Saturday, May 21, 2016


After Kathy's post the other day I got to thinking about our life at RV parks and how we've come to really enjoy KOA's. Of course KOA's aren't perfect, it's just better than many of the alternatives. It was considering those "alternatives" that got me thinking and wanting to write another post about the challenges of life on the road. It's been seven months since I last complained about life in our tiny box, so I figure it's been long enough and I can now recycle the topic.

Obviously there are numerous challenges, but in most every way the challenges are smaller than they are back in our house in Seattle, just as our home on the road is smaller. For example, back in our house in Seattle, around the Christmas prior to our trip, our washing machine was found to be leaking. Six months later, numerous calls to our insurance company, our mortgage company, various contractors, and a few thousand dollars spent on our part, our floor finally fixed and we were without use of kitchen for only 4 of those 6 months. Compare this to while traveling, we found our camper toilet to be leaking, six hours later and a couple hundred dollars and the local RV repair guy in Gettysburg fixed us up. I know the example is kind of comparing apples and oranges, but no matter how big your problem is in an RV it is almost always resolved in a week or two (perhaps at the cost of a new RV, but that's still far cheaper than a new house). So now that I've admitted that all of my complaints and problems are small problems, here are the issues I've been thinking about lately.

Small Challenges - There are four of us living in a very small space. Before this trip I naively thought (thanks to misleading blogs on the internet) that if we were limited to such a small space we would limit our belongs to the bare necessary for happy survival and everything would be more simple. Well we did limit our belongs a lot, several times. We carefully limited our belongings before we left. Yet those items we we originally left Seattle with were way too much, and consequently have been left all over the country (Montana, Virginia, New Mexico, Oregon) with friends and family (thanks everyone!). There have been multiple LARGE shipments of stuff back home (big thanks to the moms for allowing us to ship our stuff to you). I am certain we could still downsize a lot more, but at this point why bother. So we continue on with all of the stuff supposedly needed by a family of four and everything is piled into every corner everywhere (as those who have been unfortunate enough to tour our camper will attest to). The problem is when you suddenly need one item that due to the passage of a few days has slowly migrated to the bottom of the pile. You can't find it. From time to time I will climb to the side of the bed where my belongs are stowed and try and organize it, and it will stay organized, but usually only for a few hours at best.
My pile of worldly belongings hasn't been organized in a while.
Internet - The largest bill we pay these days in our cell phone bill, and that's because we've bought so much data (20GB shared on AT&T and 10GB on a Verizon MiFi). This month for the first time we've gone over our AT&T data. On the road I've found pretty much all wifi (free or paid) sucks (this includes our beloved KOA)! Two of the very few exceptions are Starbucks (thank you Google) and Tim Horton's in Canada, but you can't spend all your time hunting down Starbucks (or Tim Horton's). Often when you do find your Starbucks or Tim Hortons and plan on getting some work done there, you find everyone else in the area had the same idea too. Also, pretty much every free or paid for wifi I've found blocks VPN connections, which is necessary for my work. Add to this that the places we most want to be, such as the National Parks, often have no cell signal and rarely have wifi.

Public Restrooms - This is an example where I really like KOA. Their restrooms are always clean and have soap in them (yes, many public restrooms, especially at camping areas lack soap). Call me crazy, but I like using soap when I wash my hands. However, KOA is the exception here.

Public Showers - Again, this is another example where I like (most) KOA's. You pay more at a KOA, but you (generally) get a clean shower with good water pressure and plenty of hot water. Many camp area showers lack hot and cold water control, but instead just have a single push button allowing a minute of tepid water, or worse require quarters or tokens for 5 minutes of tepid water. As much as I dislike public restrooms, taking a shower in an nasty shower stall where the water is cold and doesn't drain is just not pleasant.

Neighbors - When you're living in your RV in an RV park, your neighbor is often a few feet outside of your window. RV parks are rarely wide open places with tons of space for camping. You can find the wide open spaces in US Forrest Service land or BLM land (which we have used), but then you don't get power, water, or sewer, and it doesn't take long with four people living a tiny camper before these things become an issue. So we have stayed in a lot of RV parks, and we have met a lot of wonderful people, but we've also had a lot of weird interactions. Take the night in St Augustine, where we had recently turned off the lights to sleep. It was hot, so all the windows in the camper were wide open. We hear in the distance someone yelling for help. I grab a flash light, run out into the night, and find in near complete darkness, a one legged man trapped under a GIANT Harley (the one leg was trapped under the motorcycle). With a fair bit of work I free the guy, he thanks me, has me help him load his wheelchair in his pickup, he tells me he is in a hurry to get to his Christmas party so I have to go wake someone up and have them help me stand up his bike, he doesn't have time for this. Then he admits to drinking all day long and drives off. As I say, some people are really nice, some others are RV park people.

Barbers - I really miss my barber! As some of you might have noticed from our more recent pictures I've given up on haircuts and shaving. Around Thanksgiving, I let Kathy give me a haircut. With some clippers set to 5, I thought what could go wrong. Turns out, that as much as I love my wife, she is no hair stylist. After her haircut I looked like I was going through chemotherapy. Luckily my brother-in-law Mike was able to mostly fix it. I made another attempt at a haircut and a clean professional shave on our cruise. It cost a fortune and wasn't very good. So now I've given up on shaving and haircuts until I get home. The problem is that Kathy is starting to like my new Grizzly Adams look.
Me on Dec 26, 2015
Me today.
This is just a sample of a few of the challenges that have been bothering lately. Yet I would gladly put up with them until the end of time if I could to avoid the big challenges that are to come. One challenge in particular is the thought that soon I will have to go back to working a more regular work schedule. Although I really do very much enjoy my job at the University of Washington, it is going to be very difficult going back to a full time job away from my family after spending nearly every hour of every day of the past nine months with my wife and two daughters.

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