We have achieved a milestone, we have been full-time RVers now for five years. Overall it has been great but not without challenges. No matter which way you look at the dates, we have been on the road for five years. For the last five years, we have been traveling non-stop. Sorry, that last statement isn’t true, we stopped many times, in fact in the last five years we have stopped more than four hundred times.
As you can tell from the map pictured at the top of this article we are not done. We have visited only twenty-eight states. Granted they are the largest twenty-eight states, but that is only slightly more than half. Next year we plan on adding only one more (big) state. Which big state?
The biggest blank spot on our map is the northeast part of the country. The northeast is going to have to wait. There is that one, really big state that we haven’t visited. Next summer we are planning on taking our RV to Alaska.
Here are some highlights of our journey.
2017 Solar Eclipse
Our first trip was to see the total eclipse and it was a fast trip. Here is a link to the story. 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
With regards to this story, we include the trip to Idaho and then back to San Diego as part of the grand totals. During the 2017 trip, we stayed in eight different campsites. We launched our trip from the storage lot where our RV was parked and ended the trip at the same storage lot. This trip was sixteen days long and we traveled 2114 miles in the RV. It was both wonderful and exhausting.
The plan and the execution didn’t match. Making the shift to becoming a full-time RVer isn’t a simple task. The plan was to sell the house and move into the RV. That obviously looks like what we did but really we didn’t execute the plan and move into the RV until the end of 2017. Overall it took us more than six months to prepare and sell the house and then after that move into the RV. So even though I include the 2017 trip in August 2017 as part of our journey, we didn’t count ourselves as full-time RVers until December five years ago.
We were so impressed with the solar eclipse that in 2024 we are going to try to see an even longer, perhaps even better solar eclipse. Here is a link to the plan 2024 Solar Eclipse
2018 Full-time RVers
The real start of being full-time RVers started in December 2017. Here is what we did between August (solar eclipse) and December. Our first night in the RV was interrupted by a wildfire. Our First Night
At the start of 2018, we were full-time RVers but had not yet left San Diego. Our first reserved campground had to be canceled due to a wildfire on Camp Pendelton. That very first day that we were going to move into our RV we had to get a hotel, the RV was still in storage with dead batteries. Before Christmas 2017 we were full-time RVers with zero miles traveled and zero nights in our RV. This was going to change soon enough.
It wasn’t until February 2018 that we left San Diego. Until then it was better to stay and finish getting ready. We had put the last of our sticks and bricks house into a five by ten mini storage locker. The most important thing(s) in storage were family pictures. We stored the other stuff just in case we might need it. Two years later we couldn’t remember what was in there. Here is a picture of our third “full-time RV” campsite.
How did we decide to be full-time RVers? Here is a link to the story about how we got started. A Tiny Spark Started the Fire
In 2018 we departed San Diego on February 25 heading east. In 2018 we didn’t have reservations or really even a plan. By the end of the year, we traveled 6718 miles and during the year, we stayed in 88 campgrounds. I call the 2018 Route Wandering the West at the end of the year we were back in San Diego.
It was sometime during 2018 that I decided that text messages and emails to family members would make a good foundation for this blog.
2019 Western States Grand Loop
The most important thing we learned in 2018 is that desirable campsites are reserved during the summer on weekends. This fact made much of our summer of 2018 travel as full-time RVers more difficult. Our stay in Joshua Tree National Park was at the Jumbo Rocks Campground. Our visit to Joshua Tree was one of our first boondocking stops as full-time RVers.
In 2019 we did a much better job getting ahead of the summer rush although we still ended up having some weekend issues. The first thing that we learned in 2019 was that winter in Arizona and New Mexico can be much like Colorado. This was our first introduction to cold and windy.
Overall in 2019, we traveled 7138 miles and during the year, we stayed in 85 campgrounds. We ended the year at Seal Beach in Orange County California heading towards San Diego.
2020 Was a rough year to be a full-time RVer
The first part of 2020 was good enough, we sold our old 2013 RV and replaced it with an even older but much nicer RV. We also had lots of experience and knew enough to stay in the desert at lower elevations to help stay warm. We were in Las Vegas when the Covid Pandemic shut down travel and had a good place to stay. So for the first time (and the only time) we lived in an RV, as full-time RVers, and didn’t travel. The first day the temperature hit 100 degrees we left Las Vegas. We just couldn’t stay there and bake all summer.
In 2020 we were going to spend two months in Oregon — Oregon shut down all travel and canceled all our reservations. We made the best of it and even though it was difficult we were able to see northern Idaho and a small part of Glacier National Park.
Overall in 2020, we traveled 6818 miles. Before the end of the year, we stayed in 69 campgrounds. We ended the year in Tucson Arizona.
A note about the Pandemic: We took it seriously and still take it seriously. I am convinced that the riskiest thing we did was to go to a grocery store and buy food. I also think that the safest thing we did was travel away from people. So far we have not had Covid 19. Since 2020 I have had only one head cold. We were so surprised that Tami made me take a Covid test even though I didn’t have any Covid symptoms. For us, full-time RVing has been a very healthy lifestyle.
2021 South and east as far as the road goes
In 2021 we were getting restless. We had stayed in the western states (I call them “cowboy states”) for four years. Even though we had not seen every cowboy state yet, we were ready for a big change. So, we went to the east, focusing on the southern states. Were the southern states like a Hollywood TV show, stuck in their backwoods ways? Were people still making moonshine in the woods? Was Florida as nice in the winter as the rest of the states were in mid-summer? We wanted to know.
Overall the southeast was wonderful. We did a good job exploring Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. I would give our tip an above-average grade in Florida if you include the rest of the investigation that winter. As for the rest of the southern states, we went there and we need to go back for more exploring.
Overall in 2021, we traveled 5433 miles. During the year, we stayed in 76 campgrounds. We celebrated the arrival of the new year in Key West.
2022 Corner to corner across the USA
We were as far southeast as the road goes on New Year’s day in 2022 and we had been thinking about a plan. How hard would it be to cross the country from the southeast corner of Florida to the northwest corner of Washington? When we stopped in 2021 we stopped in Key West because we ran out of road.
What would it be like to cross the country from corner to corner? One way to find out. Would this be a good plan? To make it a good plan we needed to get to the corner in Washington with plenty of time to go south for the winter. We knew that the weather would be a problem if we stayed in Washington.
For people who closely follow the blog, this post represents a fast-forward move to real-time. Our last post was about northern Oregon and now we are in San Diego. As you know, we didn’t get here all in one day. So after this post, I will be jumping back to all the stories I missed as I jumped to real-time for this post.
Our 2022 trip wasn’t as far as it looks. During our trip from Key West to San Diego via Washington in 2022, we traveled 7166 miles. Before the end of the year, we stayed in 76 campgrounds. We will celebrate the arrival of the new year in San Diego (where we are now). Our plan for New Year’s day is to start driving north. Why? In 2023 we are heading for Alaska.
Alaska is a place you don’t want to arrive too early but it requires you to start moving north early. Really our first extended location will be in Arizona waiting for spring before moving to the north just as the grass starts turning green along the way.
Grand totals during our full-time RV journey
In our four years of full-time RVing, we have traveled 35,387 miles. Our average miles per year is 7077. So last year our 2022 total was about average for us. Overall in six years, we consumed about 4400 gallons of fuel including our 2017 trip. The math works out that this was about 730 gallons per year. Total fuel costs for our RV thus were $2600 per year.
Overall our camping costs were just over $9100 per year. Both RV fuel and camping costs thus add up to $11,500 per year or $32 per day. 2022 was more expensive than the previous years as both fuel and camping costs increased. 2023 is going to be much more expensive for fuel on our way to and in Alaska.
Could we spend less and still be full-time RV travelers? Sure, both fuel and camping costs could be reduced as full-time RV travelers especially if we didn’t travel so far and if spent more time in inexpensive locations. But, we are travelers, and sometimes, even though it is against my nature, you have to spend more, depending on the location.
Our largest single day of travel was in 2017 on our way to the solar eclipse. It was 322 miles all in one very long day. Our shortest travel day was moving from an in-town RV park to a campsite outside of town. That was in Bluff Utah. On that day we moved four miles and then stayed for an additional week exploring southeast Utah.
Our longest three-day back-to-back journey was also in 2017 when we cracked off 957 miles in three days. As full-time RVers in 2021, crossing from El Paso through west Texas, we put together another big number on a three-day journey of 831 miles. On our trip across west Texas, we also spent the night at rest stops, twice, (back to back). So far as full-time RVers we have yet to spend the night at Walmart or a truck stop perhaps someday we will try that.
If you take out 2017 and west Texas the average distance traveled per camping day is 22 miles, and the average distance on each travel day is 88 miles.
The best and the worst of full-time RVing
In the last six years of full-time RVing and vacation travel, we have seen some wonderful amazing places. We have also had a few bad things happen along the way. Our bad wasn’t really all that bad. We survived and remained mostly comfortable.
The most amazing location we visited is Yellowstone National Park. Here are some links to our visit. West Yellowstone WOW / Yellowstone National Park / Yellowstone Wins / Yellowstone keeps giving and giving
Best sunsets = Whidbey Island. Whidbey Island Sunsets
Best sunrise in Death Valley.
The worst wind was in White Sands New Mexico.
The coldest wind = Nebraska.
Coldest wind mixed with snow in Wyoming.
The biggest tornado risk is in Alabama we also learned that tornado alley is everything east of the Rockies.
The longest rainfall was in Fort Stevens Oregon
This full-time RV blog started first as text messages and emails. After much encouragement from our family and friends we decided to share it with others we met along the way. Now we have followers from all walks of life and more than ten countries that I know about. I was pretty shocked when my Doctor said he reads my blog. He should subscribe for updates.
We had articles and pictures published in FMCA Family RVing Magazine, Escapee’s Magazine, and several online major RV websites. Family RVing honored us with the first-ever non-professional cover photo.
One day, one of the solar articles gathered lots of interest. That one-day total was more than 18,000 visits to that single article. Several technical blog posts have had similar responses. I have been told that these articles were good enough to transfer to a website that would generate income. I would rather that everyone would have this information without strings attached.
People tell me that they enjoy following our blog. So far the blog has more than 425 articles that cover just about every aspect of our full-time RV travels and how we do things. I am humbled to report that the blog has accumulated more than 1900 comments (not including social media) and countless emails. I am not as good at responding to comments but the comment total does include my responses.
I didn’t send out a Thanksgiving greeting this year. This is not because I am not thankful; most of all I am very thankful for all of you and your wonderful encouragement. This article is also going to be our Christmas letter. We hope you find this holiday season wonderful. Knowing each of you, including all the people we have yet to meet is a wonderful Christmas present. I want you all to know how grateful I am that you find our full-time RV story interesting. Every comment and email is wonderful and inspiring.
Most important of all
Above everything else, in fact, everything else is quite ordinary by comparison is this one thing. Today as I write this, it is our Wedding Anniversary. I am very lucky that Tami married me. When people ask me how long I have been married to Tami, I have one answer — not long enough.
It doesn’t seem appropriate to not include a link to at least one resource that makes our full-time RV journey wonderful. There are so many that would be appropriate. We have met some people who want to visit every national park most have failed. I think we would really like to do this and so far, we have been so impressed that I am sure we are going to continue.