SO FAR... SO GOOD!
We’re now at almost 3 months on the road with 11 states under our belts, and so far... it's been SO good. We’re loving this life. While it hasn’t come without its challenges, the ability to do all we’ve done and have our home with us at all times is just so great, not to mention, convenient. We’ve found ourselves in such beautiful places that things like doing dishes or working on RV projects don’t feel like chores at all.
Today, we’re excited to share some of our favorite stories from the road, all it took to get here, where we’ve been and where we plan to go… so buckle your seat belts, let’s take a ride!
We’re only a little over halfway across the country now, which means we’ve only completed about a quarter of our journey, and yet we’ve experienced so many instances of what I like to call “travel magic.” Travel magic is when you’re exploring a new place, having no expectations at all and then boom - magic happens! You’ll see...
My favorite travel magic story so far was when we were wanting to see Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas over Memorial Day weekend. We “knew” we’d have trouble finding a campsite on a holiday, especially when the only campground in the park was first come, first served. Luke suggested we wake up early to see if we got lucky and I went along with it, but wasn’t expecting much.
We thought maybe we’d have to circle the lot a few hundred times. We thought maybe we’d have to wait in a line or go in on foot and stalk campers who might be leaving. Nope. We drove up and immediately pulled into our riverside spot, where we found this painted rock left behind by the previous campers and guess where they were from? FLORIDA… just like us. That’s travel magic!
Can I fit another story in? On our first camping trip in Florida to Everglades National Park, Luke had a dream about a white owl on the very first night. He remembered the dream the next day and told me about it as we were on a scenic drive through the swamps. When he finished telling me about the dream, he reminded me to slow down the car so that we could keep an eye out for wildlife. Not 2 minutes later, he spotted 2 brown owls out the window and one gave us a full 180 degree turn of the head to look back at us! Later that day we laid out the picnic blanket to watch the sunset and saw two white owls flying overhead! I’ve lived in Florida almost my entire life and have never seen an owl in the wild. This dude has a dream and we see 4 in one day... and I didn't even know white owls existed in Florida! Travel magic!
SO, HOW DID WE GET ON THIS MAGICAL JOURNEY?
I think another key to travel magic is when you work hard to make your travels happen. I see it as the little rewards you get for putting all of that work in… and boy, did we work hard for this trip. We hunted for the RV for months, we sold furniture, we moved out of our house, we gave half our things away and put the rest in storage, and after all that... we only just got started on our long list of RV projects before we hit the road.
Luke did a vast majority of that work, so I’ll let him tell you about it…
Vivian and I joke that I am now a 1997 Coachmen Mirada expert, but when we first started I knew very little and would not in the least bit call myself a mechanic. Having an older unit required some maintenance that I saw could easily be very costly but my background in audio engineering taught me to open up gear and troubleshoot systems one component at a time, so this allowed my to take on many of these projects myself.
As I would look over parts of the RV closely, the small fault would become apparent. First, to prevent leaks I resealed EVERYTHING on the outside including window frames, storage boxes and roof areas with appropriate tube sealants. Next, I did an entire rubber roof paint coating. Once everything on the outside was water tight, I went over the RV back to front to check each piece and if something wasn't working correctly I checked the vehicle service manual along with YouTube and Google. 90% of the time, I was was able to fix the issue. This included cleaning the roof AC coils, replacing the roof vent, fixing engine coolant hoses, fridge maintenance and installing a new bathroom sink, counter and kitchen faucet.
Next, I went into upgrades. I added USB power plugs, a backup camera and screen, a bathroom vent fan, solar panels, a new deep cycle battery, and so much more... it's hard to remember. There are so may resources online so I won't go into details on how to do the repairs, but just want you to know these are several projects you really could tackle yourself if you wanted to!
Overall, the biggest step to preparing for our estimated 10,000 mile journey ahead was safety on the road. Rolling around in an 8 ton class A motorhome requires good tires and brakes. This is where we left it to the professionals getting a new set of tires and an overhaul on the entire braking system. We also connected with our friends online at TECHNO RV who sell RV essentials and they provided us with some crucial tools to help keep us safe on our daily travels. The addition of a Tire Pressure Management System or TPMS was a fast and easy 30-minute install of screw-on valve stem sensors along with a small dash mount display that keeps me in constant awareness of the tire pressure and temperature of each wheel. I was really surprised by how many RVs don't have a way to check their tire PSI as low tire pressure is the easiest way to have a blow out and most people are too lazy to manually check that regularly, including me. After using the TireMinder i10 TPMS for a few months now, I can say it has provided incredible peace of mind and helpful info when climbing mountains and crossing deserts.
The other important piece of daily use gear is safe and reliable electricity. We heard so many horror stories from people in small travel vans up to massive million dollar RVs that had visited a campsite and plugged in their main power plug only to be met with an instant pop, frying their electrical system and sometimes even causing fires. To ensure this didn't happen to us, I learned we needed not only surge protection but also what is called an Electrical Management System (EMS) that guards against a variety of electrical issues like ground faults, bad wiring and low or high voltage. After a lot of research we went with the 30amp Southwire Surge Guard 34931 along with the Wireless Bluetooth Display that we mounted inside and shows current amp and voltage along with any issues the system encounters. Many thanks to Techno RV!
WHICH WAY ARE WE GOING?
As l watched Luke plug away at the project list, I got going on my side of things: logistics! While he does all the handy work (and ALL the driving), I do the research, the calls, the maps, the reservations… basically ALL the planning. This is usually so much fun for me, but you’d never believe how complicated RV trip planning is.
For the first time ever, I have to plan for matching our power supply, being able to dump and fill water, questionable cell service, and the big one… road safety! I’m certainly still enjoying it, especially now that I’ve got some great tools under my belt, but wow is this harder than just reading some lists on trip advisor and booking cancelable reservations on hotels.com.
You see, THERE IS NO BOOKING SITE FOR RV’S. Let me repeat that. There is no central reservation system where you can check availability of parks in certain areas. Each RV park, campground, state park and national park has it’s own online platform, if it even has one! In many cases, you just have to pick up the phone and call. And PS - most of them are sold out months in advance. When I found this out, I panicked because we didn’t have months ahead to plan and wanted to stay flexible as much as possible. Luckily, my panic attack ended when I found campnab.com.
Campnab monitors specific campgrounds for canceled reservations during dates you are interested in and then notifies you with a text alert when a campsite opens up. So when we were determined to get a beachside campsite in Florida as a test trip during the height of camping season, we invested in Campnab’s “Good” (Basic) plan which searches up to 3 campgrounds every 15 minutes. As the date neared, I started getting cancellation alerts and as soon as I was able to jump on one quickly enough, we were able to reserve 3 nights at Gamble Rogers State Park, one of Florida’s most coveted and always sold out campgrounds.
When that worked so unbelievably well, I immediately reached out to the team at Campnab to thank them and tell them about our trip and they were nice enough to upgrade us to the Mega plan, which searches up to 15 campgrounds every 5 minutes. Having the scans more often has really made a difference for us because we get first dibs at cancellations before other alerts go out. So far, we’ve nabbed amazing campsites at J Percy Priest State Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. A giant thank you to Campnab!
In addition to campnab, I use campendium’s website and free app religiously. Campendium is like the Yelp of campgrounds. It lists every single one, has reviews and photos for most, gives you quick access to their website and phone numbers and even tells you what cell phone service is like.
WHERE WE'RE HEADED
The other website I use daily is Google Maps. Maps let’s you plot up to 10 destinations along one route, so it’s easy to see the big picture of the journey as well as zoom in to certain areas to decide what order to visit your destinations in. Below is our big picture route. Why this route, you ask? As evidenced by the map, we’re kinda into the U.S. National Parks. ;)
Let me rephrase… The National Parks are totally our jam, and they should be yours too! Seriously, our country has such grand and diverse landscapes of mostly untouched natural areas. We often feel like we’re in other countries (or even on other planets!) visiting these places, when we’re right here at home and usually just a few hours away from major cities and airports.
So our best advice? Make it a point to visit and support as many U.S. National Parks as you can! On our last road trip in 2018, we hit 9 national parks… this time, we are on track to hit 14 new ones and a few repeats to total 20, including:
Smoky Mountains (check!)
Hot Springs (check!)
Great Sand Dunes (check!)
Mesa Verde (check!)
Arches (check! ...and our first repeat)
Rocky Mountain (on our way!)
Joshua Tree (repeat)
Grand Canyon (repeat)
We can’t believe we’ve done so much and are only a little more than halfway across the country. In our next write ups, we'll share more about life on the road, Luke's mobile music studio, Viv's sustainability tips and other cool finds we come across. We're so excited to continue bringing you on the journey with us.
Thanks for riding along!