You may have gotten a taste and some hints as to our first couple of weeks on the road if you’re following along on Facebook. Such a small fraction goes there, though. There’s just too much to say and a few sentence sound byte usually just isn’t going to cut it. It’s too easy to judge someone’s status update as positive or negative when I don’t believe that anything can really be one or the other. It’s all about perception. As you enter into this post, prepare for ambiguity.
Life on the road has been exhilerating, amazing, frustrating, demanding, busy, new, fun, breathtaking and, at the same time, like having the wind knocked out. The RV looks great. We spent WEEKS getting this baby cozy and live-in ready. We are so proud… and tired. Yet it seems that new challenges, problems, and outright failures have met us around many bends.
We started our journey in south Dallas at Cedar Hill State Park. We have a Texas state parks pass which waves all day-use fees and gives us a few discounts on camping stays. We love state parks- privacy, nature, and adventure. Not 24 hours into our stay, we began noticing ants- more and more ants. Returning one evening after spending the day cleaning out the house in preparation for closing, we had so many ants that I couldn’t see the pantry shelf or the wall behind the sink in the bathroom. We’re talking ANTS. Novices. That’s all we could think. This was our fault for missing some kind of prevention. Google was very little help. We couldn’t seem to stem the tide. After gooing up the water hose/electrical line, the ants went marching up the jacks. We spread ant powder around the jacks and they seemed to have found yet another unknown entry. Long story short, we learned that excessive garbage left in the park over 4th of July led to an ant infestation in our loop. Anger. We moved to another location and spent days vacuuming and otherwise exterminating the ants who came with us in the RV. The claim that the park had WiFi turned out to mean that one could get a mediocre signal from their car if sitting outside the park headquarters. With Chris just beginning his online teaching for two universities, he was slowed, frustrated, and sometimes incapacitated by the slow connection through his phone and having to go outside the headquarters to do his work. We were eager to receive the WiFi repeater and 3G booster (which either Chris or I (or both)) will post about soon but, having no other internet option, we needed to find a place with dependable WiFi or a good cell signal. This is a beautiful park and we were sad to cut our visit short but it became clear that this was just… not… working. While there we tried out our on board washer/dryer and found that it doesn’t drain. That was fun to do by hand from the hole in the front so that we could get our clothes out. We know it’s not the drain hose because I blew bubbles in the water through it. My evaluation techniques are much more direct (and less sanitary) than those of my husband who was busy Googling the topic as I did this. We are thinking it’s the drain motor but are backburnering this repair until we can see clearly to the other side of the ones that are more immediate.
After 5 days at Cedar Hill, we moved to north Dallas to stay at Lewisville Lake Park Campground for the remainder of our time in the DFW area. Less privacy but more than adequate, right on the lake, super friendly staff and campers, and good WiFi. We loved this place. We were still eradicating the last of our ants and nursing chigger bites that had me looking like I had the mumps- remnants of our woodsy days at Cedar Hill- but life was seeming to flow better. Chris remained busy with his online teaching. We spent most days down at the house getting rid of the stuff leftover from our gigantic estate sale, cleaning the house, and taking care of last minute details before closing. We finally settled on a Thule Parkway4-bike hitch mount bike rack for the RV which meant we needed a dual hitch extender so that both the bike rack and the car could utilize a hitch space. This is a great rack and is serving us well. The car needed a base plate installed on the frame to be able to be towed 4-wheels down as we travel. With one car and a several hour install on it planned, we packed up the RV and used it as a vehicle and resting place as we waited for the car to be tow-ready. The install ended up taking 13 1/2 hours. A VW Jetta base plate was installed on our VW Rabbit- same genus, different species. How may I void the warrantee? Let me count the ways. The installation took so long that we could not make it back to Lewisville in time before the campground gates locked and spent our first night boondocking in a WalMart parking lot in a metro area despite the fact that our sweet little spot sat empty and paid for just beyond the gate. The wiring aspect of the install also left the airbag light on and the radio non-functioning which we will now be having Volkswagen figure out. Warrantee, oh warrantee- how we will miss thee. We left WalMart unscathed, were completely out of the house with keys handed over to the new owners, and all of our worldly possessions consisting of what we had in our RV and one large plastic tub of memories and keepsakes in a friend’s garage. Yes, a whole post can (and probably will) be done on relinquishing attachments to ‘stuff’. This felt good. Leaving the house behind was a huge weight lifted off of our shoulders. Now we could focus completely on the RV and life could calm down. Little did we know we’d need that time and focus for the RV and that calm would remain elusive.
We left DFW on a Sunday afternoon and headed for the Houston area. After tremendous research, discussions, research, and more discussions, we had settled on American Greenfuels of Friendswood, TX to convert our RV’s diesel engine to run on waste vegetable oil from fast food restaurants. We were headed down to the shop for Bud to check out our basement storage compartments and general layout of the frame to strategize and measure for a system designed to custom fit our RV. When we asked fellow RVers where to stay in Houston, they told us, “keep driving.” It seems no one has anything positive to say about the Houston area. We decided to take our time on the way down and stopped in Huntsville, TX at a Walmart to boondock (camp without water/electric hookups- we use the generator and our own water tank). When we got there we realized that our bohemoth diesel pusher had pulled the car over 3 hours with the emergency brake on. *&($#(*##$@@. Add that to the list of things to have VW look at and repair (insert mention of voided warrantee here). Around this time we also noticed that the living room slide was working increasingly harder to pull in. Google, here we come. We are pushing this in now with less and less help from the motor and will be replacing that soon as well.
For the last two weeks, we have been at Galveston Island State Park during the week and at Quintana Beach County Park on the weekends (the state park has been completely booked for the weekends for the rest of the summer). Both are lovely places to call temporary home. Though we’ve noticed a distinct lack in friendliness in this area (is this where Texans come to recover from being so friendly the rest of the time?), we have met some wonderful folks at the campgrounds and the kids have had a raucous and wonderful time playing with the kids that come and go. Being oceanside has been amazing. We’re at the beach everyday for an hour or two playing in the waves, flying kites, making sand castles, and art. The kids have seamlessly adjusted to life in the RV and have not looked back. They are excited to tell people that we call our RV ‘home’ and that we can go wherever we want. Parting from their friends who are ending their vacations to go back home has been difficult but making new friends is quick, easy, and full of new discoveries.
Since here, we’ve had ongoing issues with both or our rooftop air conditioners. Chris knows just enough about electricity not to get himself expelled from the roof by a jolt but not quite enough to know why it now works after replacing capacitors, blowing out both workings with our air compressor, and changing out the filters. We are cool now and have avoided the high cost of replacing the units and that is key. We are waiting in the area for the tank and parts to come in to American Greenfuels so that the process of converting the engine can begin. Though we agree that the south in the summer is not where we’d like to be in the future in our RV, given the circumstance there is no place I’d rather be than by the shore.
Today was a good day. Chris didn’t have to spend half the day on the roof with his phone trying to figure out air conditioners. We didn’t have to run out for parts or errands. The awning seems to be going up and down straight now. It was just a regular day and a refreshing first for us. We still love our RV and are trying to remember that we had issues like this with our house as well- they just seemed more expected and comprehensible because we were more familiar with the workings of a house. This is an 8 year old RV and, though in great condition overall, we can expect to be fixing things. We were just hoping it wouldn’t be all at once! A few people have asked us if all of these issues are giving us second thoughts about our decision. A friend of ours who lives and travels in her RV with her children (and has had her share of RV breaks and fixes) said that these issues will strengthen our resolve. I’m happy to say that we are definitely in her camp. The spirit of adventure, fewer bills, and cozy, self-contained nature of our life now has more appeal than the issues that we’ve had can take away. Like new homeowners, we are learning her workings inside and out. We are confident that we can skip labor costs and do just about anything that needs to be done by utilizing our information resources and resourcefulness. This not only saves us money, but adds to our knowledge and confidence. We’re off to Quintana Beach County Park again tomorrow for the weekend. See you on the beach!
Some side notes on things that have broken/gone awry:
- Chris hit a curb with the RV and our cupboard opened- a plate that the kids painted two years ago in Santa Barbara fell out and shattered.
- I leashed Lulu to the table leg as she thinks the RV is a death trap while moving (see above). She ripped the leg off the table.
It’s really just getting comical. We’ve noticed we’re getting better at this, though. There’s definitely a learning curve to having a house that moves…