Full-time RV Pioneer & Escapees RV Club Co-Founder: Kay Peterson

We just received the very sad news that Escapees RV Club Co-Founder Kay Peterson has died.

Kay was a guiding light in the RVing community for many decades, a woman who lived her dreams to the fullest, despite many seemingly impossible road blocks along the way. Nearly two years ago Mark and I were utterly blessed to spend several very memorable hours with Kay learning about the winding road she took through a fascinating life.

As we all know but too often forget, “Time stops for no man,” and if there was anyone who understood the power of those words it was Kay Peterson. If you have a big dream but keep putting it off for one reason or another, Kay’s rich life offers all the inspiration you need to squash your fears and live life with gusto.

To give you a sense of the way Kay approached her life, I just received a touching note from Cathie Carr, Kay’s daughter and retired leader of Escapees RV Club. As Kay lay dying and holding Cathie’s hand, she faced her future with a profound optimism as she said:

“When you’re born, you cry and the world rejoices. When you die, you rejoice and the world cries.”

For our newer readers who do not know her incredible story, we are re-publishing this post today in honor of Kay Peterson’s life.

Escapees Magazine Cover Jul-Aug 2016 Photo by Mark Fagan

Escapees Magazine — July/August 2016
Cover Photo by Mark Fagan

The July/August 2016 of Escapees Magazine features a lengthy article I wrote about Kay Peterson, the co-founder of Escapees RV Club and a pioneer in the full-time RV lifestyle in the 1970’s.

Writing this really fun article followed a truly inspiring personal visit that Mark and I enjoyed with Kay last fall

You can read the Escapees Magazine article here:

Kay Peterson – Escapees Magazine July/August 2016

Like many new SKPs (the Escapees RV Club nickname for the word “Escapees”), our first real evidence of being members was in receiving and reading the bi-monthly Club magazine, Escapees Magazine.

We knew little else about the club when we joined, but when I saw the first issue of the thick magazine, I was struck by two things: the artistic cover photo and the very first article inside called “Thoughts for the Road” written by Kay Peterson.

As the months went by and more issues arrived, I was always very taken by the images on the cover of the magazine, and I couldn’t help but sit right down and read Kay Peterson’s opening essay immediately.

She always spoke of the importance of pursuing your dreams, of taking chances, of overcoming your fear of the unknown and of following your own heart.

She seemed to be speaking right to us, because those topics were hot on our minds as we discovered true independence and freedom in our first few months and years on the road.

After decades of living a conventional lifetsyle, we’d struck out on our own in a little travel trailer and we were loving every minute of it. “Everyone should do this!” we kept saying to each other. “What’s holding them back?”

And then we’d read Kay’s latest installment, and she’d remind us that too often people are held back by fear. They want to wait for a “better time” in their lives to chase their dreams, a time when they have more money, or more time, or fewer responsibilities.

I was astonished that this RV club magazine would dive right into these weighty, philosophical topics, and that Kay would keep persisting, gently prodding us to think about the important things in life. Who was she, where had she come from, and what had her life been like? I wondered.

Full-time RV pioneer and Escapees RV Club Founder Kay Peterson

.

At that time, we had no idea what the Escapees RV Club was all about beyond the magazine. We aren’t joiners or “club” people, and we had started RVing full-time to get away, not to become part of a social group. But the quality of the magazine and those intriguing opening essays that Kay wrote touched us both.

The images on the cover of Escapees Magazine were always beautiful, and the articles inside had a different thrust than other RV magazines we subscribed to that focused on RV reviews, product reviews and info about RV gear. Escapees Magazine had a lot of that stuff too, but it also went into detail about the unusual things that affect people who live on the road in their RVs full-time or for months on end.

Escapees Magazine Covers

Escapees Magazine is different than other RV magazines

I felt an affinity with Kay Peterson right from the get-go, but when she mentioned in one of her essays that she’d gotten her start as a writer when she sent an article to Woodall’s Trailer Travel Magazine and that they responded by publishing it and sending her a check for $75, I was blown away. I had just sent an aritcle to Escapees Magazine about Goblin Valley, Utah, right in time for the Halloween issue, and they had responded by publishing it and sending me a check for $75!

Kay’s writing, her philosophy of life, and the essence of her message stayed with me, and as I wrote more and more, on this blog and elsewhere, I often felt her influence in the back of my mind. She is a generation ahead of me in age, and she was like a guide and mentor, even though we had never met.

Mark and I finally had an opportunity to meet Kay last fall when we were in Texas, and what a fabulous experience that was.

Kay Peterson and Emily Fagan full-time RVers

I was thrilled to be able to chat with Kay Peterson

She was warm, animated and downright charismatic as she told the two of us her life story. She has lived an incredible life, going through lots of twists and turns and bumps in the road on her way to many impressive achievements, and her intriguing journey continues to this day.

As soon as she greeted us, I had to smile at hearing her light Boston accent. That accent is near and dear to my heart, because I grew up there, and even though I don’t have the accent and can’t mimic it, whenever I hear it spoken authentically (not the Hollywood version), it sounds like home.

What was much more surprising, though, was to find out that she got her nurse’s training in the 1940’s in the exact same hospital where members of my family had been born and died in the 1960’s and 1970’s. As it turned out, Kay and I had grown up at the same end of town!

I was also fascinated to learn that back in her day, the student nurses lived in dormitories at the hospital while they were in nursing school.

Full-time RV pioneer Kay Peterson and Emily Fagan

We found we had a lot in common!

For most of us born after the Great Depression and World War II, the events of the 1930’s and 40’s exist only in faded black and white photos and jittery newsreels. Even though, for me and Mark, the war ended just 10-15 years before we were born, about the same distance back as 9/11 is today, it is impossible for us to understand what life was really like back then.

But as Kay described her childhood and youth to us, that era suddenly came to life in vivid color. She came of age as the war was ending, and her young adulthood was intricately tied to and shaped by the events around her.

It’s easy to take society’s changes from the Women’s Liberation movement for granted now. Having forgotten just how much the world has changed in the past 65 years, Mark and I were both very affected by the movie Philomena, which is about a young woman who was forced to live in a Catholic home for unwed mothers and give up her baby for adoption in Ireland in the 1950’s. But as we listened to Kay’s story, we were shocked to hear that tale told again, but this time in the 1940’s in America.

Likewise, we have always known that tuberculosis is a terrible disease, but we had no idea that until the vaccine for it was developed and made available, patients were isolated from society in institutions to prevent spreading it further. Most didn’t make it out alive, but Kay did.

Hearing Kay’s tales of her past, we not only saw how perseverance and optimism can lead to a fulfilling and rich life, as happened for her, but we got a history lesson as well.

Escapees RV Club founder Kay Peterson with Emily Fagan

I scribbled notes furiously but was captivated when I read her autobiography later!

Kay tells her life story in riveting detail in her book, Beating the Odds, published in 2013. After Mark and I spent several hours listening to her story in person during the course of two different visits, we absolutely devoured her book. It is an inspiring tale of overcoming and becoming that we couldn’t put down.

Kay faced many brutal hardships, from poverty to an abusive husband, and she struggled against many agonizing obstacles in her early years, including a life threatening disease, but she never lost her belief that life could be better.

A turning point came for her when her beloved grandmother died and she realized, while going through her belongings, that this woman she had always adored had lived more timidly than bravely and had died without ever allowing herself to be bold enough to insist on living her dreams. At that moment, Kay vowed never to fall prey to fear like that herself.

Escapees RV Club Sharing the RV Lifestyle

Kay and her husband Joe created the Escapees RV Club in 1978

Upon meeting Joe Peterson, she found her soulmate, and the two of them began to make history together when, at age 43, they joined the tiny ranks of people who were living in their RVs full-time in the 1970’s. Joe had the ideal mobile occupation as a “tramp” electrician, and in a few short years, she became a writer for both Woodall’s Trailer Travel Magazine and the Snowbird Newsletter.

These writing gigs led to her starting an RV journal of her own, which ultimately became Escapees Magazine. From that came the founding of the Escapees RV Club in 1978. The rest is history, as Escapees RV Club has grown in all kinds of creative ways since its inception.

But the most fascinating thing for me is that Kay Peterson has grown too.

Besides co-founding Escapees RV Club, overseeing the development of an outstanding RV magazine, and creating the first of its kind assisted living center for RVers (Escapees CARE or Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees), she has published a slew of books, including the first book ever written about full-time RVing, called Home Is Where You Park It. This bible for full-timers was in print for 22 years until its last edition came off the presses in 1999.

Her fifteen years of full-time RV travels with Joe ultimately whetted their appetities for more travel adventures and led them further afield to explorations that took them overseas to Europe, Africa, Australia, Fiji and other exotic destinations.

A few years back, when she was in her mid-80’s, she mentioned in her Escapees Magazine column that she was now pursuing a dream she had held since her youth but had never made a top priority: writing a novel.

Never one for mere pipe dreams, in 2013, she published 13 Days in Africa, a novel that was inspired by her own safaris in Africa. This novel was so well received that she sat down and wrote another, and this past winter, on her 89th birthday, she published the sequel called The Elephant Bond.

Escapees RV Club Rainbow's End RV Park

The Escapees headquarters campus in Livingston, Texas, is so extensive they offer tours on a trolley bus!!

Dramatic and poignant, her novels draw from all of her life experiences and are compelling dramas. Kay was not quite finished discovering the stories behind her characters after the second novel, however, so she is planning to turn this pair of novels, whose stories now span three continents, into a trilogy, with the publication of a third novel in the series on her agenda now!

Added later: Kay completed the trilogy and published her third novel in the series, When Cultures Collide, in February 2017.

Escapees RV Club CARE Center for Retired RVers

Escapees CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees)
Kay’s proudest accomplishment, and one which took extraordinary patience and fortitude!

At the moment, however, she is attending the Escapade RV rally in Essex Junction, Vermont (held July 21-23 in 2016), and lots of lucky Escapees members are having a chance to meet her in person and listen to her wisdom at the rally.

For those who have a dream — whether it’s a travel dream or lifestyle dream or something totally different — Kay stands out as one of those rare mentors who not only made their dreams a priority and made them come true, but who has consistently reached out to those around her and encouraged them to pursue their dreams as well.

I highly recommend reading Kay’s autobiography, Beating the Odds, and her book of essays, Chasing Rainbows.

The essays are drawn from over three decades of her inspirational Escapees Magazine articles. She offers many pearls of wisdom and gems of hope that are great reminders of how important it is not to let life pass us by.

Two of my favorite Kay Peterson quotes:

If you don’t fulfill your dreams now, when will you?

__________

Some of us prefer to live 365 days in a year crammed with as many experiences as possible.
Others are content to live the same day 365 times in a row.

In addition, I highly recommend that all RVers, especially those who use their RV for extended travel, join Escapees RV Club, even the “non-joiners” and non-club folk like ourselves.

Of the many things that Escapees RV Club is involved in — a myriad of overnight parking options (from free sites to site ownership), an online RVers forum, RV rallies, RV education, an RV weighing program, assisted living for RVers, and a massive mail forwarding outfit — the RV advocacy work they do benefits everyone who owns an RV and is well worth supporting.

US Mail truck Escapees RV Club Headquarters Livingston Texas

This US Mail semi tractor trailer full of RVers’ mail pulls up at Escapees HQ in Texas EVERY DAY!!

The cost to join is minimal but the impact that a large, cohesive group can have on the rights of RVers is enormous. Besides, the magazine is excellent. You can join here:

Join Escapees RV Club

If you happen to join, we’d appreciate it if you’d let them know you heard about Escapees from this blog, Roads Less Traveled, as they will put a little something in our tip jar. This might sound shallow or self-serving, but the truth is that we have spent years recommending Escapees to other RVers and did so long before Escapees even knew we had a tip jar!

Full-time RV Pioneer Escapees Founder Kay Peterson with Mark and Emily Fagan

What a special time this was – Mark, Kay and me.

Also, for any Escapee with a camera or a flare for words, Escapees Magazine is always looking for photos and articles from members.

Mark’s cover photo in the July/August issue (at the top of this page) is a classic example of how a beautiful photograph taken with an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera can end up on the cover.

When he saw a Class C motorhome reflecting in his mirror in our truck, he grabbed the shot with the closest camera he could put his hands on, which turned out to be a cheap one he’d gotten years ago. We both then tried to improve upon his image with our fancy cameras, but gosh darn it, that little point-and-shoot got the best photo of them all.

So there it is, proof positive that sometimes the best way to go is just to jump in and do it, whatever “it” is, regardless of your gear or preparation, because that first impression and rush of enthusiasm may give you the biggest return.

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Kay Peterson’s Books:

Links for Escapees RV Club:

Related articles – Essays about living the dream of a life on the road:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

Royal Flush! – A Surprise RV Toilet Replacement…Under Warranty :-)

Our fifth wheel trailer is 10 years old now, and we’ve been living in it full-time for most of those years. Our RV toilet has been with us every step of the way, although over the last few years it has struggled to hold water in the bowl.

Last week, out of the blue, Mark put his foot on the pedal to flush the toilet, heard a loud snap, and then the toilet flapper valve refused to budge. It was completely broken and unable to open and flush properly. Ugh!!

Luckily, the toilet bowl couldn’t hold water any more either, so it was kinda able to flush, just in a dribbling sort of way!

RV Toilet Replacement under an Extended RV Warranty

.

So, our delightful plans to go play in the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado were dashed, and we drove off over the horizon in pursuit of a replacement RV toilet.

Broken RV toilet can't hold water in the toilet bowl

The toilet flushing mechanism broke, and pressing the pedal no longer opened
the flush valve in the toilet bowl. Fluids dribbled out quickly anyway… Not good!

After some calling around, we found a shop that had our exact Thetford toilet in stock, and when we arrived, there it was on the display rack!

New RV toilet at the RV repair shop

What luck! There is an identical toilet on the display rack.

We have an RV Extended Warranty with Wholesale Warranties that has been a huge help in dealing with the many surprise financial blows we’ve faced as our trailer has aged and various components have quit working.

We first got our warranty in October of 2014, and by Christmas of the following year it had paid for itself several times over as we faced one major repair after another, all in a row.

Unlike vehicle insurance, which protects vehicle owners against accidents, an extended RV warranty protects against failures of the systems in the RV that aren’t caused by a mishap.

Installing new RV toilet in tiny RV toilet room in fifth wheel trailer

There wasn’t a whole lot of space to work in our little toilet room!

We learned from our last RV toilet repair job that replacing broken parts in an RV toilet is often more expensive than simply swapping out the toilet all together.

So we weren’t surprised when the service manager said he wanted to replace our toilet rather than troubleshooting the problem and disassembling and reassembling the toilet to replace the broken part. He called our RV warranty company and explained that the toilet couldn’t flush and that the flushing mechanism was broken.

The warranty company agreed to cover the toilet replacement in full.

To get started, the RV technician removed the shield around the base of the toilet and then unscrewed the two large bolts that hold the RV toilet to the floor.

Remove RV toilet base shield in fifth wheel trailer

The first step to removing the toilet is to remove the shield from around the base.

Two bolts hold an RV toilet to the floor of a fifth wheel trailer

Two bolts — one on either side of the base — hold the RV toilet to the floor.

Then he detached the fresh water line from the toilet and pulled the toilet off of the hole in the floor that goes to the black tank underneath.

Old RV toilet removed from hole to black sewage wastewater tank

The toilet is removed from its position over the sewer drain hole that goes to the black wastewater holding tank.

Next, he detached the hose clamps holding the rinse spray wand’s flexible hose onto the toilet

Removing broken RV toilet before installing new RV toilet

The hose clamp for the fresh water rinse sprayer is removed.

After pulling out the toilet, all that was left in the little toilet room was the hole in the floor that goes to the black wastewater holding tank, the blue fresh water line that fills the bowl and flushes the toilet, and the fresh water spray wand with its flexible hose (this was an option on our old toilet and didn’t come with the new toilet, so we kept the old spray wand).

Empty RV toilet room in 5th wheel trailer

After the toilet is removed, all that remains is the black water sewer hole, the blue fresh water flush pipe and the flexible fresh water sprayer hose.

Then it was out with the old — and in with the new!

Removing broken RV toilet from fifth wheel trailer

Out with the old toilet…

Installing new RV toilet in a fifth wheel trailer

…In with the new toilet!

To install the new RV toilet, the process was repeated in reverse. First the toilet was positioned over the black tank hole, then the fresh water line and the fresh water spray wand were reattached, and finally the RV toilet was bolted to the floor.

Since the spray wand is an option, the toilet ships with the barbed hose fitting it slides onto sealed shut. So, before sliding the hose onto the barbed hose fitting, the end of the fitting had to be clipped off.

Back of new Thetford RV toilet with optional spray wand

In order to attach the rinse sprayer, the hose connection must be clipped to open it up.

Optional sprayer nozzle on RV toilet installation

Sprayer and fresh water flush lines attached.

And then the installation was finished and our sparkling new RV toilet was all ready for its first Royal Flush!

The whole procedure took an hour from start to finish. When we settled up with the service manager, the final bill was the following:

FINAL BILL FOR REPLACING OUR RV TOILET:

Parts – New RV toilet (porcelain bowl) $297.59
Labor – One hour $105.00
Tax $11.61
Total Cost $414.20

RV EXTENDED WARRANTY PAYMENT BREAKDOWN:

Warranty Coverage (amount we saved) $314.20
Out of Pocket Cost (our deductible) $100.00
Total Payment $414.20
New RV toilet installation in fifth wheel trailer

A nice sparkling brand new toilet. Yay!

This brings our total repairs and savings with our Trailer Extended Warranty to the following:

Here's a summary of what our four year RV warranty through Wholesale Warranties cost, what our repairs WOULD HAVE cost, and what our warranty reimbursements have been to date:

Cost of Warranty $1,904
Total Cost of Repairs we've had done $7,834
Total Out of Pocket Costs for those repairs $1,145
Repair Reimbursements:
Trailer Axle Replacement $1,036
RV Refrigerator Replacement $1,647
Plumbing Issues & Window Leak $1,142
Suspension Replacement $2,550
RV Toilet Replacement $314
Total Repair Reimbursements $6,689

Our trailer warranty has paid for itself 3.5 times over, and there's still lots of time left on the contract!

If you are curious what an extended RV warranty would cost for your rig, Wholesale Warranties is offering a $50 discount to our readers. Call our contact, Missi Junior at (800) 939-2806 or email her at missi@wholesalewarranties.com and mention that you heard about them from our website, Roads Less Traveled. Or go to this link:

Wholesale Warranties Quote Form

The $50 discount comes off of the quoted price at the time of purchase — just be sure to ask!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

The Full Case History of our RV Extended Warranty:

Other Plumbing and Black Tank Articles!

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

10 Years of Life on the Road by RV and Sailboat – The 2nd Half!

“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it!” — John Irving

Continued from: 10 Years of Full-time RVing & Sailing – The Early Years…

When we ended our season of RV travels in the fall of 2013 and flew back to Marina Chiapas on the Mexico / Guatemala border, our sailboat Groovy was ready and waiting for us.

After a few days of getting acclimated to the stifling heat and getting the boat provisioned, we crossed the treacherous Gulf of Tehhuantepec, a 350 mile long voyage that required meticulous planning to avoid the ferocious winds that blow from the Gulf of Mexico and then pick up steam and become even more savage when they hit the Pacific ocean.

Sailboat anchored in Tangolunda Bay Huatulco Mexico

Anchored in stunning Tangolunda Bay in Hautulco, Mexico.

We arrived in the Bays of Huatulco and found ourselves in paradise. Even though we had been here the year before, knowing that this would be our last time sailing these waters made every moment precious — and tenderly bittersweet.

We loved the tropical flowers and birds that surrounded us.

Exotic passion flower

We were in the tropics again!

Hummingbird at exotic flower Mexico

.

A flock of wild parrots was hanging around the tiny fishing village of Santa Cruz and we loved watching their crazy antics in the trees above us as we drank our morning coffee or afternoon beers in the middle of town.

Wild parrots Santa Cruz Huatulco Mexico

Wild parrots cuddling in the late afternoon sun in Huatulco.

We ended up staying in Huatulco for three months, going out for day sails in the bay every few days.

Sailing in the Bays of Huatulco Mexico

We took the boat out for a glorious daysail every few days.

What a life this was! We settled into a delicious routine anchored out in Huatulco’s various coves and bays.

Taking the dinghy ashore in Huatulco Mexico

Our dinghy was our commuter car in our cruising lifestyle.

One day a group of people came alongside our boat on paddleboards and kayaks. It turned out they owned a beautiful resort on a hilltop overlooking a secluded beach, and they invited us to come and spend a few nights.

Wow! We were there in a heartbeat. And what a romantic place Las Palmas Resort is. Every guest has their own private villa, and pretty swimming pools with exquisite views are situated all over the unusual and intimate property.

Las Palmas Resort Huatulco Mexico

The owners of Las Palmas resort invited us to stay in their luxury villas for a few days. Incredible!

The engine alternator on our boat died unexpectedly one day, and shipping a replacement to Mexico was going to cost a small fortune. If maintaining a boat is expensive in the US, it can be doubly so in tropical foreign countries.

Fortunately, the owner of Las Palmas resort was flying back to the US for Christmas, so he carried our new alternator on the plane with him when he returned in January, saving us $1,000 in import taxes and fees.

Mark got the new alternator installed, and we eventually said goodbye to Huatulco, a little piece of heaven on Mexico’s southern Pacific that few people know about.

Aboard Hunter 44S sailboat Groovy

In the spring and summer of 2013 we covered 2,500 miles at 7 mph
sailing from Mexico’s Guatemala border to San Diego

We began our long journey north by sailing 450 miles to Zihuatanejo. We were now much more comfortable with overnight sailing, and this was a pleasant trip. With each familiar place we visited, it was like coming home, but it was hard then to leave them and all the memories surrounding them in our wake.

Fishermen repair their nets Zihuatanejo Mexico

Fishermen repair their nets on the beach in Zihuatanejo.

Our inland trips to Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas, and Palenque in Chiapas the previous season had been so rewarding we decided to visit the colonial city of Morelia too. It was a straight shot inland from Zihuatanejo. This beautiful city has a fabulous antique aqueduct and a cathedral that is jaw-droppingly ornate on the inside.

Ornate cathedral Sanctuario de Guadelupe  interior Morelia Mexico

The interior of Sanctuario de Guadelupe was like a jewel box!

Traveling by car with friends, we were able to get to two very out-of-the-way spots, first visiting a major Monarch butterfly migration stopover and then visiting a totally authentic farmer’s market in Pátzcuaro. We were the only gringos there, and what a delight it was to experience the earthy hustle and bustle of that marketplace.

Continuing our voyage north, we stopped in Manzanillo Bay to witness one of the most exotic sunrises we have ever seen. The pattern in the sky was spectacular.

Sailboat at sunrise Santiago Bay Manzanillo Mexico

.

Over the next few weeks we made our way very slowly up the Costalegre coast, living in bathing suits and sailing short distances.

View from the helm Hunter 44DS sailboat Groovy

View from the helm on Groovy.

There are several stunning and rarely visited coves on this coast that are challenging for sailors to anchor in. But our skills with setting a supplemental stern anchor had improved to the point where we were able to enjoy each one.

The sense of accomplishment at having come so far as sailors was immensely rewarding, and the little bays were charming.

In the “Secret Anchorage” of Cuastecomate we enjoyed beers on the beach along with exotic snacks.

Exotic snacks Cuastecomate beach Costalegre Mexico

Mangoes and other goodies on a stick!

In tiny Paraiso Bay we found unusually clear, jade colored water. A “reef” obstructing the area where we wanted to drop our anchor turned out to be a massive school of fish that gradually swam away, revealing pure sand underneath!

Happy sailor Paraiso Bay Costalegre Mexico

Swimming in a jade paradise.

In Careyes Bay we found a hillside filled with brightly colored homes. What a sight! We heard that the German model Heidi Klum has an estate there, but we never saw her.

Sailboat anchored in Careyes Bay Costalegre Mexico

Colorful Careyes was a spectacular anchorage, but it required a stern anchor, and we still rolled as the winds and current shifted!

As we made our final approach to Puerto Vallarta early one morning, we passed several breaching whales whose silver, barnacle encrusted bodies shimmered in the morning sun. And then we tied up at the docks of the luxurious Paradise Village Resort marina.

Groovy sailboat in Paradise Village Marina Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Groovy sidles up to the dock at Paradise Village Marina.

Paradise Village Resort is exactly that, an intimate resort community in Paradise. Our docking fee gave us full access to the entire resort complex which included not only fine dining, a spa, a gym and a fancy hotel, but hot tubs, swimming pools, water slides, indoor and outdoor bars and a huge and endless beach. This swank resort became our home for a memorable three months.

How often in life do you get to live at a high end resort?

Mexican dancer Paradise Village Resort Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Paradise Village has lots of wonderful entertainment for their guests.

After two months of pure vacation at Paradise Village Resort, we did a final bus trip inland to the colonial city of Guanajuato which quickly became our favorite of all the colonial cities we visited in Mexico.

Colorful hillsides in Guanajuato Mexico

Guanajuato is a silver mining town with a rich history that is truly magical.

It is colorful almost to a fault, with a vast valley and hillsides filled with colorfully painted homes.

Colorful houses Guanajuato Mexico

.

Callejon in Guanajuato Mexico

Bands of minstrels sing in these alleys ever night.

It’s a town full of quirky charm. For starters, a group of men dressed in Medieval garb sing folk songs in the alleys every night.

One afternoon we saw a ballerina dancing on the balcony outside of one of the town’s several theaters. In the evenings, Mariachi musicians at the restaurants on the town square would take turns with the pops orchestra playing in the bandstand in the middle of the square, alternating traditional folk music with classical pops as they filled the whole town with music. We loved everything about this lively city.

Horseback riders Guanajuato Mexico

We never knew what we’d see in Guanajuato!

Nearby is the equally beautiful but much more reserved city of San Miguel de Allende. We zipped over there to visit my childhood figure skating idol, Toller Cranston, who had made his home in San Miguel for several decades.

I had wanted to see him for almost 40 years, and the timing turned out to be perfect, as he died unexpectedly just two years later. How fortunate we were to be able to spend time with him before he was gone.

Cathedral San Miguel de Allende Mexico

The cathedral in San Miguel de Allende.

Throughout our cruise in Mexico we always kept an eye out for RVs and RV parks. Lots of people take their RVs south of the border, and we spotted an Airstream trailer sitting under the palm trees. What a spot!

We also met the son of the first couple to take their RV on the train through Copper Canyon back in the 1980’s, and his story of growing up in an RV largely in Mexico was fascinating.

Airstream trailer in palm trees Mexico

What a great place to camp!

At long last it was time to head back to San Diego.

The sailing voyage north along Mexico’s Pacific Baja coast is known as the “Baja Bash” because you are bucking the winds, currents and waves the whole way. During July, at the beginning of hurricane season, the winds change periodically as the storms blow through, blowing up from the south for a few days at a time. This makes the trip a little bit less of a bash, although it remains a bash nonetheless due to the waves and current.

The hurricanes roll up the Baja coast in July like bowling balls, one after another in relentless succession. Luckily, they are not as big and deadly as the hurricanes that occur later in the season.

We timed the two legs of our trip north from Puerto Vallarta to perfection, first jumping from Puerto Vallarta on the mainland to Cabo San Lucas at the bottom of the Baja peninsula, and then sailing from Cabo San Lucas all the way up the Baja coast to Ensenada just south of San Diego.

The hurricanes were coming so thick and fast that we couldn’t stop or we’d be overtaken by the next one. Instead, we found the sweet spot between two hurricanes and rode along with them as they moved north.

We stopped just long enough to fill up with diesel in Cabo and again half way up the Baja coast at Turtle Bay. If we had stopped any longer, we would have found ourselves in the eye of a storm.

Sailing into the sunset

We left tropical Mexico with tears in our eyes.

The Baja Bash was like our Final Exam in Seamanship Skills, and we were very proud to pass with flying colors despite several white knuckle moments along the way.

We made the 1,300 mile journey in an extremely fast 8 days and 7 hours. When we arrived in Ensenada, Mark got off the boat and kissed the dock. Literally!

We felt utterly triumphant — and very relieved.

Perhaps what made our homecoming even more poignant was that friends we had started our cruising adventure with in Ensenada nearly four years prior were there to greet us. They had fallen in love with Ensenada and had bought a house in town, and they welcomed us into their home like family.

As we unloaded all of our stories and emotions on them about the bitter sweeness of ending our cruise, the beauty we’d seen, the fear we’d felt and the truly mixed emotions we had about finishing our cruising dream, they understood exactly where we were coming from.

As sailors themselves, they knew just how beautiful the lifestyle can be and they also knew how incredibly challenging and frightening it can be and what very hard work it requires.

At the marina, down on the docks, a well dressed Mexican man walked up to our boat on afternoon and asked if he could have some photos taken of his daughter for her Quinceañera (15th birthday) on our boat. The Mexican quinceañera is like a wedding in size and scale and importance, and it was a total delight to see this beautiful young girl posing for both a professional photographer and a professional videographer aboard Groovy.

Quinceanera on sailboat Groovy in Ensenada Mexico

What a perfect end to our Mexico journey
— a Quinceañera photo shoot aboard Groovy!

In return, the dad invited us to sit at the head table for the festivities. What a blast to be guests of honor at this quintessentially Mexican (and Latin) celebration!!

A few weeks later, we sailed the final 70 miles of our nearly 7,000 mile voyage from Ensenada north to San Diego.

Groovy Sailboat in Kona Kay Marina San Diego California

Kona Kai Marina in San Diego made a fabulous home as we transitioned to a life on land.

The crazy thing on that first day we woke up in San Diego — in the very quiet Kona Kai Marina on tranquil Shelter Island on the bay — was that we had become so accustomed to true peace and quiet and a relaxed way of life in Mexico that we weren’t at all prepared to be living in the middle of a huge American city.

Mark went out for a walk on the palm fringed waterfront paths at dawn and came running back to the boat and jumped in bed and pulled the covers over his head. The frantic pace of the joggers, walkers and bicyclists on Shelter Island was more than he could take.

“Where’s the fire?” He cried in disbelief from under the blankets!

But we gradually acclimated and did a few day sails in the bay. We even saw a dolphin leaping out of the water, but it was time to begin the very arduous task of stripping the boat, putting it up for sale, and somehow squeezing all of our belongings back into an already full fifth wheel trailer.

Porpoise leaps out of water San Diego Bay California

.

After living on Shelter Island for four months, we said goodbye to our beloved sailboat Groovy one last time, with tears in our eyes, and returned to our equally beloved buggy and were back in the RVing lifestyle in the Arizona desert by Christmas of 2013.

Happy sailors aboard Hunter 44DS sailboat Groovy

.

We had now spent nearly equal amounts of time RVing and sailing, and we had grown immeasurably as travelers and adventurers.

The pride we felt at having had a huge dream and of having gone for it and pulled it off and lived it to its fullest was immense. We had given our cruising dream everything we had, and it had given us the deep satisfaction of both accomplishment and confidence.

Saguaro cactus with starburst sunset Arizona

Hello Arizona!

The unexpected bonus was that we fell in love with our neighbor south of the border.

We never ever would have traveled in Mexico if we hadn’t bought a boat. It just wasn’t on our bucket list of international destinations. Yet how much narrower and smaller our lives would have been if we hadn’t spent all those years living there.

We left to go cruising so we could play on the beach and swim and snorkel and live sunny lives on the water. But we had discovered that the far more meaningful side of our cruise was immersing ourselves in Mexico’s culture, making lasting friendships with Mexicans we met along the way, and discovering the true beauty of a country we knew absolutely nothing about.

Motocross biker jumps in the sky in Arizona

A motocross jumper in Cave Creek, Arizona.

We were flying high. The experience of completing a very successful voyage and of returning to a lifestyle we loved and found so easy to live was exhilarating. We had dreamed a dream and we had lived it. And we still had so much more life to live!

Hummingbird in Arizona

.

We decided to make every effort going forward to spend as much time as possible doing only those things we really loved to do and spending as little time as possible doing the things we didn’t like. With boat maintenance and scary moments at sea behind us, this simple rule of thumb became our way of prioritizing our activities every day.

By early February of 2014 we were ready to head out on our RVing adventures, and we went to the beautiful red rock country of Sedona.

Hiking the red rocks in Sedona Arizona

Sedona, Arizona — Home of the red rocks!

Further north we explored the wonderful Wire Pass Trail slot canyon.

Slot canyon hike at Wire Pass Trail Arizona

Wire Pass Trail was an eye popping slot canyon hike.

Our target for the summer of 2014 was eastern Oregon, but we started by heading north and west through some of the most remote land I think there is in the continental US — northern Nevada and southern Oregon.

After driving for hundreds of miles through nothing, we found a cool little bar on the side of the road. A cartoon on a wall showed a man and woman in a car driving by a sign that said, “Entering the Middle.” She was studying a road map entitled “Nowhere.”

But soon we were at Crater Lake National Park where the water is a vivid royal blue.

Crater Lake National Park Oregon RV trip

Crater Lake is bluer than blue!

Continuing north, we headed to Bend Oregon and Smith Rock State Park.

One thing we had begun to notice now that we had seven years of travel in our back pockets, was that we often recognized the places where photos were taken. This happened not just with photos in magazines and online but with movies too.

One night about a year or so after our visit to Smith Rock State Park we were watching an old John Wayne movie and we kept saying to each other, “That sure looks like Oregon.” Well, a few scenes later our jaws dropped when we saw Smith Rock right there in the movie. Sure enough, John Wayne started talking about Fort Smith, and in the credits at the end the producers listed Smith Rock State Park.

Smith Rock State Park RV trip Oregon

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.

This kind of thing happens frequently now as we see more and more places in our travels. It’s like our little database of knowledge about North America’s most beautiful places is getting filled in. The funny trade-off, though, is that we’ve forgotten a lot of other things we used to know so well, like how to get around town on the streets of our home towns!

One of Oregon’s most charming towns is Baker City where we watched a fantastic Tour de France style bicycle race.

Baker City Oregon annual bicycle race

Oregon’s Baker City Cycling Classic zooms past.

But the Wallowa Mountains and the cute town of Joseph (population 1,000) were what really took our breath away that summer.

Wallowa Mountains Oregon with horses and pastures

The Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon.

Snowcapped Wallowa Mountains Oregon with red barn

.

Dropping south and east we visited Sun Valley, Idaho, a beautiful, trendy town that has wonderful bike trails and a unique car race right out on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway. We watched a Bugatti Veyron hit 244 mph!

Mountain biking in the Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

Sun Valley Idaho is an outdoor lover’s paradise.

It’s also an artsy town where we came across a group of professional artists painting with oils on canvas out in the National Forest. We later saw this guy’s painting for sale in a local gallery for several thousand dollars!

Plein Air painting Sawtooth National Forest Idaho

“Plein Air” artists were bringing the Sawtooth National Forest to life on their canvases.

At Grand Teton National Park we saw gorgeous mountain scenery.

Horseback riders in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park.

As the summer came to an end we swung through Colorado’s rugged Black Canyon of the Gunnison and picturesque Maroon Bells.

Happy Campers in Maroon Bells Colorado

Maroon Bells, Colorado.

Then we caught the stunning fall foliage season at the tiny town of Silverton high up the Million Dollar Highway on a mountaintop.

Fall Foliage in Silverton Colorado

Fall colors on the San Juan Skyway in Colorado.

Silverton Colorado in peak fall color

Silverton Colorado is so perfectly “authentic” it feels a little like a movie set!

Returning to Arizona for the winter of 2014-15, we got a distant glimpse of Monument Valley.

RV trip to Monument Valley Arizona

Monument Valley views from Arizona.

Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is lush and full of life, and we saw some wild (feral) peach faced lovebirds that have taken up residence in Phoenix in the nesting holes created by other birds in the saguaro cactus.

Peach faced lovebird in saguaro cactus in Phoenix Arizona

A peach faced lovebird peers out of a saguaro cactus in Arizona.

One afternoon a big thunderstorm whipped across the valley followed by a gorgeous rainbow that filled the sky above the cacti.

Rainbow over field of saguaro cactus in Phoenix Arizona

A rainbow and cactus — what a great mix!

As our travels expanded through the years, so did this website, and we had the crazy experience in Quartzsite of being recognized by a few people here and there. This surprised us and made us feel very special. But we faced a few bumps in the road as this website found its niche in cyber space too.

One day I got an email from a woman threatening me with legal action if I didn’t take down our website immediately. She had trademarked the phrase “Roads Less Traveled” and other variants of those words and felt our domain name violated her trademarks.

I was shocked, but luckily a knowledgeable friend of mine calmed me down. It turns out that domain names and trademarks are two very different things. Besides, there is a very popular book with a similar name and at the time there was a TV show as well.

Ironically, she had purchased several similar domain names a year or two before I purchased “RoadsLessTraveled.us,” and by the time she contacted me our two websites had been living amicably side by side on the internet for many years with nary a squabble between them. So I decided to take it as a compliment that our website was growing in popularity and getting noticed!

Columbine flower

.

A few years later, as I researched the steepness gradient on a remote road in Utah for an article I was writing on the towing capability of our truck, I poured through everything I could find online about this particular road, as no one, not even the Utah Department of Transportation, seemed to know exactly how steep it was.

In the process, I bumped into an old news article about upcoming road construction on that exact road, published by an affiliate of USA Today. I gasped when I saw my own photo from our website being used in this news article! Oddly, the photo was attributed to a nonexistent website.

Needless to say, I contacted the top dogs in the editorial department using the word “plagiarism” in large letters, and they quickly responded by paying us for the photo, removing it from the old news story, and chastising the news reporter.

Wild Horses of the Salt River Phoenix Arizona

Wild horses on Arizona’s Salt River.

These little hiccups were few and far between, but the responsibility of managing a website and writing regularly for a loyal readership had become a significant part of our lives. Over the years, it also taught me volumes about the shadier side of the internet, something I valued learning.

White Sands National Monument New Mexico RV trip

We visited White Sands National Monument in early 2015.
It’s like a mammoth beach — with no water.

In our first years of RVing we had seen diesel prices climb from about $1.89 a gallon to over $5.00 a gallon. And when we returned to RVing from sailing, the prices were hovering in the high $3’s and low $4’s. But by early 2015 prices had dropped dramatically to the very low $2 range.

This was our cue to make a long trip for the 2015 summer season!

Swinging through Big Bend National Park in Texas on our way to get our trailer brakes upgraded to electric over hydraulic disc brakes (an upgrade we highly recommend to everyone that tows a large fifth wheel trailer), we dashed out to Florida where we plunked right down in the soft white sand.

Pensacola Beach Florida RV trip

We arrive on the beach in northern Florida.

One of our goals in Florida was to upgrade our electrical system while staying at a friend’s house, replacing our wet cell batteries with Trojan AGM batteries, upgrading to an Iota converter, and replacing all the wiring as well. We eventually upgraded our inverter from an 1100 watt pure sine wave inverter to 2000 watts as well.

In between working on the trailer, we visited The Ringling museum and saw some baby sandhill crane chicks hatch right by the side of the road!

The Ringling Mansion and Museum Sarasota Florida RV trip

The Ringling museum in Sarasota, Florida.

Sandhill crane mom and chick and egg

A parent sandhill crane checks on its newly hatched chick and yet-to-hatch egg.

During the spring of 2015 we worked our way north from Thomasville, Georgia, where the Big Oak tree dwarfed us with its immense branches.

The Big Oak tree in Thomasville Georgia RV trip

Thomasville, Georgia.

Traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, we saw stunning wildflowers and many dramatic waterfalls.

Wildflowers seen in North Carolina RV trip

Wildflowers in North Carolina.

Dugger's Creek Falls North Carolina Blue Ridge Parkway RV Trip

Dugger’s Creek Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina.

Dashing across the very busy states of Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, we finally stopped on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. Wow. The classic little New England harbors were filled with lobster boats and sailboats, and they were just beautiful.

Downeast Maine Harbor

Downeast Maine harbor with lobster boats!

Colorful sailboats at anchor on Mt Desert Island Maine_

Sailboats moored in Maine.

We’ve never seen wildflowers as big and bright and hardy as the lupines in northern Maine. They blanketed the landscapes everywhere in stunning shades of purple and lavender.

Happy campers in the wild lupine flowers in Maine

.

But it was the rugged beauty of Acadia National Park that really impressed us. The Carriage Roads interconnecting the various parts of the park were a thrill to ride.

Acadia National Park Maine bicycling on the Carriage Roads

Cycling under an old stone bridge on Acadia National Park’s Carriage Roads.

Venturing further north along the coast we came to the “matching” Quoddy Head lighthouses in the waters around the American/Canadian border.

The West Quoddy Head lighthouse in Lubec, Maine, looks like Pippi Longstocking’s stocking, while the East Quoddy Head Lighthouse on the far north end of Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, has a big bold red cross on it.

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse Maine

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine.

East Quoddy Head Lighthouse Campobello Island New Brunswick Canada

East Quoddy Head Lighthouse on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada

But our lighthouse magic reached its zenith when we went to Nova Scotia’s south shore and saw the most thrilling sunset burst into color all around classic Peggy’s Cove lighthouse.

Peggys Cove Lighthouse sunset on Nova Scotia RV trip

Peggys Cove Lighthouse in southern Nova Scotia, Canada.

Peggy’s Cove was a sheer delight with a handful of brightly colored lobster boats crammed into a tiny harbor.

Peggys Cove Nova Scotia lobster boats

Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia.

Equally magical was the nearby town of Lunenburg which is as quaint as can be.

Lunenberg Nova Scotia sailboats seen on RV trip

Lunenberg, Nova Scotia.

At the northeast end of Nova Scotia we drove the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island where the small harbors were equally charming but were backed by the rugged Highlands shoreline.

Lobster boats in White Point on the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island RV trip

White Point on the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

We had now traveled from Arizona to Florida to Nova Scotia, which definitely counted as a long trip that took advantage of the cheap diesel prices! On our way back we took a ride on the unique Cog Railway train that claws its way straight up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.

Mt Washington Cog Railway White Mountains New Hampshire RV trip

Mt Washington Cog Railway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire RV trip

Further west and south we fell in love with the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York where the old fashioned lifestyle of a large Amish community creates the very real image of what America looked like a century or more ago when everyone outside the cities lived on a small farm.

Amish buggy in Finger Lakes New York

An Amish “courting” buggy for a young Amish man (open air seating for two).

Amish farmers at Seneca Auction New York Finger Lakes RV Trip

Amish farmers at the Seneca Produce Auction in the NY Finger Lakes.

Wildlife abounds in some parts of the Finger Lakes, and we were stunned when we looked out the window and saw two fawns and a fox stop dead in their tracks to stare at us!

Two fawns and a fox at Seneca Lake New York Finger Lakes RV trip

A once in a lifetime shot!

The Finger Lakes have many beautiful waterfalls, and at Watkins Glen State Park we found some of the best we’ve every seen.

Watkins Glen waterfalls New York Finger Lakes RV trip

Watkins Glen State Park, New York.

Beginning our journey back out west, we were lured across the Ohio River by an absolutely charming town on the Kentucky side of the river called Maysville.

Maysville Kentucky on the Ohio River

Maysville, Kentucky, is a sweet town perched on the edge of the Ohio River.

To our utter astonishment, we were welcomed into the Maysville community like long lost family. We found kindred spirits of all kinds at the local watering hole, O’Rourke’s Neighborhood Pub.

Suddenly we found ourselves being taken on a personal tour of the tobacco fields during the harvest season, and we even became friends with the mayor. We did a 5k run, went to a church fair and hit a free concert at the opera house, and we learned the secrets behind the beautifully renovated Masonic temple which houses the visitors center and a gallery. To our complete surprise, we also ended up on the front page of the local newspaper!

Perhaps what impressed us most in Maysville was the resilience and spirit we found. Living with the seasonal threat of devastation from Ohio River floods, and with daily challenges caused by the demise of the tobacco industry, their flood wall keeps the water out and their warm and friendly community keeps the happiness in!

Maysville Kentucky RV trip

Maysville, Kentucky, will always have a special place in our hearts.

One of the many reasons we had left the sailing life behind was the incredible amount of work it takes to maintain a sailboat in the corrosive salt water environment. Keeping Groovy in good shape had been a full-time job for both of us.

Our trailer had never needed much of anything other than minor tweaks and small preventive maintenance projects here and there. But after we left Nova Scotia in the summer of 2015 we were hit with a series of major breakdowns.

The first was a bent spindle on one of our trailer axles, and we limped to Bangor Maine from Nova Scotia to have the entire axle replaced. Luckily, our extended warranty covered the repair!

Then, after leaving Maysville, our refrigerator died. This time we limped to the outskirts of Indianapolis to get a new RV refrigerator installed. Again, luckily, our extended warranty covered the repair.

Sunrise at Tuttle State Park Manhattan Kansas

Arizona has consistently beautiful sunrises, but this stunner was in Tuttle Creek, Kansas!

Then we had a slew of water leaks, ranging from a mysterious roof or window leak to several plumbing issues, and for those repairs we went to Chanute, Kansas, and again we were very grateful that our extended warranty covered the work.

Thinking that we were all done with major repairs, we headed west through New Mexico where we stopped at the town of Tatum which is decorated from head to toe with fantastic metal art work.

Tatum New Mexico metal art seen on RV trip

Tatum, New Mexico, has wonderful metal art all around town, thanks to two unique artisans.

But we had one more major repair in store when our trailer’s suspension failed all together. Once again, our extended warranty came to the rescue, but we had a hunch we were pushing our luck!

Back in Arizona once again at the end of 2015, we had the really fun experience of buying a new Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck that was sold with an electric guitar signed by Mark’s longtime rock idol, Alice Cooper. By a quirk of good luck we got to meet him too!

Alice Cooper guitar on our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually truck

Which does this happy guy love more, the brand new truck or the Alice Cooper guitar??

Since we started traveling, we have collected the special “WPA” postcards at all of the National Parks we’ve visited, and we have them displayed on our trailer walls.

National Parks WPA Postcards

National Parks “WPA” Postcards.

National Parks WPA Postcards

.

There were quite a few National Parks we hadn’t been to yet, and diesel prices were still low when the winter of 2016 rolled into spring, so we planned another long trip for the year, this time to the National Parks in the Canadian Rockies. We hoped to hit a few other National Parks on our way there and back.

First up, though, was a visit to the glorious red rock country of Sedona, Arizona, once again.

mountain biking in Sedona Arizona on an RV trip

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the trail while mountain biking in Sedona, Arizona.

Cathedral Rock Sedona Arizona sunset on an RV trip

Cathedral rock revels in a last minute burst of color during a gloomy sunset in Sedona.

Venturing north, we stayed with the red rocks through northern Arizona into southern Utah.

Mountain biking in the Arizona red rocks on an RV trip

.

Canyonlands National Park RV Trip Needles District

Canyonlands National Park – Needles District – Utah.

The area around Moab, Utah, is littered with National and State Parks, and we gorged on endless stunning vistas for a few weeks, visiting Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park along with many other fantastic locales.

Moab Utah RV Trip

The back side of Moab, Utah — This should really be the Front Door!

Arches National Park RV Trip

Arches National Park.

Leaving Moab and taking back roads through northern Utah and southern Idaho, we saw stunning snow-capped mountains and gorgeous rural scenery.

Snowcapped mountains Logan Utah

Snowy peaks in northern Utah.

Pushing further north, the charming town of Philipsburg, Montana, was a delight, and seeing a herd of elk dashing across a highway and over a fence into a meadow was a thrill.

Phillipsburg Montana RV Trip

Picturesque and inviting Philipsburg, Montana.

Elk crossing road and jumping fence in Montana

A herd of elk crosses the highway and bike path and then jumps the fence to safer pastures.

Even though our earlier travel years were filled with daily “firsts,” we still had plenty of new experiences on a regular basis even though we were now nine years into this lifestyle.

As a city girl, the only four legged creature I had ever ridden was at the church pony ride as a child, but special friends in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley made sure I got to know their horse Snipper, and I took a gorgeous ride across pastures and farm fields with my friend and mentor, Bob, under the watchful eye of the mountain peaks.

Horseback riding in the Bitterroot Valley Montana

A horseback ride in Montana — What a place to ride a horse!

The most dramatic “firsts” of 2016 were the many jaw dropping vistas that greeted us day after day as we traveled through the Canadian Rockies. The Rocky Mountains in America are lovely, but the craggy, spiky peaks in Canada blew us away completely.

Kootenay National Park Waterfall RV trip

Kootenay National Park, Canada.

Visiting each of the four adjacent Canadian National Parks in the heart of this stunning mountain majesty, our eyes popped out of our heads repeatedly.

Banff National Park RV Trip to Canada

Banff, Canada.

Icefields Parkway RV Trip to Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada.

Dawn at Lake Louise Banff National Park RV trip

Dawn at Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada.

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway RV Trip to Canada

Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway in Canada

This area is also home to lots of large animals whose presence isn’t a hidden mystery. We had to stop the truck for big horn sheep in the road on several occasions, and we saw a few bears quite close by too.

Black bear Kootenay National Park RV trip Canada

Large animals were common all over the Canadian Rockies.

But it was the vivid blue and turquoise water of the glacial lakes and rushing rivers that gave these places their truly majestic beauty.

Natural Bridge Yoho National Park RV trip to Canada

Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park, Canada.

Emerald Lake Yoho National Park RV Trip

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Canada.

When we started traveling full-time in 2007, many people we met didn’t have an email address. We used a payphone card to make phone calls at outdoor phone booths whenever we needed to talk to someone at a distance, and we had already been on the road for a month when the iPhone was first introduced.

One of the crazy things over the past ten years has been the rise of the smartphone, and nowhere was this more noticeable than in the Canadian Rockies.

Canada’s National Parks are hugely popular with guests from every country in the world, and as we fought our way to the front of mobs of people at many of the overlooks, we were taken aback by the insane cell phone selfie mania that seemed to have overtaken the human race.

Moraine Lake sunrise near Lake Louise Banff National Park RV trip to Canada

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada

When we returned home from our life afloat in Mexico we discovered that America was in love with smartphones. Folks had been just as obsessed in Mexico — our very special friend in Puerto Madero had two cell phones, one for his wife and one for his mistress — but we were so busy seeing the sights and trying to speak the language that we didn’t notice how much people were looking down at their phones.

On our RV trip during the 2016 season this phone obsession hit us like a ton of bricks. Everyone we saw in the National Parks on both sides of the American/Canadian border was either looking down at their phone or setting themselves up for a selfie portrait with a phone and a selfie stick. It was nuts!

We didn’t (and still don’t) have a phone, but I can’t say we didn’t join the crowd and take tons of selfies like everyone around us… of course we did!

Lake Louise Hike Banff National Park RV trip Canada

Getting to the Canadian Rockies early enough in the season to see lots of snow meant there was still ice on the lakes at higher elevations!

One of the coolest and most unexpected delights in the Canadian Rockies was sitting in the naturally heated swimming pools that are filled with steaming water that pours out of the hot springs.

Banff Upper Hot Springs Banff National Park RV trip Canada

Banff Upper Hot Springs.

But for all the drama of the scenery at Banff, Yoho, Kootenay and Jasper National Parks, it was only when we rounded the bend and came south through the less visited Kananaskis Country to the Alberta/Montana border at Waterton Lakes National Park that we found both the charming intimacy of a small village and the breathtaking vistas of mother nature all in one place.

Waterton Lakes National Park RV trip Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park RV trip Canada

Waterton Shoreline Cruise from Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada to Glacier National Park in America.

Alberta’s Waterton Lakes borders Montana’s Glacier National Park, and the awe-inspiring views continued to fill our camera lenses.

Logan Pass Glacier National Park Montana RV trip

Going to the Sun Road at Glacier National Park in Montana.

Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana RV trip

Kayaks on the beach at Two Medicine, Glacier National Park, Montana.

The summer of 2016 was in full swing, and we were delighted to find two fabulous beach towns nestled in Idaho’s mountains: Sandpoint and McCall.

Summer on the Payette Lake beach in McCall Idaho

Beach Town USA – McCall, Idaho!

After enjoying some beach time in Idaho, raging wildfires filled the air with smoke, so we drove all the way to southern Utah’s clear skies at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Sunrise Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah RV trip

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park’s Inspiration Point in Utah.

In late September, we drove the golden hued San Juan Skyway in southwestern Colorado where the aspens were showing off their vibrant cloaks of yellow and orange.

Fall foliage golden aspen San Juan Skyway Colorado RV trip

Reflections of autumn on the San Juan Skyway in Colorado.

Visiting the Colorado Rockies when fall begins to nudge winter is always a flirtation with very cold weather, and we soon found ourselves surrounded by snow.

RV in a snow storm San Juan Mountains Colorado

What do you do when it snows unexpectedly? Build a snow man!

But what gorgeous views waited for us once the snow stopped falling!

Golden aspens in snow San Juan Mountains Colorado RV trip

Magic happens when Fall and Winter mix
in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

One of the cool things we’ve learned in our unusual outdoors oriented lifestyle over the years is the wonders of the night sky. We had never paid much attention to the phases of the moon in our former lives, and seeing the sky filled with stars wasn’t possible where we used to live our workaday lifestyle.

But living on the ocean had taught us about the moon. We relied on that beautiful orb in the sky to light our way on our overnight sailing passages in Mexico. Whenever we could, we timed our nighttime sailing voyages to coincide with a full moon or a moon that would be up there as our friend among the stars for as many hours of the night as possible.

The coast of Pacific Mexico is often too hazy and cloudy to give the stars much of a chance to show off their best sparkle, but now in our land based lives we could seek out dark moonless skies in hopes of seeing of the Milky Way.

Ironcially, after unhappily losing sleep on the ocean due to wild waves and swell, we now deliberately got out of our warm bed to chase both sunrises and the Milky Way all night long!

At Grand Canyon’s North Rim we got a good view of the Milky Way.

Milky Way Grand Canyon National Park North Rim RV trip

Hiking at night at Grand Canyon’s North Rim in Arizona.

Ultimately, improving our skills as photographers remained at the top of our “makes us happy” list, and we traveled both lesser known and well trodden paths to see America’s most sensational vistas as 2016 drew to a close.

Lower Calf Creek Falls Utah RV trip

Lesser known Lower Calf Creek Falls in Utah.

Zion National Park in Utah RV trip

World renowned Zion National Park in Utah

Back when we moved off our sailboat, we vowed we would include lots of international travel in our mix of destinations. Yet in the three years since we’d left our sailing life hadn’t gotten on a single plane to go see a foreign country.

We changed all that in January and February of 2017 when we took a very long 24 hour flight with three legs to Bangkok Thailand.

Chao Phraya River cruise Bangkok Thailand

Cruising the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand.

As soon as we landed, our foreign travel instincts from Mexico returned, and we traveled all over Thailand for a month.

Interestingly, before we left for Thailand we faced the same fears and concerns we had had before we started traveling in Mexico: Would we be safe? After all, southern Thailand has seen an awful lot of terrorist attacks. Would we like it? Would it be worth the time and money to go?

In the end, Thailand was surprisingly similar to Mexico. Thailand has the same climate and vegetation as Mexico and both have a similar “developing” economy and stature in the world. Except for the language and the Buddhist temples, being in Thailand felt very much like being in Mexico..

This was a huge surprise. We had thought Thailand would be dramatically different from anything we had ever experienced.

However, in Cambodia we found a world totally unlike our own in North America.

Angkor Wat temples Cambodia adventure travel

The ancient Khmer temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia were stunning.

Although the ancient Khmer temples at Angkor Wat were a lot like the Mayan ruins in Mexico, both in form and in their time period in history, and even though the locals in Cambodia were just as warm and friendly as the good people we had met in Mexico, our eyes were opened wide with a gut wrenching seriousness when we learned what happens to people when a totalitarian regime takes over a country — as happened in Cambodia in the 1970’s.

Sharing photos with Cambodian kids

Mark shows his photos to an excited group of Cambodian kids.

While western countries flirt with the notion of massive government systems that “take care of” (control) their citizens from cradle to grave, enforcing political correctness, silencing dissenting views, and creating a kind of egalitarian serfdom for the populace, according to the world view, whims and needs of a ruling elite, everyday Cambodians have some hair raising stories to tell about their personal experiences living under such a regime.

I haven’t yet written about what we learned in Cambodia, but perhaps I will eventually. I also haven’t written about the very beautiful week we spent in Hawaii right after that!

Angel fish Hawaii snorkeling adventure

An angel fish passes wtihin arm’s reach as we snorkel in Hawaii.

There are only so many hours in the day, and in an effort to fill those hours with the things we love — real life adventures and a lifelong photography learning curve — the storytelling sometimes has to be curtailed, or I’ll never get off my Lazy Boy chair!!

Happy photographers in aspen trees Colorado

Photography is a hobby that will keep us engaged into old age. What fun!

This brings us to the present moment as we travel across New Mexico after an early spring spent in northeastern Arizona.

As always, we are entertaining many ideas for the future, some of which might come to pass and others of which will wait for another time.

Wherever we go in our next ten years of life, we will keep posting our tales, our discoveries, and our photos. We hope you will continue to come along too and that you’ll find inspiration to live life with gusto and pursue your own wildest dreams too.

Every day is another chance to make your dreams come true

Great words to live by!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

All of our travel posts in chronological order:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

10 Years of Full-time RVing and Sailing!! – The Early Years…

“Life is a Book, and those who don’t travel read only a page.” —St. Augstine, 354-430 AD

This week we are celebrating our 10th anniversary of taking off to travel full-time. As I look back on these immensely fulfilling years, I realize how right St. Augustine was when he wrote those insightful words 1,600 years ago.

Our ten year RV and sailing voyage has been an unbelievable journey in every way, and we still wake up every day feeling blessed and fortunate to live the way we do.

What a cool life!

10 years of full-time RV travel and sailing

May, 2017. Where did the years go?

Ten years is a significant chunk of our lives. When we started, we were passionate cyclists, and that hobby defined not only our every waking hour but our relationship too.

Now our days revolve around sightseeing, photography, meeting new people, writing about our experiences and moving from place to place. The evolution makes sense, though, because a big part of our love of cycling — and of bicycle touring especially — was being outdoors and seeing new scenery and camping.

Looking back at all we’ve been through for the last 10 years, we wouldn’t change a thing.

To celebrate our 10 years on the road, I have dug through our memories and older photos to find the images and moments that stand out in our minds. This post and the next share our full story and our evolution. It’s a long story, but to me, the best ones always are.

We began with a brand new 27′ travel trailer pulled by the Toyota Tundra we had originally purchased to tow the popup tent trailer that had taken us on many wonderful vacations and weekend getaways and introduced us to RVing.

1st full-time RV home travel trailer

Home sweet home – May 2007!

The interior was open and airy, and we were thrilled beyond belief to downsize our lives to be able to live comfortably in this pretty little rolling home.

Travel trailer interior first full-time RV home

.

Travel trailer interior 1st full-time RV home

.

Our first year was a whirlwind of “Wow” and “This is the First Time Ever!” experiences.

Yosemite National Park was one of our first major destinations after we picked up our trailer near Dallas, and all the major National Parks were at the top of our “must do right away” list.

Happy RVers at Yosemite National Park California

Beautiful Yosemite National Park was one of our first destinations.

We loved dry camping with our popup, so we looked for dry camping campgrounds in our new lifestyle wherever we went. At California’s Westport-Union State Park, under the open sky and perched above the crashing surf, we installed our initial solar power system.

RV camping on the California coast

Camping overlooking the ocean was a great place to install our solar power system.

Continuing up the coast, we quickly learned how scary it can be to drive a “big rig” on the twisty coastal roads of northern California and Oregon where logging trucks barrel around the corners at full speed.

Mark quickly got used to it, though, and despite going down a wrong road and having the classic new RVer’s terrifying experience of being in a tight spot with nowhere to turn around, we made it to some gorgeous places along the Oregon and Washington coasts.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse Oregon RV trip

Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Oregon

In Oregon we traded our Toyota Tundra for a much stronger Dodge Ram 3500 truck and discovered the stunning beauty of the Cascade mountains in Washington. Mt. Rainier seemed to pose in the background of every view.

Mt. Rainier RV roadtrip to Washington

Mt. Rainier in Washington

Seeing snow-capped mountain peaks was yet another “first.” At Olympic National Park we were awed by Hurricane Ridge, especially watching a bunch of kids heading up the mountains to go snow boarding in the middle of July!

RVers at Hurricane Ridge Olympic National Park Washington

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Washington

We took the ferry to Vancouver Island and scooted along the coast to Campbell River.

Witnessing real live sheepdog trials, and seeing goats living on a rooftop, and walking past houseboats in the harbor gave us more “firsts,” and taking our trailer on the ferry both ways was not just a “first” but a total thrill.

Back on the mainland we continued our insatiable quest for Beautiful Places at a breakneck speed.

Diablo Lake Washington scenic viewpoint on RV trip

Diablo Lake in Washington

Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park was soon in our sights, and it was only while looking at our photos of the steaming geysers later on in our rig that it dawned on me why the park is called “Yellowstone.”

Such was our simple innocence about this country we had lived in all our lives. It felt so awesome to be out seeing America up close.

Yellowstone National Park geysers at Mammoth

Geysers at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

One morning in Mammoth Campground at Yellowstone we woke up to see two young elk nuzzling each other right outside our window. Their courtship went on for 15 minutes while we watched them wide-eyed and glued to the window.

Young elk courting outside RV window Yellowstone National Park

Young elk nuzzling outside our trailer window!

More Yellowstone firsts included seeing wild burros, pronghorn antelope, and coming within a few feet of a bison.

Every day we were in a breathless state of ecstasy.

Besides whipping through our bucket list — which wasn’t very long back then — we woke up every day astonished to realize that we were free. Utterly free.

There was no alarm waking us up, no boss tapping his toes waiting for us, and no employees or kids needing our daily guidance.

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming RV travel

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

We actually felt a little funny about running away to such an awesome lifestyle so young. We were 47 and 53 years old, and everyone we met would ask in disbelief, “Are you retired?”

We hadn’t realized that the world of full-time travelers, and indeed the world of people in general who are out and about during the day on weekdays, is dominated by retirees.

We’d joke and say, “We’re not working at the moment. If we run out of money later, we’ll become greeters at Walmart!”

Mt. Rushmore National Park Presidents heads from scenic viewpoint RV rest area

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

We zipped through South Dakota to finish establishing our residency there and then turned south.

Utah had become our favorite state during our vacation RV travels with our popup tent trailer, and in our first year on the road we discovered wondrous Goblin Valley where a little kid running ahead of me into the vast playground of red rock hoodoos yelled out: “This is Heaven!”

Goblin Valley State Park RV campground Utah

Camping at beautiful Goblin Valley State Park in Utah

Nearby, we hiked our first slot canyon, Little Wild Horse Canyon, and we loved every minute of slithering between the towering, curvy walls.

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon Goblin Valley Utah

Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon in Utah

One of my lifelong dreams had been to become a published writer. As Halloween of 2007 neared, I decided it was time to put my writing dream to the test. Very much inspired by Kay Peterson who was a prolific writer and founder of Escapees RV Club, I wrote a feature length travel article about the ghouls and goblins of Goblin Valley for Escapees Magazine.

I didn’t know anything about editorial deadlines back then, so my submission was very late for the Halloween issue. But their super skilled editor at the time, Janice Lasko, sliced it down to an elegant single page and published it. OMG. I floated up to Cloud 9.

Since then my writing dream has been fulfilled…and so much more. I have now published over 100 feature articles in the RV and sailing industry magazines and was given my own little bi-monthly column on the back page of Trailer Life Magazine. What a dream come true!

Meanwhile, after an early winter season in the southwest in 2007-08, we discovered that Florida was enjoying a lot more warmth that year than Arizona was. So we dashed across the country and dipped our toes in the vivid waters of the Florida’s Emerald Coast.

Florida's Emerald Coast Pensacola Beach RV trip

Pensacola Beach on Florida’s Emerald Coast

If there is one huge lesson we have learned over the past ten years it is that traveling is a process of shedding one’s prejudices and preconceptions.

Before seeing a place, everyone has an idea of what it’s like, because we read things and see photos. But those are just postcard sized glimpses, and they are someone else’s vision.

It isn’t until you actually go and visit a place yourself that you can have any real notion of what it is really like there.

And so it was with Florida for me.

A tern on the beach in Florida

We discovered Florida’s beauty early in our travels and we’re so glad we did!

Mark had spent time in Florida growing up, but I’d been there only a few times to visit family, not to sightsee. The little I’d seen and the tales I’d heard of high rises on the beach in Miami, the cheesy tourist traps everywhere and the endless golf courses didn’t excite me much. So, when we began wandering all over the Florida with our trailer, I didn’t expect to fall in love with the state.

But I did. Florida is just wonderful!

We got down as far south as South Beach in Miami (oooh such clear and warm water — fabulous!) and we hung around the state through Spring Break which was soon in full swing everywhere.

While strolling down Daytona Beach one day, a phalanx of hot bikini clad babes approached us. Our jaws dropped as we stared at this line of teenage female perfection coming at us. I grabbed my camera and Mark quickly jumped into their midst and asked if we could take a photo.

Daytona Beach Florida Spring Break happy RV camper

Mark is one happy camper!

Needless to say, that photo made the rounds of all of his friends for the next 24 hours. The funny things was, as we both were waking up the next morning we said to each other simultaneously, “Did you notice that all of those girls had a belly button ring?”

The world was changing around us, but we hadn’t really noticed. And it would be a few more years before it really hit us just how fast and dramatically those changes were happening.

I had never heard the word “antebellum” before — I guess I wasn’t paying attention in high school — but I knew it well after seeing lots of antebellum mansions in Natchez, Mississippi. These “firsts” seemed endless in those early days.

Longwood antebellum mansion Natchez Mississippi

Antebellum mansion “Longwood” in Natchez, Mississippi.

Our 27′ travel trailer had proved to be too small that first winter. We had been living on solar power since we started this full-time RVing adventure, but our single 130 watt solar panel hadn’t quite been up to the job during the long dark nights of winter. Supplementing with oil lamps hung inside the trailer was okay, but not great!

We realized it was time for a new RV. We loved visiting RV dealerships and factories all over the country, and we had gathered a stack of fifth wheel brochures that was three inches thick. So, on a factory tour of the NuWa Hitchhiker fifth wheel manufacturing plant, we decided to take the plunge and trade up to a brand new year-old model that had been housed inside while it waited for a buyer.

The economy was beginning to stall in the spring of 2008, and we got a great deal on our new fifth wheel trailer. We now had cushy recliners in the back and three slide-outs.

To top it off, we installed 480 watts of solar power on the roof and a big solar charge controller and inverter in the basement. We had gotten hookups only a handful of times so far in this new and crazy lifestyle, but now we would now live as if we had electrical hookups all the time.

Happy RV travelers with fifth wheel trailer Valley of Fire State Park Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.

We also discovered — after exhausting ourselves by running around so much — that we weren’t on vacation. All those beautiful places would still be there next month, so why run? We slowed way down, and the summer of 2008 gave us a full and glorious month at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. With diesel prices topping $5/gallon at the North Rim, it was an ideal time not to drive long distances!

Imperial Point Grand Canyon North Rim RV roadtrip

Imperial Point at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

This was followed by a month at Bryce Canyon National Park and nearby Red Canyon in Utah.

Bryce Canyon Inspiration Point RV travel

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

During that summer I started this website. I was so grateful for the (very few) sailing and RVing websites that existed before we started our RV adventure, that I wanted to put our journey and discoveries out there for others to be able to learn from too.

Building this website added a fun new dimension to our travels. We now had a special home for all our photos, and it motivated us to try to capture really special images.

Old Roads Less Traveled Website

Here’s how this website looked before I converted it to WordPress in 2012!

We had graduated from our first “Year of Discovery” to our second “Year of Exploration.”

We were still shocked to wake up every day and not have to go to work, and we were still saying “wow” on a regular basis. But our new phrase had became “What a cool area!” as we ventured to places that were off the beaten path and that weren’t posted with National Park Service signs.

Cathedral Gorge State Park near charming Pioche, Nevada, was one of those many jewels that caught our attention as we perused our DeLorme Atlas looking for places to go. Crawling in and out of its exotic pinnacles, we said to each other once again, “What a cool area!”

Cathedral Gorge State Park hiking in Nevada

Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada

Winter saw us back in the Sonoran desert of Arizona where the sunrises and sunsets are jaw-dropping… all the time!

Arizona sunset over fifth wheel trailer RV

Sunset in Arizona.

While buzzing around Arizona and experiencing the wild and crazy boondocking scene in Quartzsite, we were absolutely thrilled to have one of our photos of our rig land on the cover of Escapees Magazine, an incredible “first” of what has since then grown into a collection of 23 magazine cover photos.

Escapees RV Club Magazine Cover Jan-Feb 2009 Bryce Canyon UT

Our first magazine cover image
Jan/Feb 2009 cover of Escapees Magazine

Flush with excitement, we zipped out to Florida again to get a whiff of salt air and some sand between our toes.

While watching the boats coming and going on the Florida coast, my yearning to see the world from the deck of a sailboat hit me full force. We had originally thought our travel adventures would be on the ocean, but we had changed our minds at the last minute.

Being on the water revived our idea of going sailing, and we soon immersed ourselves in the search for a suitable and affordable sailboat.

The search took us from Florida to California, and we made four offers on various Hunter 44 and 45 sailboats. We even paid to survey a sailboat in Oakland that we ended up not buying after we hauled it out and took a closer look with a professional yacht surveyor!

Hunter 44DS haul-out and survey

Buying a sailboat was a long process. We paid to haul this one out, but discovered the seller’s definition of “mint condition” was not the same as ours!

In 2009 the economy was in free fall. We knew that with every month that passed, the quality of boat we could afford was getting better and better. But it took the boat owners a full year to realize their beloved yachts weren’t worth what they once were, and California boat brokers are a ruthless bunch to boot.

In our excitement (and terror) at planning a jump from RVing to sailing, we zipped down I-5 in California from one prospective boat to the next. Catastrophe struck while en route to yet another survey and haul out prior to closing.

With a full 10% of the purchase price down on a boat (required by California brokers), we had an accident while driving to the marina with our trailer, and I found myself on the side of the I-5 freeway in tears on the phone with our broker who absolutely refused to refund our money and give us time to regroup and get our rolling home repaired. If we didn’t show up for the survey before the contracted deadline, he said fiercely, we’d lose our money.

More tears and much anguish later, I eventually got the government agency California Boating and Waterways to intervene, and we got our money back. But we hightailed it out of the shark infested waters of California boat buying and sought solace with family in Michigan while our trailer spent seven weeks in a repair shop in California.

After a week or so of family visits in Michigan, we got the travel bug again. We rented a car and did a car/hotel tour of the perimeter of Michigan’s mitten and even got up into the Upper Peninsula. What a gorgeous state! We loved all the small towns that perch on the shores of pretty Lake Michigan.

South Haven Lighthouse Michigan at sunset

Sunset at South Haven Lighthouse in Michigan.

Once our trailer was back in order, we resumed our travels out west and found paradise once again in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.

RV camping Sawtooth National Forest Idaho

Camping in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.

We continued to check Yachtworld (the boating MLS service) every day, and saw that boat prices were continuing to fall as 2009 progressed. But we relished our RV travels so much it almost didn’t matter if we made our (my) sailing dream come true or not.

Mark was as enthusiastic about going cruising as I was — we had both been enchanted by the book An Embarrassment of Mangoes about sailng the Caribbean — but the primal urge to live on a sailboat and travel by sea was really mine. Yet I had to admit that every day of our RVing lives was a total thrill too, and during the summer of 2009 we enjoyed every minute in our buggy.

We had never known any true cowboys or cattle ranchers in our previous city based lives. As we traveled the west in these early years we were fascinated to meet and spend time with several different ranchers, and we learned terms like “section” which equates to 640 acres or a square mile of land.

Chatting with one old rancher and his wife out camping, we were amazed to hear their stories of ranching on horseback decades ago as they raised cattle on their SIX SECTIONS of land in eastern Wyoming!

They joked that their kids now do it today with ATV’s. How cool is that? And how would we have ever met that couple if we’d stayed home in our old lives?!

Helmville Rodeo bronco riding Montana

Our first rodeo — Helmville Rodeo in Montana.

By the fall of 2009, we had enjoyed two winters of RV life split between the southwest and Florida, but I just couldn’t spend another winter freezing in our RV again! Both Arizona and Florida are warm states, but the cold winter storms that swing through are much colder when boondocking in an RV!

Besides, if we were going to cruise the tropics in a sailboat, we had to decide whether we’d sail the Caribbean or the Pacific coast of Mexico. It was time to talk to some cruisers in the Caribbean.

On the beach in Grenada eastern Caribbean

On the beach in Grenada – What could be better than a winter in the tropics?!!

We hopped on a plane and flew to the Grenadines. We had sailed together in the British Virgin Islands and I had sailed in the Grenadines in my previous life twenty years prior. How different it was to visit on a land-based trip! Unfortunately, the locals weren’t friendly and we had a bad experience with an official in Bequia.

But that didn’t keep us from having a fantastic time, and it didn’t stop our obsession with Yachtworld either. It just confirmed that we weren’t going to buy a boat on the east coast.

Then, out of the blue, our dream boat came up for sale in San Diego — for a song. It was a one year old, unimproved, vanilla boat, perfect for the major upgrades we wanted to install ourselves. We had known about this boat for a while, but it had been priced out of reach. However, the failing economy had put it into foreclosure, and suddenly, with the impromptu submission of an online bid that was lower than low, the boat was ours.

Carriacou in the Grenadines eastern Caribbean

Carriacou Island in the Grenadines.

We cut our 3-month Caribbean excursion short and left after just 3 weeks to dash to San Diego on a hastily arranged flight that included sleeping arrangements on a luggage conveyor belt at New York’s JFK airport as the New Year’s 2010 ball dropped in Times Square.

Our new 2008 Hunter 44DS sailboat was gorgeous. We quickly finalized the purchase and moved aboard, excitedly unlocking the padlock the bank had used to chain it to the dock.

What a fabulous life! We were in love with our beautiful yacht, Groovy. But our lives were now completely upside down!

Happy sailors ready to begin a cruise of Mexico

Holy smokes, we own a sailboat!

We rushed the trailer into covered storage in Phoenix and dashed back to San Diego to try to figure out how to sail this new boat.

My previous boat that I had lived aboard for four years in Boston Harbor had been just 36 feet long and had had only one sail (it was a wish-bone rigged Nonsuch). Mark had never sailed anything bigger than a Hobie Cat. But we were eager beavers, and we jumped into our new lifestyle with glee.

New cruisers learn about sailing and the cruising lifestyle

We had a learning curve ahead of us on this fancy 44′ yacht!

We sailed 70 miles down to Ensenada, Mexico, as part of our offshore delivery closing procedure, and we lived aboard the boat there for six months while we outfitted it and got used to being cruisers.

What a culture shock this was on all fronts!

Ensenada Mexico party central

Ensenada, Mexico, is a fabulous party town.

We had been living a very quiet and super easy lifestyle in our trailer where we camped for free every night and saw beautiful things every day. Now we were living in Mexico, a totally foreign culture with a foreign language and very different history than America’s. And we loved it.

Ensenada is a fun and vibrant city that is an absolute hoot to live in. We were lucky enough to be living at the swank Hotel Coral and Marina. Not only did we have electric and water hookups, we also had beautiful resort hot tubs and swimming pools right outside our door. What a life!

Over the years, we had found that the only way to get to know an area was to wander around on foot or by bike, and wander around Ensenada we did. The boat needed quite a bit of TLC, and we installed a fabulous solar power system on a beautiful arch on the transom. With every project we tackled, we needed to hit the town and buy some parts.

So, we walked all over Ensenada from one hardware store — or “Ferreteria” — to the next.

Hardware store ferreteria in Mexico

When we needed parts or tools anywhere in Mexico, the local Ferreteria was where we’d go.

I had studied Spanish before we ran off in our trailer in preparation for just such a life adventure, but Mark hadn’t. Yet he was the one who would walk up to the counter and say, “Buenos Días” with great confidence and then attempt to ask for whatever we needed in whatever Spanglish he could muster.

I was way too embarrassed to utter a sound at first, but over time I got past that. In the end, one of my greatest joys in our years in Mexico was reaching the point where I could hold a basic conversation in Spanish with a native speaker.

We returned to San Diego in the fall — anchoring out in one of the free anchorages every night — and we did our final preparations and upgrades for cruising.

Mark is a mechanical genius, and I was floored that he was able to complete the very complicated 60 gallon per hour water desalination system installation on our sailboat to convert ocean water to fresh drinking water while we were at anchor in San Diego Bay.

Our watermaker included two water strainers, 3 water filters and two 8′ long desalination membranes as well as a both low pressure and high pressure water pumps. It soon became Mark’s favorite part of the boat, and it produced enough water to wash the decks!

San Diego under full moon from sailboat in San Diego Bay

San Diego Bay

Catching the (more or less) downwind breeze out of San Diego in early November, 2010, we sailed 800 miles (at 7 mph) south to Cabo San Lucas and began our Mexico cruise for real.

Cabo San Lucas sailing adventure

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Then, crossing the Sea of Cortez at its widest spot, we traversed the 330 miles where the violent Pacific meets the raging Sea of Cortez and all hell breaks loose on a regular basis. The conditions were horrible.

Mark laid on the settee in the cabin for most of the trip, not seasick but not happy. “There is nothing about this I like!” he said at one point.

We laugh about that now, how I dragged him to the tropics — kicking and screaming — on a sailboat. But at the time I was just as miserable.

The 15′ waves chasing us down from behind 24/7 were terrifying. Our kitchen knife flew off the counter and landed like a dagger in the floor. Our stainless steel teapot flew off the stove just before I pulled the latch to allow the stove to swing in the massive waves, and to this day it still bears a huge dent in its side from hitting the companionway stairs, a friendly reminder each time we boil water of where our traveling lives have taken us.

Stainless steel teapot dented during Sea of Cortez sailing passage

Our stainless steel teapot got a big dent in it when it flew off the stove crossing the Sea of Cortez. We still use this teapot today in our rig…!

While Mark willed the world to stop rolling and let him off mid-ocean, I spent my time calculating and recalculating just how many more hours it would be until we made landfall.

Three days and two nights of sailing eventually got us across the open ocean to Mexico’s mainland. After dropping the hook and settling into Chamela Bay, for the next week I woke up every night in the middle of the night in a total panic as I felt Mark next to me in bed and wondered who in the heck was on watch in the cockpit steering the boat!

Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail a small boat around the world solo (1895-1898), had the same experience on his voyage. But in his delirious state, when he looked into the cockpit he saw Christopher Columbus at the helm! Now I understood exactly what he was talking about.

What made my confusion all the more real on those first frightening nights at anchor was that the boat moved constantly in the waves. The Pacific Ocean is anything but “pacific,” and the boat swung wildly all night every night.

Waves crashing in Chamela Bay Mexico Costalegre coast

Big waves at Chamela Bay on Mexico’s Costalegre.

We had to make more overnight passages as we continued south along the coast, and although we never liked them — we did 31 overnight passages all together in our nearly four years at sea — we eventually got used to them.

Mark would pass his time on watch learning to play new songs on his guitar, and I would pass my time by writing. Neither of us could sleep a wink while off watch, so these overnight passages were essentially all-nighters for both of us!!

Overnight passage on sailboat

Sailing at night has been described as galloping bareback through the woods blindfolded. Very apt!

But all that uncomfortable stuff aside, the sights we saw during the day were breathtaking.

Las Hadas resort in Manzanillo Bay was our first major stop, and we loved every moment we were there. It was the setting for the movie “10” and even without Bo Derek, this place was a “10” all the way.

Las Hadas Resort beach Manzanillo Bay Mexico

Las Hadas Resort beach in Manzanillo Bay, Mexico

Las Hadas resort marina Manzanillo Mexico

The condos next to Las Hadas Resort looked like something out of the Mediterranean!

We began meeting other cruisers, and several people who had been cruising in Mexico for a year already talked us into sailing further south to Zihuatanejo. And this was where we finally hit our stride as cruisers.

Fishing in Mexico

Mark does a little fishing from our dinghy tied to the back of Groovy!

It was Christmas but you’d never guess it on the beach. We got more and more laid back as we hung around this wonderful little tropical beach town. By day, we’d wander around on foot and on many afternoons we’d grab a $1 beer and “totopos” (salted fried tortilla chips) under a palapa (thatch beach umbrella) with our toes in the sand.

Before taking our dinghy back out to Groovy, we’d pick up a fish from the open air fish market on the beach for a yummy dinner aboard.

Fish market in Zihuatanejo Mexico

The fish market on the beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

And then we’d watch the sun set into the ocean. One night we even saw the green flash!

Sunset in the ocean Zihuatanejo Mexico

The sun fell into the sea in a flaming ball of red every night in Zihuatanejo.

An enterprising couple ran a concession for cruisers, taking orders over the VHF radio for anything from beer to diesel to propane to laundry service, and delivering the goods by boat later in the day.

Sailboats anchored at Las Gatas Beach Zihuatanejo Mexico

Zihuatanejo Bay, Mexico.

The VHF radio added a new and strange social element to our lives. Cruisers have virtual VHF radio gatherings every morning in the more popular anchorages, and suddenly we found ourselves hosting these morning rituals. Each boat in the anchorage would check in by name, and then any pertinent news would be announced.

After living such a private life in our trailer, we had suddenly turned into socialites. We gathered all the cruisers together for a Christmas Eve party at a local bar (to the bar owner’s delight). A week or so later, all the cruisers took their dinghies to Las Gatas Beach across the bay for a “pool” party in the water.

There was lots of activity of the non-human sort too. During the two month, 1,100 mile sail back up the coast towards the Sea of Cortez, we saw whales breaching quite close by.

Whale breaching Santiago Beach Manzanillo Bay Mexico

A breaching whale in Santiago Bay, Mexico.

Anchoring for an overnight at Isla Isabel off of Mazatlan, we hiked around the uninhabited island and saw blue footed boobies with their very fluffy babies!

Blue Footed Boobies birds and chicks Isla Isabel Mexico

Blue footed boobies on Isla Isabel.

One of the big surprises in Mexico was that the water was often murky. This was largely due to the frequent invasion of red tide which has a month-long lifecycle that turns the water from the color of Merlot to a dark brown and then to a mustard yellow.

Red tide Pacific Ocean Mexican coast

Red tide in an early phase of its lifecycle.

But up in the Sea of Cortez, in the spring of 2011, we found several anchorages filled with the beautiful turquoise water we had been dreaming of cruising in.

Many of the bays were picture postcard perfect.

Isla San Francisco anchored sailboats Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

Isla San Francisco in the Sea of Cortez.

Anchoring in these bays was still a wild ride every night, and there wasn’t much sleep going on. But the tranquility and remoteness during the day was sublime. At one point we went for 17 days without access to the world via the internet. It is hard to imagine that now, but even then it was a shock to be that far removed from the Real World.

Agua Verde anchorage with sailboats Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

Agua Verde in the Sea of Cortez

The only people we saw were villagers in the tiny fishing hamlets and small towns that dot the coast.

Well… the villagers and Wilson, of course, who Mark found lying on a deserted beach not long after we’d watched the movie Castaway!

Stranded sailor finds Wilson

Wilson!!

One evening a boat full of people pulled up alongside Groovy in the pitch dark and offered to sell us some lobster. It was a family, and the mom had a toddler in her lap. We aren’t big lobster fans, so we jokingly asked if they had any Sierra which is a golden spotted fish also known as Spanish mackerel. They said no, but they could go get some.

Before we could ask what they meant, they zoomed off into the night. An hour later they appeared with a beautiful fish for us. We have no idea if they had thrown over a line and caught it or if they went back to their village and found someone who had one on ice somewhere, but it was a beauty and it was delicious.

Hunter 44DS sailboat Groovy anchored at Isla Coronado Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

Anchored at Isla Coronado in the Sea of Cortez.

One morning we heard slapping sounds outside the boat. We poked our heads out of the companionway and saw a school of rays leaping out of the water. They were popping up all over the place like popcorn. Some even did somersaults.

Flying mobula ray or manta ray Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

A mobula ray leaps out of the water.

Flying mobula ray or manta ray Sea of Cortez Baja California Mexico

These guys would fly out of the water and even do somersaults.

Cruising Mexico and anchoring out all the time often means dropping the hook in front of a luxury resort. Suddenly, in the middle of the Sea of Cortez where there is often nothing but raw nature, we came across the brand spanking new Villa del Palmar resort.

It had barely opened, and cruisers were welcome to walk up from the beach and have a drink at their poolside bar. Not bad!

We were given a tour, and looking out a window from high up in one of the towers, our tour guide explained how the six swimming pools had been laid out in the shape of a sea turtle.

Villa del Palmar Resort Loreto Baja California Sea of Cortez Mexico

Villa del Palmar Resort. The swimming pools are laid out like a sea turtle.

Cruising is not without its hazards, however, and on another morning we saw a boat impaled on a towering rock that jutted up out of the Sea of Cortez in th emiddle of nowhere. We found out later the singlehanding captain had dared a night crossing but had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Fortunately, a year or so later when we got down to Acapulco, we learned that he was able to repair his boat and continue cruising.

Sailboat crashed into rock Baja California Sea of Cortez Mexico

The sea can be unforgiving, and we saw and heard many terrifying tales of cruises gone bad.

By the end of that first cruising season we had very mixed emotions about the lifestyle. On our boat we had experienced higher highs and lower lows than in any other lifestyle we’d ever lived. It was thrilling and often extremely beautiful, but a lot of the time it was very trying as well.

We were “living the dream,” but was it a dream??

We had poured our life savings into buying and outfitting a sailboat for what we thought would be a 10 year off-and-on cruise, going home to our trailer during hurricane season each summer. But now we weren’t so sure about it all.

Bahia Concepcion Conception Bay Playa El Burro Playa Ensenada Baja California Sea of Cortez Mexico

Bahia Concepcion in the Sea of Cortez.

We left Groovy in San Carlos, Mexico, on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez and took the bus 10 hours north to Phoenix. We were thrilled beyond belief to get back in our little buggy and take off for Utah and northern Arizona for a quickie 12 week sojourn.

We loved everything about living in our trailer and camping in the jaw-dropping scenery of the western states, and it felt so great to be doing it again.

Cedar Breaks National Monument welcomed us with beautiful wildflowers and wonderfully brooding summer monsoon skies.

Happy RVers at Cedar Breaks National Park Utah

Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah.

But we loved many things about our life aboard Groovy too, as tough and gritty and salty and dirty as the cruising lifestyle could be.

After a quick dash from Flagstaff, Arizona, through the red rocks of Utah in our trailer, we returned to Mexico as “second season” cruisers, a status in the odd social strata of the cruising community that took us out of the class of rank beginners.

It felt great to know what we were doing, and in the course of a few months we sailed back down south from the middle of the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Vallarta, Zihuatanejo and then on to Acapulco and finally to the spectacular Bays of Hualulco, about 1,600 miles all together.

Working the winches on a sailboat

Working the winches.

On our way south we revisited all the spots we had seen the year before, but Acapulco was a new and fabulous surprise. We watched the famous “La Quebrada” divers doing swan dives off the cliffs into the depths of the swirling ocean below, and we discovered that the outlying anchorages were absolutely wonderful and full of life.

Acapulco Cliff Divers of La Quebrada

La Quebrada Cliff Diver in Acapulco

One night we were awakened by whales singing to each other in the bay. The beautiful and mysterious sound was amplified by the hull of the boat and filled the cabin with exotic squeaks and squeals as we laid in bed! It seemed like the whales were all around us.

One morning Mark pulled up the anchor to find a sea horse staring at him as it hung onto the anchor chain with its tail wrapped around one of the links.

We discovered other wonders when we did some travels to inland Mexico too. Mexico is home to some truly stunning colonial cities that were built by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries. In Oaxaca we found the cathedrals were ornately decorated and richly painted in gold leaf.

Cathedral at night Oaxaca Mexico Our Lady of Assumption

Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral in Oaxaca, Mexico

Inside Santo Domingo Cathedral Oxaca Mexico

Inside the Santo Domingo Cathedral in Oxaca Mexico

The city of Oaxaca is utterly charming, and we walked the many historic streets mesmerized by the colorful buildings and the very artsy and funky vibe.

Oaxaca Mexico street in the historic district

Historic street in Oaxaca, Mexico.

At night we visited the Zócalo, or town square, where several different celebrations and festivals were all going on at once. From a parade passing by to groups of Mariachi musicians playing on the corners and at the open air restaurants to a school reunion taking place in the middle of it all, Oaxaca came alive at night.

A trio of little girls dressed in traditional Oaxacan garb carrying baskets on their heads as part of their school celebration caught our eye.

Oaxaca children in traditional dresses at school festival Oaxaca Zocalo Mexico

Oaxacan children in traditional dress for a school celebration.

A little ways outside of town we visited the ancient Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban. These mammoth step pyramids dating back to the 7th century were mind boggling to see, and watching a school group in their red and white uniforms tour the ruins and answer their teacher’s questions was very special. This was a far cry from my school class trip to colonial America’s Sturbridge Village in western Massachusetts!

Monte Alban temple ancient Zapotec ruins Oaxaca Mexico

Monte Alban ancient Zapotec step pyramid in Oaxaca, Mexico

Sailing 400 miles further south to the last marina in Mexico’s state of Chiapas, right before the Guatemala border, we again took the bus inland to visit the Mayan ruins of Palenque. Again, we were stunned by the size and scale of this enormous, sophisticated and ancient city.

Palenque ancient Mayan ruins Chiapas Mexico

Palenque — ancient Mayan ruins in Chiapas, Mexico.

Taking a boat ride in an exotic long and skinny boat up the river that separates Mexico from Guatemala, we visited the very remote Mayan ruins at Yaxchilan and Bonampak.

Bonampak lies in a part of Mexico where indigenous people lived unbeknownst to westerners until they were discovered by two American explorers in 1929. Their descendents are now park rangers and they showed us the fantastic frescoes that line the walls of one of the temples, depicting the life and times of ancient nobles.

Fresco in Bonampak Mayan ruins Chiapas Mexico

A fresco depicting the lives of Mayan nobles in Bonampak.

When we left our sailboat in Marina Chiapas in Mexico and flew back home to our trailer for six months in the summer of 2012, how amazing it was to look at the petroglyphs in Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and realize that they were pecked out of the rocks some 500 years after the frescoes had been painted on the walls of Bonampak 2,500 miles to the south!

Petroglyphs Dinosaur National Monument Utah

Petroglyphs depicting… ummm… I’m not sure! In Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

As we took our buggy from Arizona to Montana, our heads were spinning by all we’d seen, and we were beginning to feel a depth and breadth in our souls that hadn’t been there before.

We felt like we were beginning to blossom into true adventurers. Even better, we were developing a budding understanding of the world beyond our back yard.

Sunset Miner Creek RV camping trip Montana

Sunset in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana.

As we visited the gorgeous Bitterroot Valley with our special friends and hosts in Montana and traveled to Flaming Gorge in Utah in the summer of 2012, we began to ponder what had happened to us in the last five years.

Rainbow Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Utah

A rainbow over Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Utah.

We had set out to have an adventure in a small trailer, and we’d ended up learning how to live on the ocean in a foreign country with foreign customs and a foreign language.

Our desire to see the National Parks in the American West had expanded to take us to world renowed ancient ruins at several UNESCO World Heritage sites in Mexico.

Living abroad had taught us to see the world differently than we had before, and we felt different inside too.

Happy RVers Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Utah

Flaming Gorge, Utah.

Our interests were continuing to evolve as well, and photography was becoming more and more important to our daily lives. We wanted to do more than simply document what we saw. We wanted to learn how to take knock-your-socks-off photos!

We attended a terrific photography workshop in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado given by a photography blogger that Mark had been following for a long time, Nasim Mansurov. Those short three days ultimately became a significant turning point in our lives.

Sunrise San Juan Mountains Colorado Rocky Mountains RV trip

Fall color at sunrise in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

We returned to Groovy in the fall of 2012 knowing it would be our last year afloat and brimming with excitement to make the absolute most we possibly could of our final season of cruising.

Continued at: 10 Years of Life on the Road – 2nd Half!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Inspirational and reflective posts about the RVing and cruising lifestyles:

Ex-pat Life on a Sailboat in Mexico:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

What’s A Girl To Do at the RV Dump Station?

Dumping the RV holding tanks is a nasty little job, but it’s part of the fun of traveling around in an RV, and we’ve all gotta do it. It’s really not all that bad when it’s a shared job, but of course that’s easy for us gals to say, because it’s usually our male partners-in-love-and-life who get to do the bulk of the dirty work.

RV dump station tips for women RVers-2

Despite lots of progress over the years for the types of work women can do, emptying an RV’s waste water holding tanks is a job many women are just as happy to leave to their better half.

Sometimes, when we go to an RV dump station, I am amazed to see a woman remain in the passenger’s seat of her truck or motorhome for the whole duration of the job. I’m not sure how these women have negotiated that arrangement with their significant other, but I figure they must be incredibly good cooks to be able to chat with a friend on the phone or check the latest on Facebook while their hubby is grinding it out with the sewer hose, the splashing water, and all that muck and mire.

RV dump station tips for RVing women

Mark looks like he’s having so much fun. Can I get away with doing nothing?

I wish my skills were so awesome in the kitchen that I could be exempt from doing anything at the RV dump station. But alas, in our marriage, I need to be a participant in this dirtiest of deeds to win brownie points for other aspects of our life together. Nonetheless, it took me a few years to find things to do while we were at the RV dump station that were truly useful and helpful.

We have a full set of “blue” RV dump station procedural tips below — but they don’t say much about the “pink” side of the job:

Dirty Little Secrets from the RV dump station

Too often at the beginning of our RVing lives I found my best efforts to help with setting up the RV sewer hose or screwing in the water hose ended up with me underfoot and in the way of the general flow of things. Mark had his methods, and I couldn’t read his mind as to what came next.

Few people are in truly sunny and radiant moods when they don their rubber gloves at the RV dump, and too often I found that my most valiant attempts to be helpful resulted in tensions rising between us.

RV dump station tips for women RVers

I think he’s trying to tell me something.

Then one day I discovered a way that I can be of significant help and get some important jobs done at the same time.

GIVE THE BLACK TANK A BOOST FLUSH

For starters, I fill two 5-gallon water buckets with water and carry them into the rig to dump them down the toilet after the black tank has been emptied. Even if an RV has a black water flush system like ours does, it is still surprising just how many little bits of gunk and human waste solids get flushed out when two 5-gallon buckets of water are poured down the toilet.

I fill the buckets while Mark gets the sewer hose out and attaches the clear elbow so he can see when the holding tanks are fully drained. Then I can scoot out of the way and carry the buckets around to our RV’s door before he begins attaching the black water flush hose between the rig and the water spigot. This way we don’t end up stepping on each when we first start working at the RV dump station.

RV dump station tips flushing black tank with buckets of water in toilet

We have two buckets and I fill each one with water to give the toilet and sewer pipes an extra flush.

The buckets are heavy to carry around to our trailer’s front door, but I don’t mind a little bit of a shoulder and arm workout, and I take them one at a time. Maneuvering a heavy bucket of water up stairs is excellent exercise for both balance and strength.

I grab the inside of the doorway with my left hand for extra balance, tighten my abs so I don’t throw my back out with the uneven weight distribution of carrying a heavy bucket, and I leverage myself up and set the pails down inside in the kitchen.

RV dump station tip flush black tank with buckets of water in toilet

The buckets are heavy, but I take my time and grab the door frame to keep my balance as I go up the stairs.

For those who can’t carry the buckets, your partner will likely be happy to carry them for you since this really helps ensure the black tank and toilet get a complete flush. Also, filling the buckets only half way or three quarters of the way can help not only lighten the load but keep the water from splashing all over the place and all over you.

CLEAN THE BATHROOM

The other task I tackle is cleaning the toilet room from top to bottom and cleaning the bathroom vanity and kitchen sink. I figure that if my sweet hubby is dealing with the darker side of RVing outside at the RV dump station, I can deal with the same stuff on the inside..

This insures the bathroom gets cleaned on a regular basis and also means that when we arrive at our next campsite not only are the holding tanks empty but our bathroom is sparkling clean and smells fresh.

So, once I get the water buckets inside the rig, I begin assembling the things I will need to clean the toilet and the bathroom. When I hear Mark’s knock on the wall, I know he has finished emptying the black tank and it is time to dump the buckets of water down the toilet.

RV dump station tips flush black tank

I pour one bucket at a time and Mark watches the flow in the sewer hose to make sure the water eventually runs clear.

Since the buckets are just inside the RV door, it takes me a minute to grab one and empty it. Then it takes a few minutes more to go grab the other one and empty it too. Having a few minutes between flushes is helpful because then Mark can monitor whether the water from the second bucket is running clear or is still flushing solids out. If there are still chunks coming out, then, depending on whether anyone is waiting to use the RV dump after us, I’ll fill another bucket or two with water and dump them down the toilet.

Sometimes I have the water pump turned on as I dump the buckets of water down the toilet and sometimes it’s turned off. Having it turned on means even more water flushes down, which is great, but it also uses up water from the fresh water tank. So, whether or not I have the water pump turned on depends on whether there are people waiting behind us at the dump station, as it will take a little longer for us to fill the fresh water tank if we flush a few extra gallons down the toilet as part of the dumping process.

Now that the black tank is completely flushed, Mark begins emptying our kitchen gray tank. We have two gray tanks, one for the kitchen and one for the shower. We empty the kitchen tank first because it is dirtier and has more things in it (like broccoli bits) than the shower gray tank which is just sudsy water.

While he works on emptying the two gray tanks, I get to work cleaning the toilet.

RV dump station tip woman cleans toilet and bathroom

If Mark is mucking around in gross stuff outside, the least I can do is muck around in gross stuff inside. This also gives us a clean bathroom when we set up camp.

Since we have a hatch in the toilet room that we leave open a lot, the toilet lid and the floor often get dusty in just a few days. So I remove everything from the toilet room and clean everything, including the floor.

Over the years we’ve found that the toilet bowl — more so than the black tank itself — can be a big source of foul odors. Unlike household toilets, RV toilet bowls are basically dry except during flushing, so urine can end up drying in the bowl and producing an odor.

Also, the flow of the flushing water doesn’t necessarily rinse every inch of the bowl, so some areas simply don’t get rinsed all that well, even when using the toilet’s spray nozzle. So, I go to town on the inside of the bowl as well as everything else.

We use two enzyme/bacteria based RV holding tank treatment products: Happy Campers RV holding tank treatment has worked best for us in extreme temperatures (very cold and very hot) and for controlling tank odors. RV Digest-It holding tank treatment has worked best for us in moderate temperatures to break down the solids in the tank.

Because these are both basically solutions of living critters, the toilet cleaning products we use can’t be too toxic or the colonies of feces-eating bacteria can’t get established and become self-perpetuating. I’ve been using Murphy’s Oil Soap for the last few years with good results.

This is the soap that is recommended for cleaning the rubber roofs on the tops of RV’s, which is why we had it on hand to try on the toilet a few years ago. In addition to being biodegradable, what we like about it for cleaning the toilet is that it assists in keeping both the seals in the toilet bowl and on the black holding tank valve lubricated. I used white vinegar for cleaning the toilet for a while, and after a few months the black tank valve got really sticky. Since switching to Murphy’s Oil Soap a few years ago, that valve hasn’t gotten gummed up.

Periodically, we’ve found the seals in the toilet bowl have stopped holding water which meant the bowl drained completely dry between flushes. This allowed foul odors to come up from the black water tank. This problem is usually due to mineral and gunk build-ups on the seal.

So, I give that seal a really good cleaning too. The critical areas are on both the top and bottom surfaces of the rubber seal, that is, between the seal and the toilet bowl (the top side) and underneath the seal where the dome flapper (the “waste ball”) closes up against it.

RV toilet assembly and flapper valve installation

A disassembled RV toilet shows what the rubber toilet seal looks like without the toilet bowl sitting on it. To prevent it from leaking and draining the toilet between flushes, I scrub both top and bottom of the rubber seal.

I make sure the water pump is off at this point and hold the toilet flush lever down so I can get at the underside of the seal.

Often, the build-up is due to having hard water in the fresh water tanks which is very common in Arizona and other western states where the fresh water comes from deep, mineral rich aquifers.

RV toilet flapper cleaning tips

The seal needs to be completely free of mineral deposits on both the top and bottom, so I clean the area between the seal and the bowl on the top (red arrow) and below the seal on the bottom (the backside of the seal in this view).

At this point, depending on what Mark is up to outside, I’ll move on to other cleaning projects. If we have nearly emptied our fresh water tanks prior to coming to the RV dump station, it may take 10 minutes to refill them. Also, sometimes the potable water spigot is a little ways beyond the waste water dump area, requiring Mark to move the whole rig a few feet forward.

So, if there is time, I will clean the bathroom vanity sink and then move on to the kitchen sink. Depending on our plans for the next few days and depending on how much time I have at the RV dump, I may also add the holding tank treatment to the black tank, via the toilet, and add it to the gray tanks via the bathroom sink, shower and kitchen sink.

Sometimes, however, I prefer to wait two or three days until those tanks have some liquids in them before adding the holding tank treatment. And sometimes I add just a half tank’s worth of holding tank treatment at the RV dump station and then add the other half a few days later once the holding tanks have become partially full.

Of course, we add a capful of bleach to our fresh water tanks every few months, and that totally obliterates any colonies of anything that have started to grow in any of the holding tanks (including the fresh water tank) as the bleach water works its way through our plumbing system from the fresh water tank to the gray and black waste water tanks.

So, for us, creating fully self-sustaining communities of healthy organisms in any waste water tank is not 100% doable. But by using non-toxic cleansers we can help them along in between bleach blasts.

So, all in all, there is a LOT a girl can do at the RV dump station. We find we are both much happier about the whole process when we each have a set of tasks to do when we get there that are not only similarly grungy but are equally important and that take place in different parts of the RV.

The best part is that when we leave the RV dump station to go set up camp in a new, beautiful location, not only do we have empty waste water tanks but our bathroom is clean and fresh too.

Happy cleaning!!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Goodies I use for my jobs at the RV Dump Station:

More RV tips and Tricks:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

2016 – A Year of RV Travels in the National Parks

When 2016 burst upon us last year, our only goal for the year was to take our RV to the Canadian Rockies. As it turned out, on the way there and again on the way back, our year of full-time RV travels took us to a slew of National Parks.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

By mid-year, we had visited so many that we gathered all of our National Parks adventures from our nearly 10 years of travels onto one page:

National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites Travel Adventures

We always keep a list of our most recent posts at this link (under “Latest” in the menu bar). But we also wanted to share our yearlong journey from 2016 on one page for RVers and other travelers who would like to follow in our path.

Arches National Park Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

Living as we do is a dream come true for us, and we began the year with some reflections on what it takes to live the dream. We were in Phoenix, Arizona, to ring in the new year where we enjoyed some wonderful encounters with wild (feral) parrots that take up residence in the saguaro cacti.

Peach faced lovebird parrot saguaro cactus Scottsdale Arizona

A peach faced lovebird perches on a saguaro cactus in Phoenix, Arizona.

From Phoenix we made our way to Quartzsite, Arizona, the RV gathering place.

Quartzsite Arizona RV boondocking in the desert

Quartzsite, Arizona, is the RV Gathering Place each winter

The Quartzsite RV Show was in full swing in this crazy truck stop town where the name of the game is “Anything Goes.”

Quartzsite Desert RV Boondockging AZ

Sunrise in the Arizona desert in Quartzsite

From Quartzsite we headed east to Tucson, Arizona, where the historic part of town is filled with wonderful old adobe doorways.

Adobe door in Historic Tucson district Arizona

Historic Old Town Tucson in Arizona

We visited the beautiful Xavier Mission in Tucson which evokes the days of the Spanish explorers.

Front San Xavier del Bac Mission Tucson Arizona

San Xavier Mission, Tucson, Arizona.

We found even more ancient history among Saguaro National Park’s ancient Indian petroglyphs. This was our first National Park visit of the year, and we discovered wonderful native Arizona animals in their habitats at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum there as well.

Arizona Sonoran Desert Musuem Tucson Mountain Lion

A mountain lion at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

Despite being February, temps suddenly hit 90+ degrees in Tucson, so we began our trek north, stopping in Sedona, Arizona, to ride our bikes on the Bell Rock Pathway and hike The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek.

Mountain Bikers Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

The Bell Rock Pathway is an easy hike or bike ride in Sedona’s quintessential red rock scenery

We took in some sunsets under stormy skies.

Cathedral Rock at sunset Sedona Arizona

Sunset peeks through brooding skies at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona

In early March, we witnessed another stunning sunset and sunrise at Horseshoe Bend Overlook near Page, Arizona and explored Lees Ferry and Marble Canyon nearby.

Horseshoe Bend Sunset Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Paria Riffle and Paria Beach Lees Ferry Arizona

The Paria Riffle at Lees Ferry, Arizona

The ancient Indian ruins at Navajo National Monument and Monument Valley beckoned, and we learned about the proposed (and staggeringly massive) Bears Ears National Monument. For the next few weeks we would travel in and around the land area that would become Bears Ears National Monument by year’s end.

Ruins at Navajo National Monument Arizona

Betatakin cliff dwelling ruins at Navajo National Monument.

At Valley of the Gods and Goosenecks State Park, we were swept us up in the otherworldly red rock beauty of southern Utah.

Valley of the Gods Utah Scenic Drive

Valley of the Gods, Utah.

It was only mid-March, so a surprise snowstorm at Newspaper Rock wasn’t really a surprise.

Ancient Indian Petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah Mixture

A few of the hundres of petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock in Utah

Southern Utah is peppered with stunning scenery and National Parks, and our eyes were popping as we hiked the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

Canyonlands National Park – Needles District.

We took in Moab’s gorgeous snowcapped mountain views and visited Arches National Park.

Double Arch Arches National Park Utah

Double Arch in Arches National Park Utah

Nearby, we witnessed a stunning sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park, a spit of land that is embraced by the much bigger Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park where we enjoyed brilliant night skies.

Dead Horse Point State Park Utah Before Dawn

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

It was now April, and it was warm enough to take our trailer further north through southeastern Idaho’s picturesque mountains and farmland.

RV travel trailer on bridge Salmon Idaho

RVing Idaho’s back roads on the Salmon River.

We traveled along US-93 following the Salmon River through Challis and Salmon, Idaho.

RV roadtrip through southeastern Idaho mountains

Idaho in early Spring

Driving up through the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, we watched a herd of elk cross the highway in front of us.

Elk crossing road Bitterroot Valley Montana

.

We had a chance to sample a little cowboy life and cattle ranching too.

Riding horses in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana

Savoring the views of Montana’s Bitterroot Valley on horseback.

In Phillipsburg, Montana we discovered a sweet town that’s been dubbed one of “America’s Prettiest Painted Places.”

Philipsburg Montana main street

Philipsburg, Montana, one of “America’s Prettiest Painted Places.”

Early May found us on the western side of Montana’s Glacier National Park before the park was really open for the season. Placid Lake McDonald shimmered lovely reflections.

Lake McDonald Glacier National Park RV travel

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Crossing into British Columbia, Canada, we had finally arrived in the Canadian Rockies. We were blown away by the casual attitude of the big horn sheep who wander all over the roads in and around Kootenay National Park.

Big horn sheep crossing a road in British Columbia

Big Horn Sheep just outside Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada

Kootenay National Park gave us glimpses of bears nibbling Spring’s earliest treats, but our arrival at Lake Louise was when we began to feel like we were in the heart of the Rockies!

Lake Louise in Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

We took several trips up and down the southern half of the Icefields Parkway, a scenic drive like no other.

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

We were stunned by the majesty of the towering snowcapped mountains all around us in Banff National Park.

Rental RV Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta Canada

On the Icefields Parkway, which included a stop at royal blue Peyto Lake, we felt like we were driving on a highway right across the pages of a brochure for the Alps.

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canad

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park is an incredibly vivid royal blue.

In contrast, we reached picture perfect Moraine Lake in Banff National Park by bicycle, and we had it almost to ourselves because the road to it was still closed for the season.

Moraine Lake Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Canada has four National Parks that are adjacent to each other in the heart of the country’s best Rocky Mountain scenery, split between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. On our trip to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, we bumped into the fabulous waterfall at Natural Bridge.

Natural Bridge Yoho National Park British Columbia Canada Rocky Mountains

Natural Bridge surprised us on our way to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.

Emerald Lake Yoho National Park Alberta Canada

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

Banff, Alberta, has been a resort town since its inception, and we met an inspiring pair of young artists at the historic hotel in town.

Banff Alberta Canada and Cascade Mountain Canadian Rockies

Banff, Alberta, Canada

It was late May by now, and we celebrated our 9th anniversary of full-time travel by splashing around in the outdoor hot springs that bring a touch of summer to Canada’s snowy Rockies year round.

Banff Upper Hot Springs Alberta Canada

Banff Upper Hot Springs, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Visiting Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park and spending some time in the outdoorsy town of Canmore rounded out our visits to this part of the Canadian Rockies.

Snow Icefields Parkway Jasper National Park Alberta Canada

Beautiful patterns of snow on the mountains near the Columbia Ice Fields.

But there was still more to come with a scenic drive through jaw-dropping Kananaskis Country, where some of the 1988 Winter Olympic events were held.

Sunrise Kananaskis Country Canadian Rockies

Dawn in Kananaskis Country.

Dropping south from there, we visited Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada’s sweet little sister to Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Horseback riders Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Waterton Lakes National Park is a beautiful jewel in Canada’s National Park system. Taking the Waterton Shoreline Cruise on a historic ship to the southern side of the lake in Montana gave us even more incredible views.

Waterton Shoreline Cruise Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Waterton Shoreline Cruise in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

We were now well into June, yet when we arrived in Saint Mary on the east side of Glacier National Park, we were surprised to learn that the Going to the Sun Road that traverses the Park was just opening!

Happy camper Glacier National Park Montana

Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana.

The heat of the summer was on in full force by the 4th of July, and after all those National Parks we were ready to spend some time in quiet, less visited communities. We found just that in pretty Libby, Montana, where we spent happy days watching eagles and hummingbirds.

Lake Koocanusa at sunset Libby Montana

Sunset in Libby, Montana

We met some special travelers while we were there: a lady who had traveled cross country by horse for many years and a couple sightseeing by bicycle.

Bernice Ende on 28,000 mile long horse back ride

Long Rider Bernice, and her beloved mares Essie Pearl and Montana Spirit.

Nearby, we visited Kootenai Falls and Ross Creek Cedars, Montana’s answer to California’s sequoias.

Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area and Kootenai Falls MT RV trip

Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area, Montana

As we dropped down along the back roads of Idaho, we visited the charming small towns of Sandpoint, Moscow and McCall.

RV Trip from Sandpoint Idaho to Moscow and McCall on the Little Salmon River

Idaho’s back roads

What an absolute delight it was to find a summer beach town in the middle of Idaho’s mountains perched on Payette Lake.

Payette Lake shore near Legacy Park McCall Idaho

McCall, Idaho, is a fantastic beach town!!

Unfortunately, the summer months in America’s west always bring huge wildfires, and we soon found ourselves dodging fires and smoke. We had planned to spend several weeks in beloved Sun Valley Idaho, but were chased away by smoke.

Dashing far down south, we landed in Cedar City, Utah, where we witnessed a most moving event: the release of a golden eagle in honor of America’s First Responders.

Golden eagle release Cedar City Utah Southwest Wildlife Foundation

A rehabilitated Golden Eagle flies to freedom, honoring America’s First Responders.

Just like the Banff area in the Canadian Rockies, we were once again situated in a sea of National Parks. Cedar Breaks National Monument is a lesser known gem in the area, but it is Bryce Canyon National Park that really knocked our socks off (as it always does, no matter how many times we see it).

Photography at Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

After walking along the Rim Trail with our eyes popping, we then explored special parts of Bryce Canyon we’d never visited before.

Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hiking down into the hoodoos in Bryce National Park, Utah.

We hiked the Fairyland Trail and took our bikes on the newly extended Bryce Canyon Bike Trail.

Windows Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

.

We even discovered a year-round waterfall in the Park.

Mossy Cave Trail Waterfall Mossy Cave Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon’s Waterfall.

Mother Nature was in grand form while we were there, letting loose several August hail storms that pelted the area, but rainbows appeared and the sun shone as we wandered among the thousand year old bristlecone pine trees at Rainbow Point.

Bristlecone Pine Shadow Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A bristlecone plays with its shadow

Satiated with red rock scenery, we were ready for some fall color, so we spent much of September crossing Utah from west to east. Scenic Byway 12 is a stunning drive, and we stopped along the way to do the wonderful Lower Calf Creek Falls hike.

Sunshine waterfall Lower Calf Creek Falls Grand Staircase Escalante Utah

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Utah.

A little further on, we drove between the towering cliff walls of the Burr Trail.

Red rocks Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

Burr Trail, Utah.

Arriving in Colorado in late September, we drove the fabulous San Juan Skyway through the dazzling fall color.

Motorcycle in fall colors San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

Fall colors on the San Juan Skyway, Colorado

A surprise snow storm turned the world into a spectacular landscape filled with orange and yellow and a dusting of snow.

Golden aspen and pine trees San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains fall foliage

A dusting of September snow on Colorado’s San Juan Skyway.

Life in an RV is cold when it snows, so we quickly dropped to Durango at the south end of the San Juan Skyway to enjoy a Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Horse and carriage Durango Colorado

Durango, Colorado, is the perfect setting for a Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Heading west across northern Arizona, we drove alongside the Vermillion Cliffs where we took a peek at the “Cliff Dwellers” roadside stop.

02 761 RV travel Vermillion Cliffs National Monument Arizona

Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Our “National Parks” travel theme was so well established by now that we just had to make a quickie stop at Grand Canyon’s North Rim to do both day and night photography.

View from deck Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

Tourists on the cozy back deck of the North Rim’s Grand Canyon Lodge in Arizona.

Milky Way at the Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona

Full moon and the Milky Way at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim!

Then we continued on to the majestic scenery of Zion National Park.

Virgin River Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah RV trip

Zion National Park, Utah

Exploring an area in Zion National Park that we hadn’t visited before, we did a hike into the autumn colors of Kolob Canyons on Taylor Creek Trail.

Autumn Leaves Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah

Zion National Park’s Kolob Canyons in Utah.

November and December saw us flitting between Arizona, California and San Luis Rio Colorado Mexico as we made several visits to our dentist and spent time socializing with friends.

Fabulous year of RV travels

What a fabulous year of RV travels!!
Moab, Utah

During 2016 we published quite a few non-travel posts as well. The links are below:

RV Tips, Tricks and Tech Topics:

Truck Related Topics:

RV Warranty & Repairs:

Lifestyle:

Product Reviews:

Dental Care on the Road:

Mexico’s Gold Coast:

OUR TRAVELS IN PREVIOUS YEARS

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

<-Previous || Next->

Power Inverters – Exeltech’s Pure Sine Wave Excellence

An inverter, sometimes called a “power inverter,” is a piece of electronic gear that converts DC power to AC power, and it is what enables RVers to use regular household appliances in an RV without hookups to an RV park power pedestal relying on a generator.

The September/October 2016 issue of Escapees Magazine features our detailed article about inverters: what they are, how they are sized, what flavors they come in and how to wire one into an RV.

Power inverter for an RV - an Exeltech XPX 2000 watt inverter

.

For RVers who enjoy dry camping in public campgrounds or boondocking on public land, an inverter is the key piece of the puzzle that gives their RV traditional 110 volt AC power — like the power in the wall outlets of a house — without plugging the RV into a power pedestal at an RV park or a noisy gas-hungry generator.

WHAT IS AN INVERTER?

For beginning RVers, it is easy to confuse a converter with an inverter, because the words are so much alike. The difference is actually very straight forward:

  • A converter converts the 110 volt AC power coming out of a wall outlet, RV park power pedestal or generator into 12 volt DC power, and charges the RV’s 12 volt battery bank.
  • An inverter converts the batteries’ 12 volt DC power into 110 volt AC power so household appliances like the TV, blender, microwave and vacuum can run.
Exeltech XPX 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter living off the grid in an RV

Our “house” inverter – an Exeltech XPX 2000 watt inverter.

RV FACTORY INSTALLED CONVERTERS

Most trailers and some smaller motorhomes come with a factory installed converter. Frequently, these factory installed converters are inexpensive units that are not multi-stage chargers. So, for RVers who want to dry camp a lot and keep their batteries in tip-top shape, or charge them up efficiently with a generator while dry camping, it is a good idea to replace the factory installed converter with a better quality converter (we did).

More info on upgrading an RV power converter here: Converters and Inverters in an RV

RV FACTORY INSTALLED INVERTERS and INVERTER/CHARGERS

A few high end trailers and most higher end motorhomes come with a factory installed inverter.

In many cases, especially high end trailers, the inverter is dedicated to powering a residential refrigerator that runs exclusively off of 110 volt AC power (unlike an RV refrigerator that can run on propane). The inverter is there so the fridge can continue to run off the batteries while the rig is being driven from one RV park to another without a connection to 110 volt AC electricity. This inverter is sized to support the refrigerator and is not intended to be used for any other purpose in the rig.

So, for most trailer owners that want to do a lot of camping without hookups, an inverter is an extra piece of gear that must be installed.

In contrast, many higher end motorhomes come with a factory installed inverter/charger that can do two things: 1) provide the RV with household 110 volt AC power at the wall outlets via the batteries while dry camping and 2) charge the batteries when the RV is getting its 110 volt AC power from an RV park power pedestal or a generator. These inverter/chargers essentially do the work of both a converter (charging the batteries from shore power) and an inverter (providing AC power via the batteries while dry camping).

So, for folks with a higher end motorhome, an inverter is usually already installed in the motorhome at the factory in the form of an inverter/charger, and it does not need to be added later. However, it may not be a pure sine wave inverter (see below).

INVERTER SIZES

Inverters come in all shapes and sizes and all price ranges too, from little biddy ones that cost a few bucks to big beefy ones that cost a few thousand dollars.

They are rated by the number of watts they can produce. Small ones that can charge a pair of two-way radios or a toothbrush are in the 150 watt range. Huge ones that can run a microwave and hair dryer are in the 3,000 watt range.

  • Small inverters (400 watts or less) can be plugged into a cigarette lighter style DC outlet in the rig. Mark has one that he uses for his electric razor every morning.
  • Larger inverters (500 watts are more) must be wired directly to the batteries and require stout wires that are as short in length as possible.

Our RV has a “house” inverter that is 2,000 watts. It can run our microwave and hair dryer and vacuum comfortably (we don’t run those appliances all at the same time, however, as that would overload it). Our small portable inverter lives in our bedroom and gets used for a few minutes every day before we head downstairs:

RV power inverter with electric razo

Mark uses this small inverter to power his electric razor every morning!

MODIFIED SINE WAVE vs. PURE SINE WAVE INVERTERS

Inverters also come in two flavors:

Modified sine wave inverters are cheaper than pure sine wave inverters and are the most common type of inverter sold in auto parts stores, Walmart and truck stops. Many inverter/chargers on the market are modified sine wave inverters.

Our sailboat came with a 2,500 watt inverter/charger that produced a modifed sine wave. It was wired into the boat’s wall outlets, including the microwave outlet. We used this inverter when we wanted to run the microwave but not for anything else (we preferred using a pure sine wave inverter instead).

Some vehicles now ship with an inverter installed in the dashboard. Our truck has a small modified sine wave inverter in the dashboard, and I use it all the time to plug in our MiFi Jetpack and get an internet signal for my laptop as we drive.

Exeltech XP 1100 Inverter

Our first pure sine wave inverter: an Exeltech XP 1100 watt inverter. We keep it now as a backup.

WIRING AN INVERTER INTO AN RV – DC SIDE

As mentioned above, small inverters can plug into a DC outlet in the RV wall (these outlets look like the old cigarette lighters found in cars).

Large inverters must be wired directly to the batteries. The wire gauge must be very heavy duty battery cable and short to support the big DC currents that will flow through it. If possible, the length should be less than four feet. A wire gauge chart gives the correct gauge of wire to use for the current that will flow and the length the wire will be.

To determine the maximum possible DC current that might flow through these wires, simply divide the maximum wattage the inverter is rated for by the lowest voltage the inverter can operate at. In our case, we divided our inverter’s maximum 2,000 watts by the minimum 10.5 volts it will operate at before it shuts off. This yields 190 amps DC. Our cable connecting our inverter to the batteries is 2 feet long. So the proper wire size is 2/0 gauge (“double ought”) and can be purchased here: High quality Ancor Battery Cable.

Heavy duty battery cable on Exeltech XPX 2000 inverter in an RV

We used 2/0 Gauge Ancor Battery Cable to wire the DC side of our inverter.

WIRING AN INVERTER INTO AN RV – AC SIDE

All inverters have at least one household style female 110 volt AC outlet. Usually they have two. These outlets look like ordinary household wall outlets.

One very simple way to wire the AC side of the inverter is to plug an appliance directly into it, for instance, plug the power cord of the TV into the inverter. We did this with a 300 watt inverter and our 19″ TV in our first trailer. The inverter was plugged into a DC outlet on the trailer’s wall, and the TV was plugged into the inverter right behind where it sat on our countertop.

If you want to plug more than two appliances into the inverter at once, then plugging a power strip into one or both of the inverter’s AC outlets is one way to go. We did this on our sailboat. We had a 600 watt pure sine wave inverter on the boat. Plugged into one of the inverter’s AC outlets, we had a power strip supporting our TV and DVD player. Plugged into the other AC outlet, we had a power strip supporting everything else: two-way radios, toothbrush, and laptop charging cords and camera battery chargers.

Exeltech XPX 2000 inverter and Trojan Reliant AGM Batteries in an RV

Our inverter is placed as close to the batteries as possible by being suspended above them.

Obviously, you have to be careful not to run too many things at once, or they will overload the inverter. Most inverters will shut down when overloaded or sound a beeping alarm if your appliances demand more from it than it can give. We ran into that a lot when we lived on our portable inverter for a few days while our house inverter was being repaired.

A more sophisticated way to wire an inverter’s AC side so it supplies power to all the wall outlets in the RV is to wire it into the rig’s AC wiring using a transfer switch.

WHICH INVERTER TO BUY for a BIG INSTALLATION?

Because we live off the grid and never plug our RV into a power pedestal (we’ve lived this way for nine years and hope to do so for many more), we rely on our trailer’s house inverter to run all of the AC appliances we own, every single day.

For this reason, we invested in the highest quality inverter we could find on the market: an Exeltech XP 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter. This is a very pricey unit, but it is our sole source of AC power day in and day out. It is the brand that was selected for both the American and Russian sides of the International Space Station, and its signal is pure enough to run extremely sensitive medical equipment.

Exeltech power inverter manufacturing

We visited the Exeltech manufacturing plant in Texas and saw first-hand how meticulously these inverters are made and tested prior to shipping.

Exeltech is a family run company with electrical engineering PhDs heading up their R&D department. All manufacturing is done in-house at their headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. They have phenomenal tech support and an excellent warranty.

When our beautiful new Exeltech XP 2000 inverter was inadvertently blown up by a welding snafu at a trailer suspension shop during our trailer’s suspension overhual (the plastic sheathing on a bundle of AC wires got melted onto the trailer’s frame, bonding the wires to the frame and creating an electrical short — ouch), they got it repaired and back to us very quickly.

And thanks to our RV warranty, our failing suspension was rebuilt completely at no cost to us, and has worked flawlessly for 12 months now.

Power inverter

This high quality Exeltech inverter is a serious piece of electronic gear!

Many RVers like the Magnum brand of inverters. These inverters have a built-in transfer switch which makes them easy to wire into the RV’s AC wiring system.

There are many other brands on the market from Schneider Electric / Xantrex to Go Power, Power Bright and others. If you are going to dry camp a lot, then installing a high quality and expensive pure sine wave inverter makes sense. But if you are going to dry camp for just a few days, week or month here and there, then a cheaper one may make more sense.

MORE INFO ABOUT INVERTERS and SOLAR POWER

All of this info and more is covered detail in our feature article in this month’s Escapees Magazine. We also have loads of other info about inverters, converters right here on our website. Links to our many RV electricity related articles are at the bottom of this page.

ESCAPEES MAGAZINE and RV CLUB

RV Power Inverters

Inverters – AC Power from DC Batteries
Escapees Magazine Sep/Oct 2016
By Emily Fagan

Our five page article on inverters in this month’s issue of Escapees Magazine is typical of the kind of detailed technical articles the magazine publishes.

I have been publishing articles like this in Escapees Magazine since 2008, and I have written about anything and everything we’ve learned in our full-time RVing lives, from solar power to photography to batteries to the importance of fulfillling our dreams.

What makes Escapees Magazine unique is that it is written by RVers for RVers.

The magazine article topics come from real life experiences that RVers have encountered in their lives on the road.

Just as my article in this issue of Escapees Magazine is about what we’ve learned about inverters since we started RVing (and believe me, back in 2007, I was the one asking trailer salesmen what the difference was between inverters and converters, and I got some wacky, wild and very wrong answers!), other RVers write articles for Escapees Magazine about things they have learned.

When I sat down to read the September/October issue, I was impressed — as I am with every issue — by the quality of both the articles and the presentation.

Besides including some cool travel articles about RVing Alaska via the Alaska Marina Highway ferry system, and visiting the Very Large Array that listens to the cosmos in New Mexico, and traveling on the Natchez Trace in Mississippi, this issue has two wonderful profiles of full-time RVers doing intriguing things as part of their RV lifestyle.

RV by ferry on the Alaska Marine Highway

RV Alaska by Ferry!
Escapees Magazine Sep/Oct 2016

One article this month is about a full-time RVer who lives in an Airstream trailer and has dedicated himself to ensuring that the original silkscreen art prints created by the WPA artists in the 1930’s for the National Parks remain in the public domain, owned by the NPS rather than private collectors. It is a fascinating tale, written by Rene Agredano who has been full-timing since 2007 and writes the very informative blog Live, Work, Dream, a terrific resource for anyone who wants to learn the ins and outs of work camping.

Another article this month shares the stories of three very long term (10+ years) full-time RVers who have flourished as artists on the road. One RVer/artist specializes in watercolors and has held many exhibitions of her work around the country. Another RVer/artist discovered the fun craft of decorating gourds and teaches classes at her home RV park. A third RVer/artist has self-published a photojournal about her travels specifically for her grandchildren. This insipring Escapees Magazine article is written by full-time RVer Sandra Haven who shares the same home base RV park as the artists.

There is also a detailed article written by a lawyer on what it takes to establish a legal domicile and register to vote when you’re a full-time RVer without a sticks-and-bricks home built on a foundation that stays in one place.

These kinds of articles aren’t found in most RV industry publications!

Full-time RV traveler artist

RVers take their art on the road
Escapees Magazine Sep/Oct 2016

And what’s neat for would-be writers and photographers who are Escapees RV Club members is that the magazine’s editorial staff is always eager for new material from members…click here!.

Escapees Magazine is just a tiny part of the overall Escapees RV Club, however.

Founded by full-time RVing pioneers Joe and Kay Peterson, the Escapees Club strives to serve the varied interests of all RVers and to alert RVers to changes in government policies or the RV industry itself that might affect us as consumers of RVs, RV and camping products and RV overnight accommodations.

They also work as tireless advocates on behalf of all RVers at both the local and national levels.

RVers BootCamp at Escapees RV Club

RVers BootCamp – A training program for new RVers

One of the most interesting articles in this month’s magazine alerts members to corporate consolidations in the industry that will affect our choices as RV consumers in years to come. It also reveals that the Escapees advocacy group is investigating possible changes at the Bureau of Land Management that will affect RVers ability to use their RVs on BLM land nationwide.

In addition to the magazine, the Club offers discounts for RV parks, regional chapter groups, national rallies, bootcamp training programs for new RVers, and assisted living for retired RVers who are ready to hang up their keys but not ready to give up living in their RV.

One of the most charming articles in this month’s magazine is about Nedra, a woman in her mid-80’s who was once an avid RVer but now lives at CARE, the Escapees assisted living facility in Livingston Texas. I had the good fortune to meet Nedra when we visited the Escapees headquarters at Rainbow’s End, and she took me on a fun tour of the CARE facilities. Escapees is like a big extended family, and it was very heartwarming to see her story in this month’s issue.

We’ve been members of Escapees RV Club since 2008 and highly recommend joining if you are a current or future RVer, whether you plan to travel full-time or just occasionally. Supporting their advocacy work benefits everyone who owns an RV and ensures we consumers and hobbyists have a voice in this very large industry.

You can join Escapees (or Xscapers, the branch of Escapees dedicated to younger, working age RVers) here:

Join Escapees RV Club

If you mention this blog, Roads Less Traveled, when you join, they put a little something in our tip jar. We began recommending Escapees RV Club to our readers eight years ago, and this friendly gesture from Escapees is a brand new development in the last few months. So, this is not a sales pitch from us to earn tips, by any means. We simply believe in the work Escapees RV Club does to support RV consumers and hobbyists and hope you do too!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

SOLAR POWER OVERVIEW and TUTORIAL

BATTERIES and BATTERY CHARGING SYSTEMS

LIVING ON 12 VOLTS

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

How to Heat an RV in Cold Weather and Winter Snow Storms

Heating an RV in cold weather during the winter, especially in a snow storm, is quite different than heating a house, and it often requires utilizing different kinds of heaters and a little creativity too.

RV camping and travel in snow in winter

Is that SNOW??!! We sure didn’t expect THAT!!!

A few weeks ago, at the end of September, we woke up to find ourselves in a beautiful snowstorm at 10,000′ elevation in Colorado.

We had to pull out all the stops to make sure we were cozy warm in our RV even though overnight lows were in the 20’s and daytime highs didn’t get out of the 40’s for a week.

Bikes on RV bike rack in snow in winter

We looked out our back window and saw snow covering our bikes!

The first order of business was to go outside and build a snowman, and Mark got right to it.

Winter RV tips for staying warm in cold weather

It’s snowing!!! Let’s make a snowman!!!

While he’s busy getting that snowman together, I wanted to share with you the strategies we’ve used for heating our RV without electrical hookups, because we use different heating appliances in different situations.

For “cool” conditions, like December and February in the Arizona desert or May in the Canadian Rockies, when lows are in the 30’s, keeping our buggy warm is a cinch with our blue flame vent-free propane heater that Mark installed back in 2008.

But in in “extreme” conditions, like this recent snowstorm on a mountaintop in Colorado, we use a different strategy and rely more on our RV furnace that was factory installed in our trailer.

We have tried different strategies in very cold weather at very high altitudes like this in the past, and this most recent cold spell was our most comfortable, despite the wet gloppy mess of snowy covered jackets, hats, mittens and boots and the sullen gray skies that persisted for several days. So, we seem to have gotten it right this time.

Of course, “lows in the 20’s” is far from “extreme” for North Americans living in houses with central heating, but it definitely feels extreme when living in an RV off the grid. In reality, RVs are most comfortable in temperatures that stay above freezing.

Winter RVing in the snow

The snowman gets sticks for his arms…

Even though high end RVs are marketed as being “four season” coaches, boasting high R-factors in the walls, ceiling and floor, you just can’t compare 1.5″ styrofoam walls that have a thin layer of gelcoat and wallpaper board to a residential house wall that’s made of 3.5″ fiberglass insulation covered with a half-inch of drywall, half-inch of plywood, Tyvek and exterior siding.

Besides the skimpy walls, we find that the RV windows are the biggest reasons for the poor insulation. The metal window frames are extremely cold to the touch when temps outside are in the 20’s, and all that metal around our many windows conducts the cold right into the rig.

Some folks like to have thermopane (dual pane) RV windows, but if moisture gets between the two panes, which can happen more easily in an RV that rattles down the road all the time than in a house that stands still on its foundation, the moisture is likely to remain there permanently, no matter what the weather does outside or how many years go by.

RV windows don’t seal all that well either. Our top quality, four season fifth wheel trailer is downright drafty inside, with a definite breeze that can, at times, flutter a tissue by the “escape” windows. You don’t notice it so much when it is 70 degrees both outside and inside with no wind blowing. But when it is a blustery18 degrees outside and we are trying to heat the rig to 65 degrees inside, the breeze by those windows is a shock.

The microwave vent is another drafty spot, and if the wind is howling outside and blowing directly on that wall of the RV, it blows right into the kitchen through the vent holes on the top of the microwave. One solution for that, of course, is to tape over the vent on the outside of the rig and not use the microwave for the duration of the cold snap (we haven’t done that, however).

Winter RV trip in the snow

The snowman gets a hat!

So, in our experience, keeping an RV and everything in it toasty warm when it is snowing out can require a little creativity.

Back in our house living days in snow country, we would set the thermostat to our preferred indoor temperature and keep it there 24/7, perhaps raising it slightly at the breakfast and dinner hours and lowering it slightly while we were at work or asleep.

When a blizzard blows into our RV lifestyle nowadays, we can have that kind of stable heat in our rig if we plug into shorepower with access to unlimited electricity. Portable electric heaters can back up the RV furnace, and RVs that have an air conditioner with a heat pump can use that (ours doesn’t).

We have a portable electric ceramic heater for just such an emergency where going to an RV park and plugging in is our best line of defense for weathering a storm.

However, it is possible to stay warm without hookups, even when it starts snowing.

RV in snow in winter

What fun!!

We rely on our vent-free propane heater for 95% of our heat year round. These little heaters use propane very efficiently, don’t need any electricity to run, and can be installed in an RV permanently to run off the RV’s propane tanks.

There are also handy portable models that can be stored in a closet when not in use and then placed anywhere in the rig where you want a little heat. These run on disposable propane bottles, so it isn’t necessary to plumb the heater to the RV’s big propane tanks.

Animal tracks in the winter snow

We found fresh animal tracks in the snow.

We have a detailed article describing the different kinds of vent-free propane heaters on the market, the pros and cons of each type and the type of heat they generate, plus a step-by-step guide for how to install one in an RV at this link:

How to Install a Vent-free Propane Heater in an RV

These heaters heat the rig amazingly quickly. We find that our 20k BTU blue flame heater warms our rig at a rate of about one degree every two minutes. So, in twenty minutes we can warm up our home by 10 degrees, and in an hour we can raise the inside temp by 30 degrees.

The best part is that we can hover over it and warm our hands, bodies and clothes, just like standing in front of a woodstove or fireplace. We do that a LOT and totally love our little heater for the terrific blast of instant hot air it provides!!!

How to heat an RV in winter and cold weather

When you’re chilled, there’s nothing like hovering over this heater!

We use our blue flame heater year round, and we have used it at elevations ranging from sea level to 10,000′.

This past year we traveled primarily in cold places where overnight lows were in the 30’s and 40’s. We went north through Utah, Idaho and Montana in March and April and spent May and early June in the Canadian Rockies. Consequently, we saw quite a bit of snow and hail, and during those months we used our heater almost every day.

Aspen and pine trees in winter snow

The snow in Colorado fell for hours and gave us a beautiful winter wonderland — in September!

Colorful aspens in winter snow storm with pine tree

Fall colors with snow – Magic!

We thawed out in July long enough to get overheated and write a blog post: “How to Beat the Heat in an RV.” Then it was back to the high elevations of Utah and Colorado in mid-August where we saw more hail and overnight lows in 30’s once again.

Our vent-free blue flame heater has been keeping us warm during all four seasons like this since Mark installed it in 2008!!

Snowy road with aspen for an RV in winter

.

Snowy road in winter

It was really cold, but it was so beautiful we didn’t mind!!

The basic difference between an RV furnace and a vent-free propane heater is this:

  • RV furnace – Uses a lot of electricity, uses propane inefficiently, brings fresh air into the rig (because it’s vented)
  • Vent-free propane heater – Doesn’t use electricity, burns propane efficiently, uses up oxygen in the RV

So each has its place under certain circumstances. In a nutshell:

— The ventless propane heater is awesome as long as there is sufficient oxygen for it to run. We like to use it in the mornings and evenings, and since we are in and out of the rig a lot, there is a lot of air exchange inside our RV from opening and closing the front door all day long as well as from all the drafts and breezes that blow in the RV windows and microwave vent.

— The RV furnace is best for other scenarios: in cases where there is a risk of the water pipes freezing (the hot air ducts keep the basement and water lines warm), at very high elevations in extreme cold, and at night, because it is vented and continually circulates the air in the rig. The RV furnace is very loud and tends to wake us up at night, however, so we don’t use it overnight very often.

So, we use our vent-free blue flame heater for 95% of our RV heating, and we turn to our RV furnace on rare occasions.

Aspen and pine trees in snow in winter

Fall colors and snow — a gorgeous combinations!

Dodge pickup truck covered in winter snow

This snowfall was definitely sticking around a while!

Vented vs. Ventless Propane Heaters and Propane RV Stoves & Ovens – Safety Concerns

An RV furnace is a vented system, meaning that it releases warm, moist air from inside the RV to the outside, and it brings cold air from outside to the inside of the rig. This makes it very inefficient in its use of propane, because it is essentially heating the outdoors as well as the indoors. Put your hands by the RV furnace vent outside, and they will get nice and warm and a bit damp too!

While RV furnaces are safely vented yet very inefficient, vent-free gas heaters are very efficient and are required by law to have an automatic shutoff when the available oxygen goes below a certain threshold (there is a built-in sensor that triggers the shut-off). We know when ours is about to shut off because the flame begins to sputter and make noise. Once it has shut itself off, it won’t turn on again until we air out the RV a little by opening the door or windows for a while.

Ironically, propane RV stoves and ovens are not required to shut off automatically when the available oxygen is depleted. To me, this makes them inherently quite a bit more dangerous than vent-free propane heaters.

Of course, an RV fitted with propane tanks is basically a rolling bomb, so it’s a very unsafe place to call home (I say this with a smile, because we wouldn’t trade our 9 years on the road for anything)!

Every time we have seen our blue flame heater shut itself off (probably 30+ times), the RV stove and/or oven has kept right on a-cookin’ without any hint that our supply of oxygen inside the rig was running out. We could easily have baked something in our factory installed propane RV oven and simmered something on our factory installed propane RV stove for hours while camped at 10,000′ with no inkling that the oxygen in our rig had dipped below safe levels!

Winter snow on RV steps

Welcome home…. Brrrrr!

Which Heater is Best Under Which Conditions?

For most of this year as we traveled in cold country, the lowest temperatures we saw were in the low to mid 30’s overnight. Daytime highs were in the mid-60’s to mid-70’s. These kinds of conditions are very similar to what we see in the southwestern deserts in the winter months (except January, which can be colder). These conditions are ideal for a vent-free propane heater.

We usually run our vent-free propane heater every morning until the rig is 60 to 75 degrees inside (depending on our mood) and then again in the evening if the temperature inside has dipped below 65. If the windows have fogged up from condensation (about 5% of the time, usually only in the winter), we run the RV furnace too to help dry the air out.

In general, we don’t heat our RV overnight in this kind of climate. We prefer to bundle up with down comforters instead. If we do run the heat at night, we use the RV furnace and set it to 50 degrees. If outdoor temps drop into the 30’s overnight, the RV furnace will come on once or twice in the pre-dawn hours.

Golden aspen in snow in winter

Golden aspen leaves in snow.

Ironically, if the outside temps dip really low — into the 20’s or teens — and daytime highs don’t get much past 50 degrees, then the RV furnace will start coming on before midnight and will come on every hour for 15-20 minutes as it struggles to keep the rig at 50 degrees.

Since we are light sleepers, this is extremely annoying. So, at the times we would want to run the RV furnace most — overnight when it’s really cold — we opt not to!

On overnights that we don’t heat the rig, when we wake up in the morning our bedroom is around 10-12 degrees warmer than the outside air (bedroom door closed all night) and our living area is around 5-7 degrees warmer than the outside air.

It is routine for us to wake up to temps in our trailer that are between 37 and 42 degrees. For us, that is a small price to pay for living off the grid, however, for many RVers it is good reason to get electric hookups and have more substantial and consistent heat in the rig overnight.

Aspen covered with snow in winter

The colors of Fall in Colorado.

There is a lot of debate about whether you can operate a ventless propane heater at high elevations. By the time we got caught in that September snow storm in Colorado two weeks ago, we had been living at elevations between 8,000′ and 10,000′ for 5 straight weeks, running our vent-free propane blue flame heater every morning and evening without a hitch.

Along with many weeks spent heating our rig at high elevations in previous years, including 8 weeks or so at 6,000′ or higher this past spring, our 5 weeks at 8 to 10 thousand feet this fall kind of proved the point for us: it’s no problem to run a vent-free propane heater at high altitudes in cool weather.

But in sub-freezing overnight temperatures and daytime highs in the 40’s under stormy skies at 10,000′ elevation, we’ve found a vent-free propane heater is best used in combination with the RV furnace.

Bikes on back of RV in snow

Well, we won’t be biking any time soon!!

Until the the snowstorm came to our mountaintop spot in the Colorado Rockies at 10,000′, we hadn’t been using the RV furnace at all. But once the temps dropped to the 20’s (lows) to 40’s (highs) at that elevation, we couldn’t rely on our blue flame heater exclusively any more and had to change our heating strategy for three reasons.

1) There is less available oxygen at 10,000′ than at lower elevations, and once the oxygen in the rig dipped below a certain level, the blue flame heater would shut itself off automatically. Because it was so cold outside, we weren’t thrilled about opening the windows and doors to let in more air just so we could turn on the blue flame heater again. It was time to use the RV furnace.

2) Our RV roof and ladder — along with our solar panels — was covered with snow and ice. Mark wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement to climb up there to clear off the solar panels, and I wasn’t about to get up on that slippery roof either. So, our batteries were no longer getting charged by the sun and wouldn’t have enough juice to run the RV furnace.

3) Vent-free propane heaters emit a lot of moisture. We had just had several days of torrential rain, and everything in our rig was wet. Our shower was filled with raincoats and rain hats hung up to dry, our boots and socks were wet and muddy by the door, our pants were wet and hanging in the bathroom and our bath towels refused to dry. While our blue flame vent-free heater would exacerbate the moisture problem, our RV furnace would help dry out the air inside our buggy.

Doing all these things gave us a nice dry and toasty warm environment to live in during this cold spell in snowy conditions at 10,000 feet.

To implement this heating strategy, we did two things. We stocked up on gasoline and propane and ran our Yamaha 2400i generator and RV furnace a lot. Sometimes we also ran the blue flame heater alongside the furnace.

Yamaha generator in bed of pickup truck in snow

Our Yamaha generator got a good hard workout for over a week.

The generator ensured that the batteries got fully charged. Because we were running our RV furnace so much, which burned up lots of electricity, the batteries were being depleted much faster than normal. So, not only did we need the generator because the solar panels were snoozing under the snow and ice, we also needed it because of running the RV furnace.

RV in snow in winter

A few weeks prior we had been roasting in the summer heat. What a crazy life we live in this RV!!

In general, we ran the RV furnace every morning until the rig was 65 degrees inside and then ran it on and off during the day and in the evening. If the air wasn’t too moist, we also ran blue flame vent-free heater alongside the furnace to warm things up faster. The vent-free propane heater never shut itself off, so the RV furnace was doing its job of circulating the air.

Golden aspen in snow by pond in winter

Getting creative heating our RV made it possible to enjoy views like this as it snowed.

Using the RV furnace also lessened the possibility of the water pipes freezing. The heater is ducted through the belly of the rig, and the warm air passing through the ducts helps warm the nearby water and sewer pipes. If the temps had gotten below 20 degrees, we would have run the RV furnace once or twice overnight as well just to be sure no ice formed in the pipes.

If we had had brilliantly sunny days every day, we may or may not have needed the generator. Our 490 watt solar panel array may have been able to charge the batteries fully, despite the additional load from the RV furnace.

Also, we probably wouldn’t have needed to use the RV furnace so much because the sun would have warmed up our rig and dried it out a bit during the day.

See how flexible and variable all this is??!!

Colorado fall colors after winter snow

This is why we came to Colorado at this season… Wow!!!

We have descended out of the clouds now and have been living at elevations between 5,000′ and 6,500′ for the past few weeks. The RV furnace is back on vacation and our trusty blue flame heater has taken over all the RV heating duties. Our generator is on break for another 6 months or year, and the shore power cord is buried somewhere in the basement once again.

RV in winter snow staying warm in cold weather

Snug as a bug in a rug!!

If you are going to be using your RV in cold weather this winter, we have another post full of tips for keeping warm that you might enjoy:

How to Stay WARM in an RV – Winter RVing Survival Tips

And if you think a vent-free propane heater is something you’d like to get, have a look at our detailed article that discusses the different types of heaters and shows how we installed ours:

Vent-free Propane Heaters (Catalytic, Infrared and Blue Flame) PLUS How to Install One in an RV

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

For more images of the Colorado fall colors in the snow, see this post:

Below are some of our most POPULAR POSTS (also in the MENUS above)

RV UPGRADES, SYSTEMS & TIPS MONEY FULL-TIME RV LIFESTYLE GEAR STORE
  • Gear Store - A list of the goodies, equipment and gear we've found useful in our RV lifestyle!
LIBRARIES of ARTICLES

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

Internet & Phone Communications for RV Living – A Minimalist Solution!

How do you stay in touch when living on the road full-time in an RV? What kind of internet access is best? Which phone plans make the most sense for a full-time RVer? These are some of the questions that RVers face, and there is a huge array of solutions for every need and lifestyle.

Note: This post was updated in September, 2016, to reflect new offerings from Verizon

The gurus on this topic are unquestionably Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia. They have written a fantastic book about the internet for RVers and also created an online community dedicated to mobile internet issues (more about those excellent resources here).

Because we have taken an unconventional route with our own communications solution (as we tend to do with our traveling lifestyle in general), I thought a few notes here might be useful.

What, No Phone?! How Can You DO THAT?!

After several decades of being “on call” in our professions, bound to our customers by electronic leashes, we ditched our cell phones when we started traveling full-time in 2007. In large part, this was a money-savings tactic, but in some ways it was a small act of defiance against a world that is increasingly held in electronic bondage.

We have managed just fine without a phone since we started traveling full-time.  We’ve been able to meet up with friends at appointed hours, find our way to remote and stunning locations without a GPS-enabled electronic map. We’ve even bought and sold large assets like our sailboat and truck, all without a phone.

If you are looking to shave a few dollars off your full-time RVing budget, or if you are just curious how this is possible, here’s what we do.

Internet Access – Verizon MiFi Jetpack

Verizon MiFi Jetpack 6620L

Verizon MiFi Jetpack 6620L

We have a Verizon MiFi 6620L Jetpack hotspot that is the basis of all our communications. It operates on the Verizon cell phone towers, has a cell phone number itself, provides password protected WiFi inside and near the rig, and can theoretically support 15 devices connected to the internet.

A little back-story on this MiFi jetpack — For three years we had a Verizon MiFi 4620 jetpack, but in October, 2014, its tiny charging receptacle broke and it could no longer get charged. Mark tried to nurse it back to life by soldering its lifeless receptacle to the charger permanently, but the problem was internal and it was dead.

MiFi Jetpack Charger solder repair

We tried soldering wires from the MiFi to its charger, but it still wouldn’t charge.

That older jetpack always had problems charging and holding a charge. It could theoretically support up to five devices, but we found our two laptops frequently maxed out its battery, even when it was plugged in and charging, and we sometimes ran the battery down faster than it could charge itself on its charger!

For those that have an older MiFi and haven’t yet upgraded to the MiFi 6620L, this new jetpack has a bigger battery and holds a charge better than the 4620L did.

However, it also has the annoying habit of falling asleep when nothing is happening between you and the internet. For us to resume using the internet after a period of doing nothing, we have to wake it up manually by tapping on its power button. Then the computer has to reconnect to the MiFi.

Some reviews claim that this new jetpack provides a better internet signal than the old one, but in all honesty, it seems about the same. So, the only real difference we can see is in the size of the battery.

Verizon 24GB (XXL) Talk/Text/Data Plan – Usage and Flexibility

As of September, 2016, our MiFi Jetpack is tied to a 24 GB talk/text/data plan with Verizon. When we first got our Jetpack in 2012, we were able to get by with a 3GB data-only plan until I moved this website to WordPress. Then our data usage instantly jumped to 6GB per month.

Over the next three years we gradually increased our plan by 2GB increments until it was 20 GB per month (data only). After a year at that level, we took advantage of the new Verizon plans being offered in the fall of 2016 and got a 24 GB plan talk/text/data plan for less money!

Note: We do not use the talk/text feature of this plan because we don’t have a cell phone. However, we signed up for the 24 GB talk/text/data plan because it is cheaper than our former 20 GB data-only plan and it has several key benefits…

This new 24 GB talk/text/data plan has three huge advantages over our old 20 GB data-only plan:

  • Carryover of unused data from one month to the next
  • The fee for the Jetpack itself is just $10 instead of $20
  • There is no surcharge for using the Jetpack in Canada or Mexico (see below)

How cool is that?

Verizon Talk Text Data Plans

.

Changing Plans? Cut to the Chase & Call Verizon!

I always dread calling Verizon (I had terrible experiences with them with a fleet of corproate phones in the mid-1990’s), but in recent years, I’ve found that talking to their sales people has always helped us find a better deal than if I just poked around on their website.

We have changed our plan six times since we first got our Jetpack in 2012, and we have put it on hold or taken it off hold five or six times, and each time we have done it over the phone and been really surprised at how helpful our salesperson has been!

Saving Data by Using Free WiFi Signals

When we want to save data on our plan, we put off our big download operations, like operating systems upgrades that download as much as 1.5 GB of data at once, for when we have access to a free WiFi signal at a library or coffee shop or elsewhere.

We also use Clipgrab on free WiFi signals to download videos so we can watch them from our laptop hard drives later.

Verizon MiFi Jetpack – International Use

The new Verizon talk/text/data plans now allow you to use the MiFi Jetpack in both Canada and Mexico — if you get a 16GB (XL) plan or larger — without paying a surcharge. Using our MiFi Jetpack came in very handy during our travels to the Canadian Rockies in the summer of 2016.

At that time, our old Verizon data-only plan charged us $2 per day for the privilege/convenience of using our Jetpack in Canada. So, for six weeks of RV travel in Canada, we paid a $90 surcharge on top of our usual Verizon bill. At the time that seemed like a pretty good deal, because the year before, in 2015, when we traveled in Nova Scotia, the MiFi Jetpack wouldn’t work in Canada at all, and we had to rely on free WiFi signals the whole time we were in Canada!!

With our new XXL 24GB plan, there is no surcharge at all for using our Jetpack in either Mexico or Canada. That’s even better! Yay!! (And what a godsend that would have been during our sailing cruise of Mexico!).

Internet access in the Gulf of Tehuantepec Mexico

Internet access on a boat at sea in a foreign country is a trip!
Here I hold up my laptop to get a much needed internet weather report while crossing Mexico’s notorious Gulf of Tehuantepec.
It took 21 minutes to download a 604 KB file!!

Putting a Verizon Data Plan on Hold

One handy aspect of Verizon’s plans is that you can put them on hold. We used this feature a lot when we spent months at a time sailing in Mexico because Verizon didn’t offer Mexico access for Jetpacks back in those days.

Seasonal RV travelers may find this comes in handy, as they may not want to use the MiFi Jetpack when they are at home and not out traveling in their RV.

You can put the plan on hold for up to 90 days, at no charge. If you call in again before 90 days is up, you can put it on hold for another 90 days, and so on, indefinitely.

All the days that you put the plan on hold get tacked onto the end of your contract. So, for us, a two year contract took nearly three years to fulfill. When you decide to resume the contract, a simple phone call is all it takes and you are back online immediately. There is a nominal charge for re-instating the contract.

Phone Access – Skype

We use a Skype account for all of our phone needs. Skype is best known for making it possible to make free video calls between people who have Skype accounts. Similar to Apple’s FaceTime, this is a fun way to communicate. It also requires a pretty strong internet signal. If the call begins to falter due to a sketchy internet connection, turning off the video will often perk it back up again.

Skype Image

That’s not generally how we use Skype, however. Instead, we use it to call people on their cell phones and land lines. For $2.99 a month we have an annual subscription service with Skype to call any cell phone or landline in the US or Canada for unlimited minutes. These are outbound phone calls only.

To receive incoming calls requires another step: For $2.50 a month, Skype assigned a phone number to our account that accepts voicemail and appears on our friends’ phones when we call them. Skype sends us an email when a new voicemail comes in. If we are on our computer and it is connected to the internet, we receive incoming phone calls just like a regular phone (the computer’s speaker rings, and you click a button to pick up the call). Skype has an app for mobile devices too, so you can do all this with a tablet, iPad or iPod too.

If you don’t sign up for that service, Skype calls will come into your friends’ phones with a mystifying number that is unrecognizable. We did this for four years, and it was okay. It was a little awkward not having a call-back number when calling a business, but we let them know that we checked our email frequently, and most companies were happy to get back to us via email instead of a phone call. Our friends eventually knew that if a weird number came in on their phone, it was probably us calling!

Tricks for Making Skype Calls

Skype is pretty good for phone calls, but the connection is not always perfect. We’ve gotten used to tipping our MacBook Pro laptops so the microphone is a little closer to our mouths than when it’s down in our lap. The person on the other end is on speaker phone, which can be nice for calling family and friends, if they don’t mind. However, when making an important call to a company, using earbuds makes it easier to hear the other person and takes them off speaker phone if you are in a somewhat public place.

In general, our internet download speed is faster and better than our upload speed, and this affects Skype. Oftentimes, we can hear the person on the other end of the phone much better than they can hear us. One way to improve things is to make sure only one device is on the internet via the MiFi jetpack.  So, if Mark wants to make a call, I have to do something local on my laptop and stop using the internet, and vice versa.

It’s also important that no other internet applications are running on the computer that is making the call. That means turning off the email application, shutting down all browsers and quitting out of anything else that might unexpectedly access the internet and disrupt the phone call.

Wilson Booster – Getting More from our Internet Signal – Kinda

We use a Wilson Sleek 4G Cell Phone Booster which we have permanently mounted in a cabinet alongside a cigarette lighter outlet.

This connects to a Wilson 800/1900 Magnet Mount Antenna. This combo works okay, however, these signal boosters do much more for 4G signals than they do for 3G signals, and we have 3G signals quite a bit of the time.  One note: according to Wilson, the number of bars on the MiFi unit doesn’t necessarily increase even though the signal is improved by the booster. A fun way to see how fast your internet signal is and to keep track of the speeds in different places is to use SpeedTest.Net.

Wilson Antenna on fifth wheel slideout

The higher the antenna, the better.

The folks at Wilson told us it was very important to have the antenna sitting on a piece of metal for grounding purposes, so we bought their suction cup mounted Accessory Kit for Grounding. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a good place to mount the antenna with this suction cup plate because the wires are so short. Someday Mark might replace our outside (and rarely used) radio antenna with the Wilson antenna, but we haven’t done that yet.

Wilson also told us that simply placing the antenna on a 5″ x 5″ sheet of ferrous metal would do the trick, and we searched around for something and discovered our cast iron skillet fit the bill.

We did tests with the antenna to see how much having a grounding plate seemed to matter. We placed the antenna near the ceiling above our slide-out without a metallic plate under it, then set it on our big frying pan on our kitchen counter, and lastly set it on the roof of our truck.

Wilson Antenna on a frying pan

It’s “grounded” as per Wilson’s recommendation, but the signal isn’t as good this low down.

We found having the antenna higher in the air near the ceiling above our slide-out was much more important than placing it on metal.

Although we used this booster a fair bit in 2014 and 2015, we haven’t used it at all in 2016, and we haven’t missed it!

Internet Portability – Driving Tactics and Electronic Maps

Siri — ahhhh. Although we don’t have an iAnything, I am in love with the little Apple genie, Siri, who lives inside iPhones and iPads. However, after lots of soul searching about whether Siri’s companionship would make me happier in our travels, so far I’ve decided that it wouldn’t.

Instead, I get to be Mark’s Siri as he drives, and that’s not a bad gig. He does all the driving in our family (I did almost all the helmsman duty on our boat, so it’s pretty fair). To help out with the RV navigation, I bring the MiFi jetpack and laptop with me into the truck’s passenger’s seat, and I use Google Maps to figure out where we’re going. I don’t get the nifty icon that shows me where we are, so sometimes I have some frantic moments trying to deduce our exact location, but once I’ve got it, I call out the instructions for how to get from here to there.

Our 2016 Ram 3500 truck has a factory installed dash-mounted GPS, but it user friendliness pales by comparison.

So, the overall functionality of a smartphone or tablet is there for us on the road, it’s just a whole lot more clunky.

Using a SmartPhone or Tablet as a Hotspot and More

When our Mifi Jetpack died, I thought the only solution was to get another one. Not so. I have since learned that we could have taken the SIM card out of our old jetpack and put it into a glistening new iPad. We wouldn’t have had to sign up for another 2 years with Verizon when we replaced our dead MiFi jetpack either (which we did when we upgraded to the new MiFi jetpack), since our contract was tied to the SIM card. We could have simply continued on our old plan until it ran out four months later and then reassessed our situation.

Internet Access Resources for RVers

Mobile Internet Handbook for RVers

The Internet Bible for RVers

For us — for now — we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing since it works just fine. In all likelihood, however, our simplistic and minimalistic methods are not getting you fired up with excitement.

As I mentioned above, the Mobile Internet Handbook (available on Kindle and in Paperback) by Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard is the most thorough resource available and is an absolute necessity for anyone that wants to get technical on the road. Prior to starting their full-time RV adventures, Chris was a mobile technology expert, working as Director of Competitive Analysis for Palm and PalmSource (the companies behind the Palm Pilot and Treo). He studied every aspect of mobile phone and tablet technologies and is using that expertise to help RVers today.

The detail this book goes to is staggering. From explaining nationwide versus regional cellular data carriers to getting into the nitty gritty of what “roaming” is all about, and what hotspots and routers really are, to discussing cellular frequency bands and the all important topic of security, this book covers it all.

What’s better, Chris and Cherie continue the discussion and keep it current at their RV Mobile Internet Resource Center, with an accompanying public Facebook discussion group. They are also keeping a list of RV internet strategy blog posts that describe various real-life technology setups that RVers are using. They even offer personal advising sessions where you can find out what the best solution is for your unique situation.

Of course, all of this technology is changing daily. When we started RVing full-time in 2007, we got by with pay phone cards and free WiFi at coffee shops. We were unaware in those days (although we had our suspicions) that cell phones weren’t nearly as smart as their progeny would soon be, and we had no idea just how far the industry would come.

In just a few scant years everything has changed, and who knows where the future will take us!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

For more info on Verizon data plans and Skype, check out these links:

Below are some of our most POPULAR POSTS (also in the MENUS above)

RV UPGRADES, SYSTEMS & TIPS MONEY FULL-TIME RV LIFESTYLE GEAR STORE
  • Gear Store - A list of the goodies, equipment and gear we've found useful in our RV lifestyle!
LIBRARIES of ARTICLES

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts and Quick Pics are in the top MENU above.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

How to Beat the Heat in an RV

There are a lot of ways to beat the heat in summertime when you’re traveling in an RV. The most obvious is simply to head to a cool place when a heat wave hits. Afterall, your home has wheels!

How to Beat the Heat in an RV

.

But there are other things you can do to prevent the sun from baking the interior of your home, even if you don’t have electrical hookups to run the air conditioner. And if it does get unbearably sultry, and you do need to run the A/C from a portable gas generator, there are some tricks we’ve learned to make it possible…

GO SOMEWHERE COOL – In the MOUNTAINS, FAR NORTH and/or NEAR WATER

Cooler places are located either in high elevations, and/or up north, and/or by a big body of water — the ocean or a lake.

This may seem simplistic, but places in the eastern states like Acadia National Park in Maine, where you might get out on a boat, or the White Mountains in New Hampshire where you might catch a cool train ride to the top, are good bets.

Moraine Lake Rocky Mountains in Canada

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park is a cool place, even mid-summer.

In the west, the key to temperature is elevation. Many folks who are new to the western states are surprised to find out that there can be a 20 degree difference in temperature between two places that are just 150 miles apart.

For instance, Phoenix, Arizona (1,100′ elevation), is 20 degrees hotter than Flagstaff, Arizona (6,900′ elevation). And the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (9,000′ elevation), (about 200 miles further away) can easily be another 10 degrees cooler than that.

Likewise, Stanley, Idaho is about 15 degrees cooler than Boise, Idaho. It is just a few hours north but is 3,500′ higher up.

In Utah, Zion National Park (3000′ elevation) is 10 degrees hotter than Bryce National Park (9,000′ elevation), and if that’s still a little toasty, a run up to Cedar Breaks National Monument (10,000′ elevation) will be just a bit cooler still.

RV in mountains and trees

Camping near trees in the mountains is pretty cool!

Generally, you can’t go wrong in the Rocky Mountains, and a trip to Ouray, Colorado (7,700′), or Banff National Park in Canada will definitely be much cooler than most other places when a heat wave buries North America.

Similarly, the coasts enjoy wonderfully cool sea breezes. The whole west coast, from San Diego to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington is much much cooler than the communities that lie directly inland (over the coastal mountains), 150 miles from the coast.

Go to the beach to stay cool in summer

Life is definitely cool at the beach (Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint, Idaho)!

Bandon, Oregon, on the Pacific coast is 15 degrees cooler than Bend, Oregon, which is in the inland desert, baking away behind the range of coastal mountains that stop the flow of cool air coming in from the Pacific.

If the ocean isn’t easily accessible, spending time near a big lake can do the trick.

Play in the water to stay cool in summer

Want to get cool? Find your inner child and play in the water with a toy wagon.

Large lakes offer “sea breezes” in the afternoons, and many lakeside towns have fantastic waterfronts, like Seneca Falls, New York, in the Finger Lakes, and McCall, Idaho, on Payette Lake.

GO SOMEWHERE COOL IN TOWN

The worst part of the day is the late afternoon and evening, and that’s a great time to get out of the rig. A late afternoon or early evening outdoor picnic under a shady tree in a place with a breeze or cool grassy lawn will work wonders. A trip to the air conditioned library or bookstore with a little cafe inside can be a delightful change of pace.

A hot afternoon is a perfect time to take in a matinee at the local cinema. If the laundromat is air conditioned, the heat of the afternoon might be the time to get that chore done, or if your laundry is already clean, doing the week’s grocery shopping could give you an hour or two of air conditioned respite at the supermarket.

HOW TO RUN a 15K BTU RV AIR CONDITIONER with a YAMAHA 2400i GENERATOR

Sometimes, it’s just too darned hot to survive without air conditioning, and in that case it’s really nice to turn it on.

We boondock every night, and we have just 490 watts of solar power on our RV roof and 434 amp-hours of battery capacity in the basement.

Yamaha 2400i portable gas generator for RV

Our generator gets a good workout a few times a year running our 15k BTU air conditioner.

Dometic RV Air Conditioner 15k BTU

This RV roof AC unit takes some oomph to run!

So, the only way we can get air conditioning in our trailer is to drag out our Yamaha 2400i gas generator and set it up to run our Coleman 15,000 BTU air conditioner.

Some folks say this can’t be done, but we’ve been doing it for years.

We use a variety of adapters to plug the generator into the shore power outlet on the outside of the rig.

To get from the 15 amp outlet on the generator to our shore power outlet on the outside of our trailer, we could use one adapter plus the shore power cord:

50 amp Female to 15 amp Male dogbone adapter

15 amp Male to 50 amp Female dogbone adapter (15 amp Male plugs into generator)

50 amp 125 : 250 volt RV shore power cord

50 amp 125-250 volt RV shore power cord (50 amp Male plugs into dogbone above)

However, when we first bought our trailer, we stayed at an RV park that had a 30 amp pedestal that didn’t match our 50 amp shore power cord, so we had to buy an adapter. Making good use of that adapter with our generator now, we use two adapters plus our shore power cord when we connect to the generator:

30 amp Female to 15 amp Male dogbone adapter

15 amp Male to 30 amp Female dogbone adapter
(15 amp Male plugs into generator)

50 amp Female to 30 amp Male RV dogbone adapter

30 amp Male to 50 amp Female to RV dogbone adapter
(30 amp Male plugs into previous dogbone)

50 amp 125-250 volt RV shore power cord

50 amp 125-250 volt RV shore power cord
(50 amp Male plugs into previous dogbone)

When the generator is powering the RV this way, the generator supplies power to the converter inside the trailer (or inverter/charger), which charges the batteries as efficiently as possible using a multi-stage charging algorithm (if the converter or inverter/charger is a “smart” charger).

Our 2400 watt generator is able to power our 15K BTU air conditioner just fine. However it sometimes takes a little coaxing to get it to fire up because there is a big spike when the air conditioner’s compressor first turns on. Over the years, we’ve learned that the trick to persuading it to run is the following:

  1. Run the generator for a few minutes with no load and make sure it is warmed up
    (also make sure the hot water heater and fridge are set to “gas” and no other electrical appliances are running)
  2. On the air/heat control unit, set the Fan button to High On
  3. Set the System button to Fan and let it run for a few minutes
  4. Set the System button to Cool and listen to the compressor come on
Coleman RV air conditioning control unit

Make sure the genny is warm and let it power the fan on high for a while first… THEN switch on the A/C.

Sta-Bil Gas stabilizer

Keeps the gas in the genny fresh

If the last step trips the breaker on the generator, set the System button back to Off, restart the generator and try again.

On a few occasions it has taken us 2-3 tries to get the air conditioner going. However, most of the time it fires up on the first try.

We always run it for 4-6 hours when we turn it on, and it purrs along just fine. However, we run the air conditioning just a few days each year. The rest of the time we stay cool using other means.

To keep the gas in the generator (and in the gas can) fresh and to ensure quick starts after storage and to prevent gumming and varnish, Mark puts the stabilizer Sta-Bil Gas stabilizer in the gas.

POSITION THE RV
— BIGGEST WINDOWS FACE NORTH and SMALLEST WINDOWS FACE WEST

The toughest time of day is the afternoon when the sun is in the southwest and western sky and is slowly baking the RV. Sometimes it seems to take forever for the sun to set while everything inside the rig quietly fries!

No matter what the wall and roof insulation R-factor is for an RV, the windows are where all the heat comes in. So, keeping them shaded as much as possible throughout the day makes all the difference in the world.

Every rig has a different arrangement of windows, but if you can position the biggest ones to face north or east and the smallest ones (or the wall with no windows if you have one) towards the west and southwest, the difference to the interior temperature will be astonishing.

If there is a way to block the afternoon sun entirely by parking next to shade trees or a building, that is even better.

SET UP THE RV AWNING

Even if the awning will only shade a small part of the RV’s walls and windows for a few hours of the day, this is still helpful! When an RV wall gets hot, you can feel the warmth on the inside of the rig. And you can especially feel it in the cabinets. There’s nothing like a hot bottle of olive oil in the kitchen pantry!

Shade from RV awning

Even though it’s shading just one small window, the awning is keeping the whole wall cool.

Modern rigs have wonderful powered awnings, but ours is the old fashioned manual crank type of awning. The other day we heard two RVers complaining about how putting these old awnings out was really difficult and was a two man job.

It’s actually not that bad, and Mark does it by himself in just a few minutes. Here are the steps:

How to set up RV awning - loosen handle

1. Unscrew the knob on the back of each awning arm.

How to set up RV awning - undo clip

2. Open the clip right above the knob on each awning arm

How to set up RV awning - use tool to lower lever

3. Use the awning tool to open the lever on the roller

How to set up RV awning - lower lever

4. Pull down on the lever to open it.

How to set up RV awning - lever in lowered position

The roller lever is now in the down position.

How to set up RV awning - hook awning loop

5. Use the awning tool to pull out the awning by grabbing the webbing loop

How to set up RV awning - pull awning out

6. Pull the awning part way out with the awning tool

How to set up RV awning - lower awning completely

7. Grab the webbing and pull the awning out the rest of the way

How to set up RV awning - Close RV door handle

8. Close the RV door handle to get it out of the way

How to set up RV awning - Pull awning arm out

9. Slide out the awning arm in its track

How to set up RV awning - Tighten down awning arm

10. Pushing down on the awning arm to keep the canvas taught, tighten the knob.

How to set up RV awning - Tighten down other awning arm

Do this on both sides

How to set up RV awning - Raise awning

11. Open the big awning handle to raise the awning up.

If it looks like it might rain, position one side of the awning a little lower than the other so the water will drain off of the awning.

When Mark closes up the awning for travel, he puts velcro straps around the arms to keep them from accidentally opening as we travel.

Another neat awning trick is to get an awning shade extension that drops from the edge of the awning to the ground. This provides shade from touching the rig even when the sun is at a low angle.

INSULATE THE WINDOWS and HATCHES INSIDE

The day/night shades in most RVs are great for reducing sunshine in the rig, but do little for eliminating the heat that pours in through the glass and metal frame.

RV window in summer heat

Pulling down our night shades doesn’t block much direct sunlight.

We cut Reflectix, which is a bubble wrap kind of aluminum foil that comes in a huge roll, to fit each window (a pair of scissors is all you need). We labeled each piece for the window it fits into.

Reflectix rolled up to keep RV cool in summer

Reflectix picks up where RV insulation leaves off…

We raise the RV’s day/night shades, press the piece of Reflectix against the window, and then lower the shade to hold the Reflectix in place.

RV window in summer heat with Reflectix

A layer of Reflectix behind the shade blocks all the sun!

RV Vent Insulator

When leaving the trailer, we close the hatches
and put vent insulators in them.

In our big rear window we jam a pillow under the large piece of Reflectix to hold it up. Otherwise it would drop to the floor.

If we are going to leave the rig for a while, we close all the windows and put an RV Vent Insulator in each of the roof vents. It is amazing to come home after many hours of running around to find that the rig is still fairly cool inside.

However, if we are planning to stay home, we don’t like to live in a tomb, so we have another strategy using fans and open windows that allows us to have some ambient light coming in…

STAY COOL WITH FANS

We rely on two different types of fans to stay cool.

Vent Fans

We have a Fan-tastic Vent Fan in two of our trailer’s four roof hatches. These are designed to push a maximum amount of air in or out of the rig. We set them to push the air out of the rig, and then we open the windows on the shaded side of the trailer to let the cool air from outside come in.

Fan-tastic Fan in RV hatch

Fan-tastic Fan in an RV hatch

If we were to replace our Fan-tastic Fans, or if we wanted to upgrade another hatch to one of these or a similar type of vent fan, we would choose a very simple model that does just the basics.

Our Fan-tastic Fans are whiz-bang models with remote control, rain-sensing, auto-opening, auto-closing, slicing and dicing and who knows what else. Unfortunately, they have minds of their own, and they won’t listen to reason.

They auto open and auto close at the weirdest times, they don’t necessarily know when it’s raining, and they make it impossible for the mechanically challenged (ahem…me) to turn them on or off or to open and close them. There are way too many buttons that do way too many different things.

Also, Mark has had to rebuild various parts of both of these fans, and by the colorful flow of expletives I heard him let loose on these jobs, I would gather that it was not easy.

Portable Fans

While vent fans help move fresh air through the rig by forcing hot air out the vents and pulling cool air in through the windows, portable fans are a godsend to aim right at you when you start reaching the boiling point.

We have a standalone, portable 12 volt Fan-tastic Endless Breeze Fan (and DC extension cord) so we can move it around the rig.

Fan-tastic Endless Breeze Fan

A 12 volt fan may seem necessary, but…

We got this fan in Quartzsite one year for our (not yet purchased) sailboat and we’ve used it a lot in the years since then. But it is extremely noisy. Forget trying to sleep with it running nearby! It’s also kind of silly to spend so much money on a 12 volt fan when a smaller and quieter 120 volt fan will do just as good a job, if not better, for a fraction of the cost. All you need is an inverter.

Portable fan in RV to keep cool

…A small, quiet, cheap portable fan will run on an inverter just fine!

Our little portable fan is terrific, but there are lots of portable fans in all kinds of styles that are just as good.

MAKE ICY DRINKS!

Last of all, there’s nothing that can cool down your body temp like an ice cold drink. A smoothie in a blender tastes wonderful and can bring your core temp down quite a bit. We make ice using old fashioned ice cube trays in our freezer, and we use a few cubes and frozen fruit in our smoothies to ensure they are as cold as possible.

Our Osterizer blender draws 1000 watts, which is well within the limit for our 2,000 watt pure sine wave inverter.

Osterizer blender and frozen berries for smoothie to keep cool in RV in summer

Smoothie time – Get cool with lots of ice and frozen fruit!!

Those are a few of our tips for surviving the dog days of summer in our RV without hookups. It can take a little finagling and strategy, but these things have kept us cool in our trailer for ten summers now!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Below are some of our most POPULAR POSTS (also in the MENUS above)

RV UPGRADES, SYSTEMS & TIPS MONEY FULL-TIME RV LIFESTYLE GEAR STORE
  • Gear Store - A list of the goodies, equipment and gear we've found useful in our RV lifestyle!
LIBRARIES of ARTICLES

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.