks? Those repairs are not cheap either. Plus the lot rental can be increased every year. Stick and brick home renovations are expensive as well. In either case, if you live in an RV or a regular condo or stick and brick home – any type house repairs are going to be needed and will be expensive unless you know someone that can make the repairs for you.
I have a sister that lives in Ohio, in the same home she and her husband purchased back in the early 1960’s. If she only used her fuel oil for heating and not her wood-burner too, her heating bills in the winter would be astronomical. She would probably be better off driving a gas guzzling RV to Arizona to spend the winter. So saying that RVs are expensive may be true, but one would have to consider the alternative costs of whatever other living arrangements you make in retirement.
After reading the whole article I reached back out to our friends Debbie and Joe. Debbie made the point that after selling their home they purchased an RV lot where they spend the winters. However, after raising a family in a “bricks and sticks” home, they were happy to buy an RV even though they realized the RV would depreciate. Debbie said, “who cares? the experience is worth it”. Just look at this picture, you can see how the RV life suits them.
Slide 7 deals with something we basically have little control over, Health Care. It makes sense that when you travel continuously it could be a hassle. While doctors may be everywhere, we prefer our regular doctors. That can be a real challenge.
My husband had major back surgery a few years ago. If by chance he has a similar issue while traveling that requires additional surgery, there is no way we will want some random doctor performing the surgery. Not knowing how the whole Medicare thing works is also a little nerve-wracking but we have some time to figure that part out.
For employed people that have the option of participating in an employee sponsored HSA (health savings account), it may be something to take full advantage of, especially if planning on a “Camper Crazy” lifestyle after retiring. We realize we must have something set aside to help pay for costs not covered by insurance.
While there are downsides to retiring in an RV, there are also upsides. The 13 reasons mentioned above are things that we feel can be minimized with knowledge and planning.
Unfortunately, we should have actually started planning for this lifestyle even sooner. However, my husband’s hesitancy is actually a good thing because it offsets my crazy “jump right in and do it” personality. With planning and the right strategy… hopefully… we will NEVER regret living full-time in an RV in retirement. That is, if my husband can be persuaded to be Camper Crazy too!
Since you are now introduced to BJ & Shanna’s family and have seen pics of what seems to be the start of a perfect road trip with their new RV, it is time to see their Griswold moments. As novice campers, they are learning the “RV ravages of the road”, and have learned sadly what can happen in a split second.
Day 3 started with the first damage to their new travel trailer. As BJ said, “I could have waited a little longer to have the camper damaged.” Excited for the day’s travels, he leaned the level up against the trailer and started to hook up the truck to the trailer. As he lowered it onto the hitch the level crunched the side. A loud squeaking sound and uggg….the first damage. Thank goodness no major damage…yet.
A little disappointed, but they wipe their frowns away and head on down the road. They figure “hey, that is why we purchased insurance.” RV Insurance is something we will discuss in a future blog, and I am sure BJ will be able to share all he experiences when filing his claims. Yes, I said claims because this is just the beginning.
Traveling through bad weather is always expected, however, the severe winds and rains they encountered in Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana was much more than they wanted to experience. They have hunkered down in Florida through several hurricanes, but being in a travel trailer during bad storms or pulling one down the road, that is a whole different story.
First, the extreme wind quickly blew the awning off the side of the trailer, damaging the roof and the air conditioner. The wind and rain was so severe they didn’t even realize the awning was ripped off the side. To be highly entertained, you will want to hear BJ’s & Shanna’s story in their own words, please watch…..AND SUBSCRIBE https://youtu.be/k58qtKPtAtM
As soon as possible, BJ did some of his fancy repairs to seal up the holes. It wasn’t pretty but he hoped it would keep the rain out. He was very satisfied with his hard work and ingenuity!
At this point, the roof and awning will have to be totally replaced, but at least the truck has gone unscathed…until some nice person dances into BJ’s lane, and BAM…damages the truck mirror. Thank goodness he has cameras to backup that trailer. Still, BJ will not let all this dampen his spirit, he is happy and having a great time.
Then more bad storms and hail. Really??? Now the hood of the truck and the trailer looks like they were ambushed with pellet guns.
Bad enough that they will have at least 4 deductibles for the damages to the truck and trailer, but poor BJ did not remain unscathed either. He did not escape the ravages of bad fast food and somehow he fell on the trailer stairs and they won.
Just two days from home and one of the tires on the trailer is pretty much destroyed. We met up with them and our son-in-law helped change the tire since BJ did not have a jack that would work. Although we hated to see them incur more hiccups to their trip, we were happy to share some time and get some highlights of the Griswold moments and invite you to see some of the “not so much fun” part of the trip on our youtube channel.
For all us wannabe Camper Crazy individuals, the lesson we learned is that we need to be “prepared for the unexpected”. When purchasing a new RV, most RV retailers require the new buyer to learn everything about their new RV in a class before they can take their camper home. Whether they discuss what to do when encountering damages from storms or what products to use to make temporary repairs, we are not sure. We will research and share in a future blog. At a minimum we can see a good first aid kit is a must. If purchasing an RV from an individual, a novice Camper Crazy buyer should review our future blogs for tips on what to purchase for situations like BJ and Shanna encountered. Perhaps a visit to a local RV store to inquire as to what to buy to be prepared for a first RV trip, (especially if you are planning to go in remote areas) is probably a good idea. Better safe than sorry as they say, because of course, we all want to be “Happy Campers”, just like Jax.
Their baby Jax has some special needs and the travel trailer worked out very well for Jax. He was able to get down and play on the camper floor once they parked each day, and a reason to purchase an RV. They did not want Jax crawling around on the nasty floors of hotel rooms. Carrying suitcases and baby equipment into hotels every night and day for 30 days was not something Shanna was looking forward to either.
With all the challenges to their trip, Shanna said, “I liked it much more than I thought I would,” and BJ said, “If Shanna said, ‘okay lets turn around and go back out west – I would say, ” LETS GO!!!”
Mark & I have now visited two camper sales stores close to our location and will be asking questions and posting what we learn. Planning on visiting a couple this week in Alabama and Mississippi. Will be asking lots of questions and posting info on future blogs.
Excitement and adventure is their dream as they load up their new Grey Wolf trailer by Forest River and leave the heat of Florida for the cool Canadian landscape. The camper layout is great for their family with a Queen bed and twin corner bunks and nice sized pantry. Purchased new from Camping World they are ready to be Camper Crazy World Travelers. https://www.campingworld.com/ Learn more about Forest River Grey Wolf trailers at:
However, if we look closely at their smiles and eyes, Shanna seems somewhat apprehensive and Mia has a grimace radiating a little fear…is her dad a bad driver or is she just dreading this trip? BJ, Colton and Jax look genuinely happy and ready to set-off and leave Central Florida for their first stop in Stone Mountain, Ga.
The first day took longer than they expected. They had to make extra stops for the baby so they arrive to the site late in the day. They decide that they must get up earlier in the mornings and get things wrapped up so they can reach their campsites while still daylight, although they all realize it just isn’t in their nature to be early birds. Every stop has been carefully mapped out by Shanna using RV Trip Wizard. http://rvtripwizard.com The website touts itself as the Best RV Trip Planner. Shanna, following the suggestion of mid-life crisis couple Chuck & Dana, signs up and plans her trip. We will find out later if RV Trip Wizard is all it says it is.
The first couple days are just casual driving through the hills of Georgia and Tennessee heading to Minnesota. First few days are very enjoyable.
Kids are not miserable and in fact Mia and Jax are quite happy traveling through each state. Colton is not totally bored, but then…his internet access has not been interrupted too much. So all is well for now.
Not sure how BJ is living without his Starbucks drive through coffee. Do you think he brews Starbucks in the camper?
The circle of love – so far a great family trip. Look at those happy smiles. We will get Shanna & BJ’s comments about the campsites they stayed in a little later and will post on our YouTube Channel.
As we can see BJ is ready to do some laundry. They purchased a portable washer and dryer. We don’t have the details, as of yet as to how well they work. However, they store the washer under the main bed and haul the dryer in the back of their pickup. We did not realize they made such portable washers and dryers but are anxious to find out more about them, since I am not a fan of using laundromats. He looks so happy doing the laundry. I wish my husband looked like that when I ask him to throw some towels in the washer. Unfortunately, strong winds and hazardous steps cause some Camper Crazy drama. Stay tuned for future blogs. In the meantime, enjoy a video of their trip so far @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmijHYW2QGI&t=19s