I remember the first time I told some co-workers my plan.
"I bought a 33-foot RV and I'm going to live in it full-time in the summer."
Then I waited a few seconds and read their facial expressions. One of them looked at me like I just told him we didn't land on the moon and the other one was seriously curious.
I didn't continue the conversation beyond that since it was lunchtime and no one wants to talk about such things over lunch. Especially in the sports tech business. It's much easier to just talk about a ball game, or the latest tech trends. Well, that was pre-COVID19 and back when you actually saw your co-workers on a daily basis.
A month before, I went down to the local Camping World and looked at a few campers. My salesperson Steve was pleasant to work with, showed me the ropes and got me setup for financing my first camper purchase.
But shortly after that, I let my lease expire, I moved most of my personal belongings into my central New York winter home (you need one of those in these parts, gets awfully cold here) and found a seasonal campsite along the Erie Canal and moved my Keystone Cougar X-Lite to my new summer home along the river.
I later caught up with a friend who lives in Nashville and grew up in Central New York and, sure, they asked if I was living in a van down by the river. I happily swung my arms through the air like Matt Foley and said, yep, I guess maybe I am. But I wasn't to be deterred.
I showed up on July 1 and lived the rest of the summer in my camper along the river. I learned a lot that first summer. Here are a few examples:
- Opposite facing front slide-outs make for a significantly larger living area than travel trailers without them.
- Being single in a campground can be a pretty good thing. Everyone wants to make you dinner and the guys are always happy to lend a hand.
- Propane furnaces use a decent amount of propane and it sucks to run out of propane on a cold night.
- Hot water tanks are good for about 10 minutes of hot water.
- Foliage from trees kills cellular, television and radio signals.
The first year was so good that I decided in the winter to trade in the camper for a motorhome. I would like to say that it was a smooth purchase but COVID19 had something to do with that. Since you couldn't have face-to-face contact in the early days of the shutdown, it was a bit odd, but the Camping World folks were great. They did everything they could to help facilitate as smooth of a process as possible.
Year two has been significantly better than year one. The only hang-ups have been related to the shutdowns from COVID19, nothing at all to do with the new motorhome.
A few things to keep your eyes on though if you do decide to go from weekend warrior to full-time.
- Some hot water heaters have three valves. One is an intake, another is a bypass and the third one is an output. They can be hidden by vents and other internal components so a bit of digging will assist you in finding everything you need. Not that I took cold showers for a week or anything.
- Slideouts with slideout covers are essential. If you can swing them, get them. They make the slides operate better, function better for long-term and eliminate the junk that gets into your cracks and rubber joints.
- Car radio antennas are effectively irreplaceable. I found that my car radio wasn't working but the unit was functioning just fine. So I proceeded to take the dash off and found that the antenna wire was broken. Well, unless you're Stretch Armstrong you'll never get to all of the wires under the dash or wherever your unit is located.
- Some sinks near your bathroom will terminate to black water and not gray water. On a particularly cold May evening, I decided that I would let my faucets trickle drip to avoid a freeze. When I woke up to dripping water, I noticed that my sinks were full. Always know how your sinks terminate and to where to avoid a similar fate.
- If you're connected to shore power, use it. Even if your equipment has a propane setting and propane is cheaper, you won't run out of electricity, but you will run out of propane. Avoid that!
- Closet space is invaluable. I have two closets and will never come close to filling them up. If you can get a trailer with a lot of closet space, it will make your space feel more like home.
- Do little things that make your life easier. This could be as simple as placing hooks for holding your keys, surge protectors in locations where there is limited power, re-routing electrical outlets, putting blackout curtains up, using blackout film on your windows, or adding an HDMI outlet near your TVs, but all of these things make your life easier. The HDMI outlet allows you to run a cable from a laptop for Netflix or watching other streaming events. Make it yours!
- If you are in a campground, make friends. I was fortunate that I moved into a campground where I knew a few friends would be right near me. It's been invaluable. It's always easier to ask a camping veteran for a hand and I've learned that they are always willing to give you a hand or make a suggestion.
- Run your equipment. In my situation, I knew that my motorhome would be stationary for five-plus months. At the suggestion of a few motorhead friends, I put fuel stabilizer in the tank and still start the engine up for 10 minutes twice a month to ensure everything is running properly. This goes for internal equipment as well. Run your AC, fill your black and gray tanks, run your generator and use your propane as needed. The worst situation is needing something only to realize it no longer functions.
- A quality mattress pad is essential. No matter how you like to sleep, RV mattresses are usually not comfortable out of the gates. Get a mattress pad and you'll wake up easier and get a better night's sleep.
Hopefully this helps as you look to consider a move to full-time RVing in a new social climate. It's truly rewarding, and provides a great level of independence that you may have never imagined possible.