I’ve learned the hard way that evidently my credit card gets pre-approved for $100 at the gas station, before I start pumping. So when the pump ticker hits $100, everything shuts down. I had no idea until recently – cause who spends over $100 on a tank of gas, ever? I do.
Tolls can also be pricey with four axles. The Pennsylvania Turnpike and the New York Thruway each cost about $55 in tolls when I was crossing those states. I paid $52 in tolls to get from Ohio to Wisconsin. There are probably routes which avoid the tolls, but I feel much safer on the main highways, so it’s worth the extra cost. I was glad when I got west of Chicago where there were fewer toll roads.
I’ve learned that the gauges for my black (toilet) and gray (sinks, shower) tanks are completely unreliable. So I have to know my limitations in other ways. The black tank can go a long time – longest I’ve gone is two weeks without dumping, and I’m sure I could go longer. The gray is another matter. When it’s full it overflows into my shower basin, so it’s very obvious. That happens after about four days. I have a strong preference for a sewer hookup and no worries.
My little Mini Cooper needs to be completely cleaned each time it’s towed to a new campground. Apparently, the RV spits dirt and all manner of gunk from its tires as it’s traveling, and it covers the Mini to the point where it would be embarrassing to drive it around. Most campgrounds don’t allow car washing, and commercial car wash places don’t allow the Mini through with the hitch gismo in the front, so I do a lot of “wiping down” with a bucket of water and a few towels. I enjoy the job, since it’s one of the few things I do that’s away from the computer.
Speaking of the car, when I first started thinking about buying an RV, the different options were overwhelming: the size of the RV, the type (a trailer, or a Class A, B or C motor home), and whether or not to tow a car, among many other choices. Now, after living with it and seeing lots of other options on the road and in campgrounds, it’s a good feeling to be able to say that I made exactly the right decision for my needs. The size of the RV is perfect for me (26 feet), it was a great price, and I’m so glad I chose a Class C motorhome, towing a car. I can’t imagine how I would function if my only vehicle was the RV.
Going over a particularly rough road recently, a few of the unbreakable dishes in the cabinet above the sink flew out and broke. Ever since then, I use a bungee cord to make sure the cabinet stays closed. And the first time I open any of the cabinets (or the fridge) after a day of travel, I know to be ready to jump out of the way of falling objects – because, like the airline attendants always tell you, things really do shift in transit. Cans of food are especially painful.
I much prefer the cooler nights of the fall to the heat of the summer. And in case you’re wondering – yes, I do have a heating system when I need it, but so far I’ve only used it one morning when the temperature inside the my little house was 47.
Speaking of the heating system, I’m also learning how much propane is needed. Propane runs the heater, the hot water heater, the fridge when it’s not hooked up to electric, and the stove. The propane tank has only been filled three times: mid-November last year, after living in the RV for almost three months; late May, after only two months of use; and in early September, after roughly three months. Probably it didn’t last as long in the spring because I had the fridge on propane for a week while I stayed at my cousin’s house in Virginia. That doesn’t happen very often. But it’s not a big deal as it’s not very expensive.
Downloading movies and TV shows from Netflix and Amazon is a whole THING for me now. Since my cellular data is limited, I don’t want to spend it on streaming – I need it for my research. Actually my cellular data plan is Verizon’s definition of “unlimited”, which cuts the speed down so far after hitting a certain threshold each month that it becomes almost useless. And often, I’m not able to get television reception. So I’ve learned how to download and watch shows offline, which first involves finding a place with good internet.
Through trial and error, I’ve learned that Starbucks has absolutely the fastest internet by far, and I can access it for the cost of a small cup of coffee, which is about two bucks. This doesn’t apply to the Starbucks kiosks that are sometimes inside grocery stores. I’ve had one hour shows take a full hour to download at some places, and that’s just a waste of time. At Starbucks it’s a pretty reliable five minutes.
The Netflix app works on both the laptop and the kindle, but the app can be “buggy” and the rules aren’t clear – sometimes Netflix retracts shows off your device and you’re not allowed to download them again for a year. The Amazon app only works on my kindle (not my laptop or Chromebook), but I like it better because you can download the show and a 48 hour viewing window starts when you begin watching it. I plan ahead so I know if there is going to be a Starbucks near my campground. If not, I download a ton of Amazon shows and movies in advance, and then I can watch them over several weeks without feeling pressured. I’m a very happy Amazon Prime customer in general.
I have a completely different relationship with possessions since I downsized to an RV. I’ve never been a shopper – in fact, shopping is right up there with root canal in my top ten things to avoid at all costs. But I marvel at the fact that when I drive by a shopping center these days, I ask myself if I need anything, and 99% of the time, the answer is no.
I drive right by the Home Depot – don’t need anything for the house or yard. No home improvement projects, no mulch, plants, or tools. I drive right by Bed, Bath and Beyond – don’t need any shower curtains, mops or other cleaning supplies, fancy coffee makers, or bath accessories. Don’t need Pier One – no knick-knacks, no photo frames, no furniture. I pretty much live in T-shirts and shorts or jeans, so I don’t need many new clothes. I even saw a Camping World the other day, and didn’t need to stop. Once I got all set up in the RV, I was done buying stuff. It’s amazing to realize how little one needs to live a simple life. I find it to be a great relief.
My friend Peg asked if I get lonely and/or bored on my long drives. Well, I’m certainly not bored. Driving the rig takes all my concentration, even for hundreds of miles on an interstate. I still grip the steering wheel so tightly that my hands get numb from my carpal tunnel – I try to remember to take Aleve in the morning on travel days. Sometimes I turn the radio on for a little entertainment, but not often.
Loneliness is entirely another matter. Before I started this new adventure, I figured I would probably be lonely, but that was nothing new for me. I was living in a country setting and didn’t know my neighbors, I no longer had any single girlfriends, my kids were grown and gone, and after my mother died, I found myself quite alone. Although I would prefer to have company, I wasn’t about to let “being alone” stop me from doing what I wanted to do.
What I’ve found is that I’m lonelier now than I was before, and in my opinion that’s the biggest downside of this lifestyle. When I was working, at least I had the company of my co-workers during the day, and I also had my genealogy friends. Now, I can literally go days without speaking to another human being. I’ve always been very independent and strong, believing that I didn’t need anyone else. One thing this trip has taught me is that my attitude was kind of a false bravado, and I really do need other people. I’m looking forward to the time when I can belong to a community again.
Meanwhile, it’s really NOT as bad as it may sound! I’m perfectly fine being on my own and I’m SO enjoying the total freedom I have. For the first time in decades, I don’t have to consult with anyone else about the schedule for the day, and I don’t have to concern myself with someone else’s needs. It’s all about me. And there’s a lot to be said for having that experience, at least temporarily!