Thursday, May 10, 2018

Roadrunner Reflections: Completing 9 Years of RV Living

Our 9th Year on the Road began in Virginia Beach and here we are again in Virginia Beach.  I still remember that back-porch conversation Pam and I had when we were considering full-timing.  I said, "If we are really going to do this, sell the house, buy and RV and all that, we should at least plan on doing it for 5 years."  Pam thought otherwise.  She said, "I was thinking more like 10."
And here we are.  Living the RV dream in year 10.  It has been quite an adventure.

The adventure has had so many facets to it, it is a little hard to explain.  But I am going to do my best.  I'm writing a book.  Writing a book almost like running a marathon. I've run four of those.  It took me a few years to decide I was actually going to run one and then commit to all the miles and hours preparing to go 26.2 miles.  Writing a book is a bit daunting.  Especially if you want to do a credible job.  I have the first draft under my belt and will probably have drafts two and three before I am ready to take the next step.  The halfway point of a marathon is about mile 20.  Seems as if the last 6.2 miles were as hard as the first 20.  I think the halfway point of writing a book is somewhere beyond draft two.  10 chapters, 50,000+ words, it is coming together.  We will see.  Stay tuned.  I'm shooting for a fall release.

So that is one major aspect of year nine - I became a 'writer'.  I have been a blogger for over 10 years now and have taken it seriously as various times.  Sometimes it seems like a lot of work to be a hobby.  Other times, the words and motivation are there and it comes fairly easy.  Somewhere along the line last year, I was reviewing a friend's manuscript (Wes), who had a collection of short stories he formed into a very readable book.  He has a masterful grip of storytelling.  Me, not so much.

Somewhere along the line he suggested I write a book.  I don't even remember the conversation to well.  It reminded me of running a marathon.  It took me years, literally years to wrap my head around the idea and then actually take steps to get it accomplished.  About that time I enjoyed running and remember it being a fad.  Lots of people were 'jogging'.  For some reason the idea of 'jogging' never resonated with me.  I decided I was always going to be a 'runner'.  Pace or speed had nothing to do with it.  It was a mind set.  I was a runner.

Other personal challenges included getting my Master's degree.  I remember thinking about it, dabbling in it with a few night classes and then finally one day decided, "I'm going to get this done." It took me over two years and lots of studying on Sunday afternoons, but it paid off.

And I think becoming a writer and changing the mindset from dabbling it in putting together a credible effort will be rewarding as well.  I haven't got the interest in a novel and writing engaging stories, but I do have 10 years of thinking about RV living and writing about it.  I have thousands of pictures and memories to fill up 10 volumes.  (At this point I have plans for 10 volumes.)  Why not?  I like doing it, it is a challenge and we will see.  There is one change in Year 9.  I became a writer.

We have plenty of other reflections about that last nine years and the last year in particular.  The biggest events over the last couple of years are the arrival of our two grandsons:  Brooks and Harrison.  These two little guys are game changers!  Being away from them four or five months is a special kind of tug that we want to figure out.  Maybe the better way to travel and come back to Virginia Beach is to go on two or three month trips and come back to see them for a couple of months at a time.  They grow up quickly.

We are very fortunate to have a daughter and son-in-law that are insistent we be involved in the grandkids lives.  We are glad to do so and are figuring all that out.  It's been a real joy to be around them and help out and we surely will do more of that in the days and years ahead.  Their presence on the scene has caused us to reflect and consider the next step in our RV living...

We cannot say how long we will be full-timing.  But our thinking has definitely changed to where we are actively discussing other arrangements.  We have no timeline in mind and we have one more year before we hit the 10 year mark.  I remember asking the question on an RV forum before we hit the road, "What is your exit plan?".  Most people responded as if I was nuts and if I was already thinking about an exit plan, maybe full-timing was not for me.  What??

I think I wanted to see if there is something worth considering before we started, that would make it better when we moved to part-timing or some-timing.  The bottom line is that I decided just like we figured out how to transition to full-timing, we could figure it out when the time for us to change and 'settle' down.

Not sure what to call where we are now, but we are definitely in a different phase of RV Living - "No Man's Land".

It reminds me of deciding to leave my current job for another one and not telling anyone yet.  I was in that situation after I retired from the military.  I had decided to leave, was actively pursuing new employment, but I wasn't in a position yet to discuss it with anyone but Pam.  I continued to work hard at my current position and I determined the date I needed to offer my resignation.  It was "No Man's Land".

That term may be a bit overly dramatic but we are in a different phase of Living the Dream.  After 9 years of living this life, we know that our life is probably going to change in the next year or two.  We're not sure exactly what that is going to look like but it will probably be settling down here in Virginia Beach.  Our son and daughter in law live in Fairfax VA and work in the Northern VA/Washington DC area.  Our daughter and son in law and two grandkids live here in Virginia Beach.  It makes sense for us to be in Virginia if we want to be near them.

This phase is almost like starting out all over again.  At this stage, I want to do all I can to avoid a big financial mistake.  We are now at Social Security retirement age and on a fixed income. Unless my book(s) are wildly successful and we come financially independent.  😳  Like playing the lottery, I don't think that is a very sound financial retirement plan.

Thinking about getting off the road and brainstorming sets off a whole set of uncertainty, curiosity, changes, risks and research.  While we enjoy our time on the road, we will be working the next phase in the background/behind the scenes.  We will see what happens.  Meanwhile, part of reflecting on our ninth year is a recap of some of the travels we've had over the last 12 months.

We started out going to Ohio and up to Michigan before returning to Virginia Beach for the holidays. After the first of the year, we drove south on I-95 to Florida and then headed west on I-10 and into California.  We saw friends in the San Bernardino are and landed in Arizona for the winter.  It was mostly warm and a great time.  We love Arizona!

We found ourselves doing a lot of things this last year that we did in Year 1 of our adventures.

We saw museums and state capitols, worked for Habitat for Humanity on a couple of gigs, went to Canada, went to Mexico and spent a lot of time in the Tucson area:

  • Virginia Zoo (Norfolk)
  • National Historical Site at Kitty Hawk (Wright Brothers)
  • Columbus Zoo (Ohio)
  • Jack Nicklaus Museum (Ohio State campus)
  • Noah's Ark (full size display and museum near Cincinnati)
  • Creation Museum (Petersburg, KY not far from Cincinnati)
  • Red Bay Museum (Red Bay, AL)
  • Kentucky Horse Park (Lexington)
  • Cultural Heritage Center (Pierre, SD)
  • Pony Express Museum (Marysville, KS)
  • Loretto Memorial Chapel (Santa Fe)
  • National Museum of the American Indian (Washington DC)
  • Ford Theater (Washington DC)
  • Dodge City (KS)
  • Natural Bridge (Virginia)
State Capitols
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Lexington, KY
  • Pierre, South Dakota
  • Gold Manor (major renovations at daughter and son-in-law's/Virginia Beach
  • Habitat for Humanity/Care-A-Vanner, East Lansing, MI
  • Habitat for Humanity/Care-A-Vanner, Sioux Falls, SD
  • Solar Eclipse (An event Pam put on the calendar many months in advance so we could see a 100% coverage in Nebraska)
  • Golf in Arizona (Played more this year than I have in many years)
  • Hiking (Sabino Canyon and Catalina State Park -  Tucson)
  • 100,000 miles - we passed the 100,000 miles in the Roadrunner a few weeks ago.  
As we look back on our 9th year, a number of things have changed since we first got interested in RV living Full-Time:

  • Facebook - It seems to me Facebook is exploding with RV groups and information.  It is so easy to ask a question about RVing and one only has to wait minutes before a multitude of responses flash on the screen.  
  • YouTube - A close second to Facebook is YouTube that has about every kind of video you would want to see on the lifestyle, RVs and "How To" on all kinds of RV subjects.
  • Kindle - this device was fairly new 9 years ago and it was not nearly as common as it is today.  Most people (me included) read books on Kindle or the Kindle app on smartphones.
  • Travel Trailers - There seems to be a lot more travel trailers on the road.  New RVers are getting the less expensive models and it seem to be much more common to see them in the campgrounds.
  • Gas vs diesel Class A's - I would guess that the gas engine Class A is gaining
  • Price of fuel - Not nearly what I thought it would be after 9 years of RVing.  Diesel seems to be hovering around the $3.00/gal and I thought it would be over $5.00/gal.  Back in 2008/2009 it was making a steady climb and I expected it to stay at the high cost.  We paid over $4.00/gal years ago, but thankfully that did not last long.
Maintenance on The Roadrunner and tow car (Honda CRV)
  • New headlights
  • Replaced pitted/corroding air horns on top with aluminum air horns
  • New carpeting throughout
  • Repainted all bay doors
  • New tires 
  • Replaced Driver Side (DS) front window that took a rock 
  • Alternator in car
I am surprised we have not had to replace our front windshield.  It had a number of chips and small cracks that were repair after they occurred but I thought that it would only last a couple of years.  Not so.  Here we are, many years down the road and the windshield is still doing good.

Each year I pause and reflect and try to note where we are in the RV Living adventure.  We are still loving the lifestyle and yet know it is going to change in the next few years.  We will see what it looks like and embrace that stage of Living the Dream.

Meanwhile, you all, our loyal, frequent and interested readers.  Interaction with you has been one of the huge bonuses of this journey and I thank you. It has been amazing!

Thanks for checking in on this edition on the Roadrunner Chronicles. 


  1. You and Pam have inspired us to stretch things a bit in our own planning for retirement as we get within a year of doing so. Yes, grandchildren do change things but, as long as you have the ability and the desire to travel, wait until the grandchildren are old enough to go with you!! Just think about the enjoyment you will have as you share with them some of the experiences you've encountered while on the road. Keep the posts coming, Randy.
    Bruce and Jackie

    1. Thank you Bruce and Jackie! I was remiss in mentioning one of the things we have loved over the years is meeting up with new friends like you and 'connecting' so to say. Thanks for the note!

  2. We also took stock of our life in our 9th year. We are well into our 10th by now. Jim's health issues made a big difference in our planning. So we have become summer travelers and pretty much stay put in the winter in Arizona. Your book idea is so exciting. Good luck with it. We will be heading to Virginia (Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Roanoke) this fall to catch up with Jim's family.

    1. That health thing is something that definitely requires attention. I'm surprised at how many people who appear NOT to be in optimum health are 'out there' and still enjoying life as best they can. It beats the option of sitting on the porch waiting for life to hand them the next chapter...Pam landed in the hospital a couple of years ago with SJS, and I had the detached retina, both of which turned out fine. But it is something one can't take for granted.

  3. Congratulations on completing 9 years of RV travel. Fabulous years, with lots of memories. I am sure you will enjoy the next one as well and whatever you plan for the future after that.

  4. That was fun reading, Randy, I especially liked your wrap up categories. Lots of museums and special places on that list. Made me want to do a bullet list of "things". Also, your conversation about writing a book struck a nerve. I always wanted to write a book of sorts. Most likely a memoir or perhaps short stories based on real stuff. You inspired me to actually think about this again, and maybe go take a college course on how to get started properly. I have decades of writing to draw on, I just need to figure out where to start and how to pare it down. Lastly, the observations about trailers is a big one. I have noticed that as well, with trailers everywhere, in the campgrounds on the roads, everywhere. You Tube...amazing. Just this week I couldn't figure out how to fuel a culinary torch to flame some creme brulee, the thing just wouldn't work! Off to You Tube and a quick internet search showed me instantly that I was holding the canister upside down. Worked perfectly. I have learned how to do so many things with online videos, from card making to fixing something. I do love that aspect of our brave new world. Congrats on your book progress, you know I am enjoying sharing that with you.

    1. Hi Sue! Yes- thanks for being a big part of the book journey with me. I appreciate it. I'd question the need to take a class on the subject. There are so many webinars, classes ( on writing that I'll bet you could find a number of options to get started etc. You are another example of why we love this RV lifestyle and how are the friendship has grown over the years. Pretty cool stuff!

  5. As we have started year 7 we too started talking about an exit plan but decided to wait a few more years before getting serious about it... life is short...

    1. Exactly. I'm not nearly as excited thinking about getting off the road as I was starting the RV living. I think we will have an RV of some type, maybe just downsize.

  6. Congrats. When we first started thinking about going full time I spent as much time thinking about an exit strategy as planning for the road...guess it was all that military training kicking in. We just completed year two and have enough stuff in our book to keep us busy for quite a while.

    1. Maybe you are right with that military training notion. I remember also learning about full lifecycle costs in the military too. For example, the lifecycle costs of the RV include the money not only to purchase it, but the funds to actually systematically maintain it through the years-- the whole ball of wax. I know what you mean -- after a couple of years on the road, we already had a lifetime of memories...

  7. Congratulations to you both on celebrating your ninth year on the road. We have enjoyed following your blog long before we set off. It was such an inspiration to us as we prepared to go full time. I'm excited to read you are writing a book. I'm sure it will be a big success.

    I learned how to knit from a YouTube video.My projects have been small but lots of fun.

    Happy Trails and best of luck as you sort out your new path.

    1. Thanks! We are enjoying your travels into the Northwest and seeing some of the places we've been but many more new ones that we have yet to visit. YouTube is great!

  8. Congrats on year 9! We halfway through year 6, but it doesn't feel like that long, since it's only been two years as empty-nesters enjoying a slower pace without the boys with us. Tom is starting to think about when/where to settle down, but I feel like we have so many places to see still -- we have to get back out west, and we have to get to Alaska! Plus, I've been working remotely this whole time, so I haven't really enjoyed this life as a retiree yet (2-1/2 more years!). I can see the draw of the grandkids and wanting to settle down for at least part of the year . . . I'll be there, too, someday! But with Nick only in year 4 with the Navy, and Bryce going into year 3 at Michigan State, we've got quite a few years ahead of us still . . . lots of traveling to do! We're in Suffolk right now, and headed to Kiptopeke State PArk on the Eastern Shore for volunteering June/July. Nicolas wants us to see the Sea Mist RV Park while we're here, so we'll look for you if we drive through.

    1. Thanks for the note! Working remotely is great (as long as you have decent connectivity) and something that works well in this lifestyle. Let us know when you plan to see Sea Mist RV Park -- we'd love to say 'hi'!

  9. Dennis and I never did RV full time, but we began our Winter travels in 2005, 13 years ago..I was 57 and Den was 63. It seems that we have begun the "medical mystery tour" of our lives just lately..And things begin to "go South", like eyes, back, legs, knees...This might be our last Winter away, if we get to do it...The one thing you can count on in life is that things will change..It can be both exciting and scary at the same time..Hugs to you and Pam, whatever path you take!!

    1. Thanks for the note Donna! Yes - I remember when the health things were different bu they definitely change with the years. We started full-timing when we were 56 and now here we are with our Medicare cards! Hugs to guys also!

  10. Great summary:) We fulltimed for six years and really loved it. Like you, we felt we wanted to be involved with our grandkids. We made the choice to quit fulltiming to spend lots of time with the Grands. We have no regrets, but I still do miss fulltiming.

    1. Thanks! Yes, we can understand the choice. Either way, wonder memories and memories in the making!

  11. Randy, congratulations on your travel achievements so far. Don't discount the financial rewards of making a book. RV'ing has a broad market. Look at other books on the subject and you'll have a guide. 50,000 words is a lot of words! Trim the final product a bit, or create more than one book.

    1. Thanks Mike. You are correct about RVing being a broad market. I've checked out a lot of different books on RVing, plus blogs. I have all kinds of trimming and refining to do before this one hits the bookstand. But it has been a fun experience. If we can finish this edition, I am thinking Volumes 2-10 may follow... There are a lot of memories from each year we've been on the road. Stay tuned!

  12. Randy and Pam,congratulations on your 9 years and all the memories you have made. Whatever the decision and timing, you will make the right choice at the right time. Sounds like writing your book will be a great adventure...good luck with it.

    1. Thanks Mike and Gerri! I know you can relate to the memories. It doesn't take long to get into RV living and it becomes a magical journey in no time. Not to mention meeting good folks like you along the way. The book is an adventure all its own but will be worth it when it is done.

  13. Congrats on completing 9 years living in your RV. You have certainly taken good care of it and it has served you well. Perhaps with all the skills you two have learned on habitat projects you could build your own small ranch style home in Virginia and keep the RV. We are on year 7 of snow bird and starting to talk about exit strategy also. It is good to plan ahead.