We have reached the anniversary of hitting the road: our first year of traveling. Tom retired July 31, 2014, and we headed out of Akron the next week.
Where have we been? My tech adviser made this very nice map for me. You can click on any of the markers and see a blog post related to the area. We have been in 25 states, with our longest stay the three months in Death Valley, California. Several of the states only got a short stay and didn’t even get a blog post (yet). We have been in several states more than once (Ohio, Nevada, Kansas).
And what have we learned from all this moving about?
First, planning is very important when you are driving a big rig. Tom and I can’t really do “spur of the moment” or “off the beaten track” when we are towing the Fifth Wheel. We have a combined length of 55 feet between the RV and the truck and we are 13′ 4″ tall. Before we move we look at satellite views, check the Rand McNally Motor Carriers Atlas, and my Allstays app which includes overpass heights. If we are traveling in the mountains, we also look at our Mountain Directory so we know about any steep grades we will encounter. So far we have only been surprised once – when we got off I-93 in New Hampshire to get to the I-495 bypass, we had an underpass that was only 13′ 6″ tall and wasn’t listed on my Allstays app! Tom drove on the taller side of the underpass and we squeaked through. Surprises while we are towing are not a good thing.
Second, two weeks of “sightseeing” is about all I can handle at one time. Tom and I didn’t embark on the full-timing lifestyle to be selfish. We like being with people and helping folks. So we set up our volunteering and visiting times to break up what would otherwise become monotonous travel and sightseeing. We did a couple of Habitat for Humanity builds last fall and enjoyed helping rehab and build homes and getting to know the people we worked with. We went to RVers Boot Camp. We spent some time getting the RV repaired in Kansas. We volunteered at Death Valley. We have done building projects, moving days, and time being helpful to family and friends in Ohio.
Third, as much as I love him, Tom cannot be my only social outlet, and I cannot be his. We are very much enjoying extended time together. We love working together and playing together. But we also need time with other people. During our month in New England, three weeks have been spent with friends. When we are in Ohio, we spend most of our time with family and friends. When we do our volunteer work, we enjoy getting to meet new people, some of whom become good friends in just a short amount of time. I also have friends and family that I text, e-mail, and phone on a regular basis. If Tom and I spend too much time together without interacting with anyone else, we both get on each other’s nerves. So don’t feel like you are bothering me if you call, e-mail, text, or come to visit. We love spending time with others now that we have the leisure to enjoy the time together.
Fourth, we have found something interesting every place we have gone. People ask us what our favorite place is that we have been, and it is a hard question to answer. Is it the barren, yet full-of-unexpected-life of Death Valley? Is it the spectacular red rocks and mountains of Utah? Is it the lush greenery of Massachusetts? Is it the wide blue ocean or the high granite mountains? Is it the comfortable familiarity of Ohio? Our favorite place is all those. We try to enjoy wherever we are: to find the unique personality and appearance that make each place special. This last week is a good example. We have been in central Massachusetts, which no one calls a vacation destination – people only stop here on their way to someplace else – but we have found new and interesting places to hike, seen the Grand Canyon of Massachusetts, had some fabulous ice cream, and renewed an important friendship.
Finally, people ask what else is on our “to-see” bucket list. We are looking forward to spending time in Tennessee / Georgia / South Carolina this fall. We would also like to spend more time in northern California, Oregon, and Washington state. We would love to spend a summer exploring Canada from shore to shore (or maybe several summers). But the most important thing to us isn’t where we are going, it is enjoying the place and each other as we celebrate the journey each day. Where would you recommend we go? What is on your “must-see” list? What is your favorite place? Where would you return if you could?
This is not a perfect life – I’ve been working on a future post that details some “bumps” along the road. But for Tom and me, at this time in our lives, this journey is one that is feeding our souls. We are showered with blessings each day, not least of which is enjoying this journey together. Our first year of traveling – may it be followed by many more.