WheRVe we been? Our travels, 2nd quarter 2021

I’m pretty sure you could figure out our travel path from April-June if I just tell you about the food. We went from Amish baked goods, to dairy products, to corn, to tacos, back through corn, to trail mix, to potatoes.

If you’re not as food motivated or fascinated as I am, here’s the map to help you out.

We started on the east side of this Y shape and went from IN to WI to IA to OK to TX, and then right back up through OK & KS to NE to CO (our 44th RVisited state) to UT to ID.
RV miles traveled this quarter: about 4600 
(Map does not reflect exact routing.)

Indiana

The RV spent a little over 2 weeks having yet more kinks worked out at the DRV Factory Service center in Howe (our 4th warranty visit), and the two of us spent that time in two hotels and one historic state park lodge.

They weren’t quite ready for spring yet in northern Indiana.
April 1st brought snow for us fools.
You know you’re in Amish country when there’s designated buggy parking at the Walmart…
… and mmmmmm donuts are the reward for a bicycle ride along the Pumpkinvine Trail.
When we learned that repairs to the RV would stretch into another week, we decided to switch up our accommodations. Goodbye, generic roadside stay-suites; hello historic Potawatomi Inn.
By the time we left Indiana, spring had arrived for real.
So what’d we do?
Rolled even farther north, where spring was trying hard to show up, but hadn’t quite made it yet.

Wisconsin

One of Tim’s cousins had bought some rural property just before the pandemic hit, and we were finally able to visit. Worked out well for all of us: we got free dry camping, and Cousin D got help framing living and work spaces into one end of his new pole barn.

Moochdocking on the front 40
It’s… well… there’s really no other way to put this.
It’s two white guys building a wall.
And yes, you can laugh, because sometimes a wall is just a wall, and has nothing to do with politics, and even if my sense of humor isn’t for everybody, I still think we could all stand a good chuckle.
Laugh, dammit.
It wasn’t what I’d call ice cream weather in Wisconsin in mid-April, but there was a dairy just a few miles away, and the cheese curds we bought were for lunch, so I still needed a dessert — you know, to keep my meal balanced.

Iowa

We had to start heading back to Texas for some commitments in May, and since Iowa was on the way and was still on our “need to visit” list and some good friends were already staying at an RV park there? No brainer.

We’ve known full-time RVers Andrea & Shawn of 40foothouse for a couple of years, and have deliberately crossed paths in several states since then. We have a tradition of snapping selfies in front of oversized objects, so in Iowa we went extra corny.

Texas

We’d only been away from our home base since January, but May brought family birthdays, a graduation, a wedding, a relocation, and a lot of other stuff in between. We had the time, the will, and the wheels, so we went!

First task: helping our younger son move from Austin to Bryan/College Station.
Not sure the BFT has ever towed anything that petite!
We also volunteered for a couple of days at an Escapees Co-op RV park near Hondo, after disaster struck. A night of intense wind and hail storms totaled numerous buildings and vehicles, and we felt called to assist our own.
Click here for that story.
In Texas, we eat tacos.
And if our amigos Phil & Stacy of You, Me & the RV are in town, we get a table for 4.
And we also ate cake — three in two days!
Our niece graduated from high school the same day as Emily’s mom’s birthday, and the next day a friend’s daughter got married.
Yeah, that was a lot of frosting. But who wants to celebrate a big occasion with salad?

Nebraska

We wanted to check the Cornhusker State off our list, but we were headed from Texas to Colorado, and it’s not exactly on the way. So we said screw it. There were people we wanted to see badly enough to make the detour.

Footbridge work is fun. Race ya!
If you’re interested in other work we’ve done with A Year to Volunteer, and how you can get involved too, start here.

Colorado

By visiting the Centennial State, we’ve filled in all the “big ones” in the lower 48, and now have only four little Eastern Seaboarders left (NJ, DE, RI, CT).

A funny thing happened when we decided to hit Colorado.
I asked our friends Marc & Julie of RV Love if they’d be around, and to heavily paraphrase their response, they said, “YES! Come play with us! Just keep going west over the mountains!”
So we did
(Photo: J. Bennett)
And then a funny thing happened on the way to the western slopes.
I looked out the window from our pitstop site at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, and the chillest dog in America was looking right back at me.
It took some time for me to regain my composure, and I think the only way to explain this is that you can’t spell cool without CO.
Our chips definitely knew we were at elevation.
Luckily I’ve learned a trick or two in our travels, and I remembered to loosen things like condiment lids and the flip tops to our toiletries very slowly to let the air out without a messy explosion.
Forgot about the chip bags in the pantry though, so let me be the first to advise you that Fritos make terrible confetti.
Speaking of explosions, late one night at the campground, Tim heard the unmistakable sound of water spraying.
Turns out a gasket in the kitchen sink faucet had failed, and water was shooting all over the place. Tim’s quick dash outside to shut off our city water connection saved us from major damage, and his fixit skills and tool collection saved us from a major repair bill.
And that’s why I’m going to sneak in a plug for RV Love’s new book here. It’s called “RV HACKS: 400+ Ways to Make Life on the Road Easier, Safer, and More Fun!” and we’ve both got tips published in it.
Tim’s is in the Repairs & Maintenance section, and mine’s in RV Living.
Release date is next week, and we can’t wait to get our hands on a copy!
(Not an ad. We gain nothing from your click or purchase.)
Our campground was situated within striking distance of several stunning hiking areas…
… and that’s why I chose trail mix as the designated food for this state along our path. We went through the better part of a large bag.
We closed out our visit to Colorado with day trips to two of its national parks. This is the view from Warner Point at Black Canyon of the Gunnison
And this is a view from Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument.

Idaho

We arrived in Coeur d’Alene at the end of June, and we’ll stay for about 3 weeks. Tim went to high school here, and the roots still run deep. Not a day has gone by without spending time with old friends, and his parents have just arrived in town for a visit as well. I know I should be capturing all the smiles in photographs, but I’ve been trying to set my phone aside and focus more on soaking up these moments together. Plus, most of these moments involve food (including Idaho potatoes in a multitude of glorious forms), and who wants to pose while grinning dopily around a mouthful of spuds?

Where to next?

We’ll head to Washington first, to visit our older son on the Olympic Peninsula, do a little hiking, and soak up some adventure at yet another “summer camp for grownups” at the Escapees Cascade Mountains Hangout. That’s not their term; it’s one I chose to describe the program after our first Hangout, nearly two years ago in Maine. In late August, we head east to Montana for the Escapees Glacier Country Hangout.

We’ve been to both locations before, but we find it hard to resist the allure of group events for which everything is planned and organized by someone else — stuff we wouldn’t normally arrange on our own — and all we have to do is pay our money and show up. We don’t even have to find a place to stay; the campground or RV park is reserved in advance, and we know exactly what we’re getting when we roll in. Full-time RV life is not a vacation. Hangouts are!

We haven’t figured out September yet, and I’ll fill you in on October’s plans in my next quarterly update. Until then, you can check up on us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go.


We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

Help, humor, and hope: giving back to our own

On April 28, an over-55 RV park west of San Antonio was shattered to bits during devastating wind, rain, and hail storms, including an EF1 tornado that touched down nearby.

Miraculously, there were no fatalities, and only one injury that required an ER visit,
but most personal vehicles and RVs were total losses.

Although we’ve never stayed at this park, it is affiliated with the Escapees RV Club, and as Escapees members, we felt called to lend a hand to this branch of our RVing family. (Coincidentally, it was this time last year that we spent a month in service at the Escapees Care Center in Livingston, TX.)

This announcement on Facebook was our first alert, and the news video at this link added jarring visual evidence of the loss.

We happened to arrive in the area (our home base) the week after the storm, and were able to spend a couple of days working on site. Many volunteers had preceded us, so by the time we arrived on Day 9, much of the large debris had been placed in dumpsters already.

There was still more to clear, and we did a lot of that, but we found that one of the most valuable services we could provide was listening. The residents needed to tell their stories from that terrifying night; needed to tell us how much they’d been helped by volunteers; how they appreciated losing only things, not lives.

The hailstones were softball size and larger.
One was measured at 6.4″ in diameter — a record setter.
We saw tow trucks and insurance adjusters coming and going all day long, both days we were on the property.

Almost all the residents we spoke with said they were thankful they didn’t have it as bad as some of the others. We saw what they were dealing with. Just who were these others who had it worse?

Maybe it was because we weren’t on the scene until several days had passed, but we were surprised by the community members’ senses of resiliency, positivity — and even humor. They were in it together, holding each other up, cracking jokes about taking margarita breaks (at 10:30 in the morning), and making light of getting the job done, just slowly, due to age and associated infirmities.

“We can’t thank you enough for coming out here and doing this.”

“It’s… We just wanted… You’re welcome. This time, it wasn’t us. Someday, it could be.”

a typical exchange with residents as we worked
We borrowed the park’s trailer and began picking up piles of debris that had not yet been collected. There was a lot of metal roofing, sodden carpeting, plastic shards, and even ruined personal belongings like books, puzzles, and home decor.
Heartbreaking.
One of the two dumpsters brought in for storm debris was full when we got there.
Three trailer loads later, we’d topped off the second.
He wins at Garbage Can Jenga here at home, because I always cave way before he does.
He wasn’t going to be the one to dump that dumpster either.
(If the video doesn’t load, try refreshing the page. I have the same issue with my browser, and no earthly idea how to fix it. Sorry.)
Some owners were offsite for the season when the storm hit.
We covered a few shed windows and vents with plastic, and hoped for the best.
Those are the crumbs of an RV window on this couple’s wheelchair ramp. The floors inside were peppered with them as well.
Most lots are covered with gravel, not grass, and picking out all the shattered glass will take… well… maybe scraping it all off with a bulldozer and spreading fresh is the way to go.
We saw lots of places where hail had punctured exterior walls.
We also saw one instance of hailstones having fallen with such force that they came through an RV bathroom skylight and punctured an interior wall.
Damage at every turn
A few residents asked for our help clearing yard waste.
Those who were still physically able to stoop, bend, reach, lift, and climb prior to the storms had reached their limit by the time we showed up a week later.
So we raked (and stooped, and bent, and reached, lifted and climbed).
And I got a good reminder that I should have worn boots on that first day.
See those slashes across both shoe tops?
I must have dragged a piece of metal roofing across my feet.
Dummy. And a lucky one at that!
Next trip out, I wore my boots.
Community Support
A nearby business, the Graff 7A Ranch, has served multiple meals to their RV park neighbors since the storm struck, setting up a cafeteria-style line in the park’s clubhouse so that the residents don’t have to travel.
They are charging nothing.
And these business owners were hit by the same storms, and are dealing with clean-up and repair issues of their own.
I can’t even.

The level and amount of destruction we saw certainly filled our minds with our own what-ifs.

What if we lost our home tomorrow? With our full physical capabilities and financial stability, we’d start over, and eventually recover, with ample time ahead of us to appreciate the lessons learned and the blessings of a new beginning. 

But what if it happened when we were closer to our 80’s, when neither physical nor financial strength are assured? When it might be only one of us left able or alive to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster? How would we begin again? How could we?

No answer. I have no answer to that. These folks probably didn’t either, and I’m sure they handle their “one step at a time” better during some hours than others.

One gentleman needed our help moving some furniture out of his ruined RV and into the outbuilding on his lot. He was unwell. He was living alone.

And yet, he offered to compensate us for our assistance.

We declined.

He insisted, and as the hand holding his wallet began to tremble, we realized that turning him down would likely add to his grief rather than alleviate it, so we told him we’d be stopping at a Dairy Queen for treats on the way home, and that if he’d like to pay for those, we would gratefully accept a few dollars. That earned us a smile.

I don’t think he knew that it was Mother’s Day. 

I also don’t think he knew how he was going to get through the next day. 

But rewarding his helpers was something he could do, while facing so many things he couldn’t.

Blizzards.
After helping people clean up from a tornado.
Um. Way to adhere to a theme?

Surviving such devastation takes more strength and patience than I can imagine, and so does enduring the lengthy and confusing insurance claims process, not to mention the hassle of finding new cars and RVs in which to start over — to start over at age 70 or even older.

I’d also argue that it takes strength to accept assistance. Our hope is that we helped the people of the Alamo Area SKP Co-Op/Lone Star Corral feel just a little stronger this week.