A monthly travel journal from two full time RV nomads about RV living and full-time travel.
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The Worst Part of RV Life
One of the questions we get asked the most frequently is, "What is the best and the worst part of living in an RV and full-time travel?"
We always have lots to say about the best parts, but struggle to find anything we don't like about full time RV life. The truth is, we love almost everything about living in an RV.
But, this past month I realized I do have an answer to that question... the worst part of life as a nomad is being away from our daughters.
Neither Steve or I are good at being rooted. Settling down and building deep ties within a location-specific community isn't something we are drawn to.
We spent 16 years in a suburban neighborhood in our hometown so our kids could be near their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. But even in the midst of doing our best to provide a stable, rooted life for our kids, we were always trying to get lost.
So, when our youngest went away to college, we embraced the opportunity to live in a way that is more authentic to who we are.
And, here's the thing about that: we weren't wrong. Both of us are built for nomadic life. We LOVE it. It suits us 1000%.
But, everything has a downside, and following our wanderlust means we are often traveling away from our daughters.
While we were in San Diego, Kate, Anne, and Anne's boyfriend Scott came out for a visit. We had the BEST time, but when they left to go back to their own lives, I was so sad to see them go.
I think there is a misunderstanding when it comes to the idea of living authentically. I wake up nearly every single day immeasurably grateful for this life.
But there is always a tradeoff. For everything. Living the dream - whatever that means to each of us - does not mean there won't be a downside. There is always a downside. For everything.
Creating a life that you love means having the courage to accept the consequences.
For me, this means having the courage to say no to all the good things that come with having a family home, in one place, close to our daughters, with plenty of room to settle in and spread out.
And, it means doing my best to not feel guilty about not providing it and allowing myself to feel sad when the girls go back home to their own lives. Letting go is one of the most brutal parts of being a parent, isn't it???
The nature of having a house on wheels means we do end up spending a lot of time in Colorado, where they both live. And in the future, if they decide to live somewhere else, we'll visit them there.
It also means having the opportunity to park ourselves in places they want to visit and flying them out to meet us. Which is what we did this month, and it was wonderful.
San Diego Beaches
We spent part of January and all of February at the San Diego Metro KOA. (Read more about this KOA and why we enjoy staying there in last month's issue of Let's Get Lost.)
It was one of the longest stretches we've done so far in one place and we weren't sure how we would feel about it. Would we wish we could stay longer or would we be itching to get back on the road?
Turns out, it was a little bit of both. San Diego is not the kind of place you get tired of. And yet, when it was time to leave, we were happy to get back on the road.
One of our favorite things about Southern California is the beaches. The San Diego KOA is only about 10 minutes from Coronado island and we did our best to spend as many evenings as we could walking on the beach at sunset.
I have SO. MANY. beach sunset photos. It's ridiculous. And still I couldn't stop myself from taking more.
We also spent an especially warm Saturday kayaking off the coast of La Jolla, ate sushi and watched surfers in Oceanside, and spent a relaxing Sunday afternoon in Laguna.
I also have to share this photo just for fun.
This RV and car were parked next to us for a couple of weeks and I found it absolutely delightful.
Riding Up and Down the California Coast
We spent a long 4 day weekend riding from San Diego to Oakland and back. It was our fourth time riding the motorcycle along the California coast, and it never gets old.
Day 1: San Diego to Pismo Beach with stops in Venice Beach and Malibu.
Venice Beach seems to get more trippy every year. It's the kind of place we can sit for hours doing nothing but people watching and feel completely entertained.
Day 2: Pismo Beach to Oakland. Steve has an aunt and uncle in Oakland that we love to visit when we can. They took us out for a fabulous meal at Soi 4 and hosted us for the night in their beautiful 1912 home.
Day 3: Oakland to Santa Maria.
The day was cold, damp, and overcast. By the end of the day we were frozen to the bone, but with this view it's pretty hard to complain.
Day 4: Santa Maria to San Diego.
On the way back to San Diego, we stopped for lunch at the home of friends who are responsible for our transition into RV life.
In October of 2019, we visited Dustin and Brenda at their home-on-wheels in Bonelli Bluffs RV Resort in San Dimas. At the time, the idea of living in an RV was a brand new concept to us, but after that visit, we knew it that's what we wanted to do.
We are forever grateful for these two beautiful badasses for turning us on to RV living and love spending time with them whenever we can.
(Also, they made us a killer lunch entirely in their smoker - smoked pulled pork, smoked potato salad, and smoked dump cake. We stuffed ourselves silly.)
The Tools of Our Lives: Shake, Rattle and Roll
Before selling our house and moving into an RV I spent hundreds of hours researching nearly everything RV related. But, there was one thing I didn’t think about. And in retrospect it was one of the most obvious things we could have overlooked.
We have a motorcycle, a relatively new, but well used 2017 Indian Roadmaster Classic. We've taken this thing everywhere: through all 49 states in the US, several Canadian provinces, including Prince Edward Island on the East Coast and the Yukon on the West.
We ride a lot.
The first year we had our motorcycle we put on 20,004 miles. The next year we put on another 15,000 and a couple of weeks ago we passed 60,000.
Up to buying an RV, we never trailered it once. Why would we? We wanted to ride.
So it was bit of a surprise the first time I had to load the motorcycle into our new RV, that I didn’t know how to tie it down. After all the research, I hadn't given any thought to the logistics of transporting the motorcycle beyond purchasing an RV that had the capability to haul it.
I'm not sure why I didn't do prior research on this as I had with everything else. But, I can say that on our first day as full time RVers, our heads were not in the game. Just 3 days prior, while in the middle of moving out of our house and into our RV, we lost our son to suicide. I wasn't exactly concerned with the motorcycle.
On that first trip it fell over and actually damaged the side stand. The next trip I thought I did a better job strapping it down, but it still fell over and did some damage to the front side panel.
I realized I needed some help, so I got online and watched some videos and bought a motorcycle tire chalk. It still fell over. If you don’t immobilize the chalk you aren’t in any better of a position. 🤦🏻♂️
Once I screwed down the tire chalk, bingo. No more problems.
Gradually, I used fewer and fewer straps until I was down to just two. Over the almost two years we have had the RV, I have taken the bike in and out of this thing in many conditions. In rain, snow, on ice, and in very high wind.
Here are my tips for loading and unloading a motorcycle into an RV:
- Have the engine running. This is obvious when loading it, but not so obvious when unloading. Our bike weighs in at 900 lbs. Even so, for more than year I would back it down with just my front brakes and it was always a harrowing experience. Being able to give a little throttle and let off the clutch a bit on the way down made for much more control, and a ton more safety.
- Have your tie down straps already placed and ready to go. There isn’t much room when you get the motorcycle in there. So doing a little prep work will save you a huge hassle.
- Have your tire chalk screwed in place and ready to receive.
- There’s no hurry. Even if your checkout was at 11:00 and the camp hosts are on your butt to get going, don’t rush. This has the potential to be dangerous and can cause damage if done wrong.
- Make sure the straps are tight. As you travel, the straps will move and get loose. So pay attention to where they tend to end up and try to get them in that position right from the start. If your tire chalk is secured, you are pretty safe from the bike moving too much. But if you are on a long drive, it's a good idea to tighten the straps at the end of the day.
Hopefully when you get where you are going, you will be able to ride. That is the whole point of bring the motorcycle with you isn’t it? So good riding and stay shiny side up!
Playing Tourist: Disneyland and Universal Studios with our Daughters
Steve and I are not really theme-park/ amusement-park kind of people, but while our daughters were visiting us in San Diego, we took them to Universal Studios and Disneyland and had an absolutely blast. So, maybe we are those kind of people after all.
We are big Harry Potter fans in this family, so about half of our time at Universal was spent in Harry Potter world. Our daughter Annie is the biggest fan of all and has listened to the audio version of the entire series more times than any of us could count. She was in heaven.
I took a chance and spent the extra money on fast pass tickets that allowed us to skip the lines and am happy to report that it was 100% worth it.
The park wasn't especially crowded, but the fast passes allowed us to do everything we wanted to do, including riding a few of the rides multiple times. More time playing + less time waiting = 5 happy campers.
Disneyland and California Adventure Park
I also purchased what I thought were skip-the-line tickets for Disney, but that's not quite what they were. "Genie pass" tickets, as they're called, simply allow you to download an app and schedule a time to ride a ride without waiting in line.
The caveat is that you can only schedule one ride at a time. Once you've ridden the ride you were scheduled for, you can schedule another. BUT often the next available time isn't for a couple of hours.
So, what do you do while you wait for your next scheduled ride? Wait in line for another. 🤷🏻♀️
And, unlike Universal Studios, Disneyland was BUSY. I think it always is. Even still, we packed an impressive amount of fun into our one day there, splitting our time between Disneyland proper and California Adventure Park.
Our favorite part of the whole day was Galaxy's Edge - Disney's Star Wars land. The whole thing is exceptionally well done and we were marvelously impressed.
At the risk of stating the super obvious, one day is not even close to enough time to do all there is to do in one park, let alone two. But, one day is all we had to work with and we did our level best to do as much as possible in the 12 hours we were there.
I think the fact that we all needed a week to recover means we did an excellent job. If you don't leave Disney exhausted, are you even doing it right?
Did you know there is RV parking at Disneyland?
This might not be news to anyone else but us, but we were surprised to learn that there is a parking lot at Disney with plenty of RV parking spaces.
You're not allowed to park there overnight, but it still struck me as a convenient option, especially for families who aren't staying in one of the Disneyland hotels and want the option to "go home" for an hour or two in the middle of the day.
From San Diego Beaches to Arizona Sunsets
I am writing this from Ironwood National Monument in Arizona where we're boondocking for the next couple of weeks. More about that in our next issue, but suffice to say it's about as far away from the hustle and bustle of San Diego as you can get.
Steve and I keep saying things like, "It's so quiet!", like silence is some kind of new discovery, when in truth we've spent a lot of time in quiet, remote places, far away from towns and cities. It's just been a while. The contrast is noticeable, and also welcome.
We spent a week in Ironwood last year as well. It was our first boondocking experience, and if you're curious about how that went, you can read about it here.
Thanks for reading, friends. We'll see you next month. As always, if you have questions or comments for us, please leave us a comment. We love to hear from you!