Where We Are – And What’s Next for Us

The last few weeks have been a bit rough for us. July 3rd was a milestone, and a turning point – it was one year from when we decided to become Nomads and drastically change our life.  And, on July 3rd this year, we found ourselves questioning everything.

Let me back up. Currently, we are in San Antonio, New Mexico, finally, FINALLY under 5,000 feet in elevation. Let me explain why that is a big deal…

We spent the last 6 weeks in Flagstaff, Arizona, at almost 7,000 feet above sea level. To escape the Arizona heat found at the lower levels, you need to either go north, or go up. We had initially planned to go north, but all of our plans fell through so we decided instead to go UP in elevation.

Well, as it turns out, going up didn’t quite work for us. If you go up in elevation too quickly, you can get Altitude Sickness. Sometimes though, you can simply get Altitude Sickness just because you are susceptible to it. Since we spent over a month in Kingman, Arizona (elevation 3,333′) we definitely did not come up in elevation too fast. But, we both were feeling the effects of the altitude.

Altitude Sickness affects people differently, for us, it mostly means over exhaustion, with a handful of other minor symptoms here and there just to keep things interesting. In addition to constant over exhaustion, I had also been having quite a bit of trouble breathing (a tiny 1/4 mile walk had me huffing and puffing and having to take breaks), and though Summer usually means fewer Gastroparesis symptoms, I have been having a really rough time with GP. This summer is the worst GP-Summer I’ve had in over five years. High altitude affects the oxygen in your blood, which affects circulation, which affects bodily functions such as sleep and of course, digestion. Who knew?

Anyway, the altitude has been a huge factor in us feeling extremely worn out, and pretty awful all around. We considered going lower in elevation, but due to the heat, we were avoiding that maneuverer. However, things finally came to a breaking point where neither one of us could take our symptoms anymore, and we decided the heat is easier to deal with than the elevation (and the health consequences involved).

AND, this led us to question everything about how we are currently living. I mean, everything. The RV Lifestyle, our van (vs. another type of RV), just simply, everything.

Being a Digital Nomad isn’t easy, and not many of our peers talk about the struggles of maintaining a career (or two) on the road, and trying to fit some type of travel. I recently came across this post from Pace Smith and wondered why no one else ever talks about this stuff.

Rather than hide what’s happening, I’m going to be open about it. This isn’t working. There are some aspects of RV Living that we absolutely love, and that has had us flip-flopping our decision back on forth on a daily basis.

We knew traveling while working full-time would be challenging, but you can’t plan for every obstacle. We certainly hadn’t planned to have a career change this year and that has played a very large role in this decision as well. We are both launching new careers. Right now. Traveling with a NEW job role is absolutely, positively, NOT something I would ever recommend. So…

We are planning to transition back to a stationary life. The last few days have been all about – GET THEE TO A LOWER ELEVATION – and then figure things out. Seriously, it’s really hard to think straight when you feel like garbage. This decision has been much harder than the one we made a year ago. Leaving the RV Life means leaving much more behind than a stationary one – even though that seems contradictory.

I expect a lot of questions that we can’t answer quite yet – we’re still figuring things out. We have taken the first step though and that is: finalize our decision. We are definitely doing this. At the moment our plan is to continue to drop in elevation and head East. We have a few places to check out as potential settling spots but we need to see how things are in person.

We have moved a tremendous amount not only in the ten years we’ve been married, but even individually before that. We aren’t looking for a crash pad, we’re looking for a home. Ironically, it was the RV Park where we stayed in Flagstaff that made us realize how much we need an actual HOME.

The people we met and befriended over the last month and a half provided us with the strongest sense of community either one of us has ever experienced. It was a terribly difficult decision to leave the area. However, at the same time, it taught us that we need to find a community anywhere we could possibly even consider living.

It’s taken giving up almost everything to figure out what we need most. Isn’t it crazy how life works sometimes?

If you’re reading this – Bob & Diane, Dee & Jerry, Doug & Rhoda, Dawn & Sherri, Ken & Nancy, Dave & Donna – you all played an important part in us figuring out something very important that may actually help us “settle down” once and for all. Thank you!

Pictures from the Road – New Mexico

Datil New Mexico

Quemado New Mexico

Socorro New Mexico

On the Road - July 2016

I’ll be sharing more pictures from the road as we inch closer to a resting place.

Cheerio!

Grooming a Dog while Living in an RV

One of the challenges we’ve faced while living in an RV – with a dog – is keeping up with Frodo’s massive grooming needs. He’s part poodle, which means, his hair grows by the minute. Which is of course, one of the reasons he’s named after a Hobbit… But anyway, I digress.

Frodo could really use a full haircut every 2 weeks, but we tend to stretch it out to once a month. When we lived in a house, we groomed him while we sat on the floor of our bathroom. It wasn’t comfortable for us, but it worked out well enough. While living in the RV, we groom him in the hallway and vacuum the hair as we go. By the time we are finished (almost 45 minutes later), we both have a lot of body aches and have trouble walking any other way than hunched over. It’s definitely a challenging experience.

Today, we had the pleasure of grooming Frodo while standing up! Meaning, Dave and I were able to stand the whole time! It was… leaps and bounds easier!

Here’s a quick “Before” glance as the grooming was just getting started.

Before

The trimming has already been underway here, but he’s still quite the furry beast.

Before Continued

Almost an hour later, our Puppy is reappearing!

During

What a difference an hour makes!

After

Seriously, what an amazing experience. I wish every RV Park would provide a dog grooming station! It’s a little thing that is actually an enormous thing. Not only does this RV Park have a grooming station, they put thought into how they arranged it. It’s outside, but shaded, off to the side, and gated. Because it’s off to the side, we were not able to see foot traffic of people walking round. It’s really it’s own secluded area, which is GREAT when trying to avoid distractions while grooming. There’s a table, electric outlet for clippers, and a wash basin. I see a real bath in Frodo’s near future!

Special thanks to J&H RV Park for being such an awesome place for dog owners! We really appreciate it!

Current location: Flagstaff, Arizona

Summer Heat Wave – Or Alien Invasion?

Our attempt to escape the summer heat has us currently hanging out in Flagstaff, Arizona. However, the weather lately has been wonky everywhere and this time Arizona isn’t being excluded. Flagstaff is about to hit record high temperatures in a few days.

It’s time to break out the big guns! Reflectix – you’re my hero!

Summer in an RV

Technically, this is something we should have done ages ago, because it helps in the Summer AND Winter – but it’s one of those things that we haven’t had time to do until now.

All the pieces of Reflectix are simply wedged into place so we can easily take them down when we head to get groceries.

Summer in an RV 2

Other RV’ers swear by Reflectix and we can already tell a difference in the inside temperature, just a few minutes after having our window coverings in place.  We’ve also lined a few shelf areas to protect items on the shelf from the incoming heat.

Reflectix is a super quick, easy, and cheap way to help add additional insulation to your RV when dealing with unusual high or low temperatures. We used almost an entire roll (48′ x 10′) for our needs and the cost was only $26. You really can’t beat that for the additional comfort it provides.

What – Don’t You Vacuum Your Dog?

When it comes to living in a Tiny House, it’s both super easy to keep it clean, and, it can take only a few minutes to get dirty. Thankfully, Frodo doesn’t mind his role the process. Whether it’s helping to keep our home clean – or get it dirty! He likes that part… but I digress…

Usually when we get back inside after being out, we simply wipe Frodo’s paws with a dry towel, leave our shoes at the door, and we’re good to go. Sometimes we have to use some water on Frodo’s paws if the dry towel isn’t enough. However, the last few days we’ve been at the Flagstaff KOA (in Arizona) which has made things extra challenging from the “traveling with a dog” perspective.

Frodo at the Flagstaff KOA

This park is just… dirty. Yes, it’s a park, but, it’s a very dirty park. It’s mostly dry sand – everywhere. And sand loves to hide in paws and fur.

Since we vacuum Frodo during his haircuts, he’s used to the vacuum and doesn’t mind. It just seemed natural to simply vacuum him off before going back inside. I can’t imagine what our neighbors were thinking…

Current Location: Flagstaff, Arizona – Elevation 6,910 feet.

Just One Reason Why I LOVE My RV

This is just one of the many reasons I love living in a RV. All of these photos were taken less than a mile from where we are currently sleeping.

This photo is from yesterday, taken from my cell phone (Kudos to Samsung! The Note 5 takes amazing photos)!

1 Arizona Landscape

Today, for the first time since we’ve been in Kingman – my real camera came out to play (all the photos below are from my camera).

The scenery we experience while we walk our dog is gorgeous.

2 Arizona Landscape

There was just something about this tree that caught my attention.

3 Arizona Tree

This photo below is similar to the one above from my phone, but this one was taken with my camera. I was comparing… Again, this is just a few steps away from our home on wheels…

4 Arizona Landscape

I wanted the Mesas in the background for this shot, but that didn’t quite happen. Oh well.

5 Sharon and Dave

Another try for a selfie with a cool background. Nope, didn’t work. That’s okay.

6 Another Selfie

Home Sweet Home. And back to my point at the start of this post. No matter how lousy I am feeling, by living in a RV I get to see a little something different – even with just the simple task of walking our dog. Home is always close, and so is adventure, even a mild one if that’s all I’m up for (which sadly, thanks to Gastroparesis, is usually the case). But by living the way we do now, I’m never house-bound, even when I am!

I love our home. It’s the best one we’ve ever had!

7 Home Sweet Home

The Beauty Around Us – Grover Beach, California

I almost cried today.

Flowers

I feel like we’ve been traveling non-stop for days, though really it’s the planning that has me feeling so beat. At last, we arrived today at Grover Beach, California – a place where we will be for at least the next month.

After settling into the RV park, we took Frodo out for quick stroll and to explore. Grover Beach – the actual Beach – the actual Pacific Ocean – is less than a mile from where we will be sleeping.

As we approached the beach, I could smell the salt in the air. There is no smell better than that of the ocean.

Grover Beach Entrance

Grover Beach was *cold. Windy. And beautiful. I darn near cried. I mean, I really had to stop and take a deep breath.

It was easy to understand the excitement of those around us.

Excitement

Dave and I are a few days shy of our 10th wedding anniversary. We’ve only taken one vacation ever, and that was on our first anniversary. This year, though we aren’t on vacation, it will definitely seem like it! I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to get to celebrate our life together.

Happy Anniversary Dave! ❤️

Dave

About the cold… *This sunbird gets cold in temperatures under 70 degrees. After recently being in 90 degree temperatures with 15 percent humidity, 68 degrees on the beach with 12 mile an hour winds, and 60 percent humidity felt cold. That’s okay. I’ll adjust!

Just Passing Through: Barstow, California

We’ve been in Pahrump, Nevada for the last few days, mostly just as a resting point and time to plan. Before we left Lake Havasu City, Arizona, the temperatures were sky rocketing above 90 degrees, which was a bit difficult for us to handle. The AC in our coach definitely gets our van cooled off fast, but at those temperatures as soon as it turns off – it turns right back on again, so it basically has to run non-stop during the heat of the day.

I had a brief moment of panic after my camera wouldn’t turn on (which is stored in a heat sensitive place). Thankfully, all is well with my camera, it had just over heated. And with that, we knew it was time to leave. However, we still didn’t know where we were going! If you haven’t read the last post, it explains why our plans were still up in the air.

Today was a typical travel day for us. We got up before dawn, worked for several hours, walked the dog, disconnected from our spot in an RV Park, got fuel, got groceries, had lunch – and THEN hit the road to travel for several hours (and will work more once we get settled). I often fall asleep at some point during our travel time (obviously, Dave is driving) and I feel bad about it when this happens. For one thing, I feel like I’m abandoning Dave, and for another, I miss out on half the fun! But, with the way our travel days go, I can’t help it sometimes.

I’m starting to accept the idea that our method of travel doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. If I fall asleep, it’s okay. Well, mostly. Anyway, moving on…

We arrived at our overnight stop in Barstow, California and I took a few snapshots while we walked Frodo. I was so tired I didn’t think I’d take photos, so these were all taken with my iPhone. Note to self: ALWAYS bring camera. Always!

I love wide, open blue skies. I always have to stop and stare (and take photos).

Blue Sky

For some reason, I really dig overnight stops. Everyone is simply, “passing through,” and the owners we’ve encountered have always been really friendly. It almost feels like a step back in time to when people were always courteous and friendly, and stops like this just have a really good vibe to them. Small towns are awesome.

Shady Lane RV Park

This is the craziest tree I have ever seen…

Crazy Tree

All right, we’re all tucked in for the night, with another travel day ahead of us tomorrow.

Van Tucked In

G’night!

Secrets Full-time RV’ers Will Never Tell You

Sharon and Dave 2015Secret #1. Rv’ing can be super cheap, but it can also be incredibly expensive. Of course this seems obvious, but it’s being new to the road that will bite your finances. You will make mistakes with regard to planning, and most of them will be ones that cost you money.

Most people will say you don’t need to make reservations, and whether you do or not depends on your flexibility.

Secret #2. Your RV will limit your flexibility. Weather will limit your flexibility. Add your budget to the mix and you have the perfect storm. Ha! No really, so you want to go visit Anytown, USA? You will be limited by time of year, temperature, and costs. This is of course obvious, but the actual assembly of this 3D puzzle in real life with real constraints is incredibly difficult. It involves researching an area with regard to weather and elevation, potential places to stay, costs to stay there, and speed of getting there. Faster is more expensive, slower (using Weekly or Monthly rates) is cheaper. Sometimes you can’t opt to go the speed of your choice.

The different ways your RV limits you is the following: How much insulation do you have? Are your water tanks heated? How well does your AC work? Are you able to boondock and go offgrid if you want to (if so, for how long?). Even knowing the answers to these and having an idea of how things will play out, doesn’t fully prepare you for dealing with the actual limitation of say, choosing a city in an area to visit but knowing the surrounding areas are outside the temperature band of what you can reasonably pull off. This map gives you a general idea, but with planning, keeping an eye on elevation of your travel path is critical!

Secret #3. Planning for your budget doesn’t necessarily mean those options are available. If you aren’t interested in Boondocking (not everyone is!), sure, staying somewhere for a full month is the cheapest way to go. Daily rates are super expensive, Weekly rates are less so (but only likely affordable if you use this option sparingly), and Monthly rates are where the financial wiggle room is. But, to stay somewhere that meets your interest, temperature range, and time of year? Everyone else in an RV is doing the same thing – and they snagged all those Monthly rate spots A YEAR AGO.

Our plans A, B, C, and D have all been squished and gone splat. Spend a month in Utah? Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. The place we were interested in was booked a full year ago, and still has a waiting list.

Our idea of spending a month (or two!) in Boise, Idaho? Gone. Too many other folks had the same idea – LAST YEAR and there is a waiting list for the places we wanted to go.

A month in Portland? Nope.

We’ve spent the last several weeks planning, re-planning, pulling my hair out, and planning some more.

For a few days we are chilling out in Pahrump, Nevada to escape the heat of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and even getting a spot here was luck.

Spring is migration season, and as hard as it is to get a spot where you want in Winter, that difficulty remains all year round! I’m telling you this because no one else will. The easiest thing to do is travel off-season, but that again flips your 3D puzzle on it’s side and has you evaluating if you want to BE in those places off-season. Chances are, you don’t.

Sure, we CAN boondock, but we only want to occasionally. A day here, a day there. A small RV means small water tanks and we prefer having at least partial hookups.

Secret #4. It is incredibly time consuming to figure this stuff out. Before we set out, I began following several bloggers of folks like us who work for a living and travel by RV. I will tell you this, no matter how much time you think it will take to learn the ropes of the road, and plan travel paths, it will take you longer when you sit down to do it. Possibly two to three times longer than you expect. Doing this while working 7 days a week is beyond exhausting.

For non-retirees, personal time is different than neighboring retirees. Almost every day we are asked if we’ve seen (some nearby place) to say, “No.. um… we were working. We’re mostly just here for the weather and scenery!” I think people think we’re a little nuts…

Anyway, we had some great travel ideas in plan for the summer, in an affordable method (Monthly rates – yo!), but those plans are not actually doable in a way we can afford, at least not without having the full year mapped out and reserved ahead of time. We could still go to the places we want, if we traveled using overnights and Weekly rates, but that method is way, way outside our budget.

As luck would have it, we finally found a place where we can hang our hats for the next month. It’s in a beautiful part of the country, has great weather, and, holy cow, it’s even affordable! I never would have guessed we’d be able to stay on the Coast in Central California without making some blood sacrifice, but we can!

Grover Beach, California wasn’t part of the initial set of plans, but I’m very excited to head there and check it out! Based on the last several weeks of planning, I have no idea what to expect after next month. If we like it, we may stay there for a few more months (if they have spots available) – who knows? So to our friends and family who keep asking where we will be next so you can come visit us, I’m sorry to say – we’ll know when we get there!

It’s disappointing that our initial set(s) of plans didn’t work out, but our new plan looks pretty nice so far. I’m really shocked we found an affordable place in California, that was probably one of the last places I ever would have expected!

Secret #5. As crazy as all of this is, it’s still amazingly awesome. There is no place in this country I want to be for 12 consecutive months, so even with all of the above, living in an RV is still fully worth it to us!

It looks like the next year will be very interesting one way or another. To those of you following along, thank you for reading!

This post was written in Pahrump, Nevada.

Our Bathroom is So Small…

Our 25 pound dog doesn’t fit fully (head-to-tail) when standing sideways! Seriously, take a look:

Frodo in the Shower

No, we STILL haven’t made a video tour of our van, but this is a glimpse of what it’s like to live in a comically small living environment.

Our bathroom is indeed, comically small. Yes, that is the shower, and behind the curtain is the toilet.  During a shower, the curtain is pulled across the doorway (where Frodo’s head is in the photo) to keep the water inside the shower. This means the toilet lid and base are in the shower, and not protected from the water like the photo shows. We did that today to make Frodo’s bath less work by skipping some of the post-bath/shower squeegee time.

Our bathroom is what is known as a Wet Bath – when everything you need is in one space – and it all gets wet. On the PRO side, the area around the toilet gets a bath every day preventing those super scary dust bunnies that would otherwise grow there. On the CON side, you have to learn to be careful in the shower or you’ll bruise your knees!

Today was a very long overdue bath for Frodo. Er, shower. He kind of had a shower. Frodo doesn’t mind the micro-bathroom, and the end result is the same – he is now clean again – yay!

Yes I know, we owe our friends and family a video-tour. Some day that will happen, some day…