Five years of full-time RVing

Five years of full-time RVing

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.

Hunting Crocs
Sunset in the Florida Everglades

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?

Sunset at Holland Lake
Sunset at Holland Lake

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

Total Eclipse Viewing, Campsite, Cascade Lake, Cascade Idaho
Total Eclipse Viewing, Campsite, Cascade Lake, Cascade Idaho

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.

2017 Route

In 2017 we take our first major RV trip. The story takes lots of turns but the route doesn't. Full-time RV living hasn't yet started. We still have a house and until this trip we both had jobs.
In 2017 we take our first major RV trip. The story takes lots of turns but the route doesn’t. Our full-time RV living hasn’t yet started. We still have a house and until the start of this trip, we both had jobs.

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

We took a picture of this rock during our first year as full-time RVers at Goblin Valley State Park.
We took a picture of this rock during our first year as full-time RVers at Goblin Valley State Park.

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.

In 2018 we became full-time RVers. No house, no jobs, and plenty of places to go and people to meet.
Our route in 2018. In December 2017 we became full-time RVers. No house, no jobs, and plenty of places to go and people to meet.

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.

Fiddlers Cove Marina and RV, Coronado, California
Fiddlers Cove Marina and RV, Coronado, California

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.

Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks Campground. Our visit to Joshua Tree was one of our first boondocking stops as full-time RVers.
Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks Campground. Our visit to Joshua Tree was one of our first boondocking stops as full-time RVers. At Joshua Tree, we had to rent two campsites, one for our RV and the site next to our campsite to park our car. If I had to do it again I would just book one site and then ask some other camper if we could park our car at their campsite.

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 got more serious about making a grand loop around the western states. Unlike 2018 which was wonderful and a little wandering our route in 2019 looks like we had a plan.
In 2019 we got more serious about making a grand loop around the western states. Unlike 2018 which was wonderful and a little wandering our route in 2019 looks like we had a plan. A big part of the plan was to trace the Lewis and Clark route across Montana and end up in Yellowstone National Park.

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.

Campsite Sierra Vista Arizona snowing
Sierra Vista, Arizona snowing. Without entering Mexico, this is as far south as you can go in Arizona. When you are a full-time RVer you don’t always make good decisions. Leaving Tuscon heading south was a mistake. Instead we should have headed to Phoenix or Yuma.

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 hit a snag. The fact is that the entire country hit a snag. Covid-19 became a big problem, especially for full-time RVers. How are you supposed to stay home and not travel when you define yourselves as full-time travelers?
In 2020 we hit a snag. The fact is that the entire country hit a snag. Covid-19 became a big problem, especially for full-time RVers. How are you supposed to stay home and not travel when you define yourselves as full-time RV travelers?

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.

Tami took this picture in Glacier National Park during our full-time RV journey in 2020.
Tami took this picture in Glacier National Park during our full-time RV journey in 2020.

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.

In 2021 we made a big jump and instead of staying in the west as we had for the three previous years, we went to the east. Specifically the southeast. We went as far southeast as it is possible to go in our RV and then we went well beyond the end of the road.
In 2021 we made a big jump and instead of staying in the west, as we did for the three previous years, we went to the east. Specifically the southeast. We went as far southeast as it is possible to go in our RV.

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.

Great Egret
Great Egret in Florida

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.

We are out paddling in our new Hurricane Ultra-light kayaks.
We are out paddling in our new Hurricane Ultra-light kayaks in Florida. Yes, we saw a gator on this paddle.

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.

In 2022 our direction changed since we started the year on January first in Key West, it seemed fitting that we end the year in San Diego. Why not visit the furthest west corner of Washington State along the way?
In 2022 our direction changed since we started the year on January first in Key West, it seemed fitting that we end the year in San Diego. Why not visit the furthest west corner of Washington State along the way?

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.

Did these elk photo bomb or was this a situation of dash in front?
Did these elk photo bomb?

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.

Mule deer at Angostura State Park
Mule deer at Angostura State Park

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.

We found this spring earlier this year in northern Florida.
We found this spring earlier this year in northern Florida.

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.

Not going back.
Here is a picture of a wonderful place that we are never going back to. It was too difficult to get there in our RV.

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.

Piedmont Blues
Tami took this picture in North Carolina. We were very impressed at how everything seems to grow so well in the southeast.

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.

Sunset Death Valley National Park
Sunset at Death Valley National Park

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.

Tamolitch Falls, Blue Pool on the McKenzie River
Tamolitch Falls, Blue Pool on the McKenzie River

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.

Prettiest views = North Cascade National Park (visited twice). Here are some links to our visits. North Cascades National Park / Northeast Washington

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

The least attractive locations are western Texas and eastern New Mexico.

Best sunsets = Whidbey Island. Whidbey Island Sunsets

Honorable mention sunsets (one link per state) Arizona / Idaho / Montana / Florida

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

The prettiest lake is Lake Crescent in Washington and Coeur d’Alene, Priest Lake, and Lake Pend Oreille all in northern Idaho. Stunning beauty in northern Idaho

The best regions were southern Utah, especially the national parks, and pretty much anywhere in Florida.

Blog stuff

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.

Family RV magazine cover photo
Family RV magazine 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.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey California
Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey California

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.

Buckhorn wash pictographs
Buckhorn Wash Pictographs

Thanksgiving

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.

Scott and Tami at the end of the road.
Scott and Tami are at the end of the road in Washington. You can’t go any further northwest than this without a boat.

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.

Links

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.

Our National Parks

16 thoughts on “Five years of full-time RVing”

  1. Happy Anniversary

    We were so lucky to have shared that day with you. Safe travels and we are so glad we could meet up last month.

    Your journey has been remarkable.

    We look forward to your post each Sunday.

    I don’t think full-time RVing is for us. We will stay with 1 to 4-week long trips. I need the home anchor.

    1. We are very happy that you are following along with us on our journey.

      We are convinced that any way you travel is the right way. The only wrong way is to never venture out.

  2. I about fell off my chair when I read “2,114 miles in 16 days.” Amazing the things you don’t know until you know them, huh?

    It’s interesting to see how your travels have evolved over time to deal with the realities of life on the road (the need for planning, the weather, and the exhaustion factor) as well as how your interests and fun projects can guide you (traveling from one end of the country to the opposite, following Lewis and Clark, or trying to see all the national parks.) It’s fun to have those goals and guides.

    To that end, I’m looking forward to watching your Alaska trip. You guys certainly have the experience now to avoid a lot of pitfalls, but from what I’ve seen of other folks’ trips, RV travel in Alaska is NEVER boring. It’s gonna be an amazing summer!

    1. RVing is always interesting. We knew better than to travel all the way to Idaho to see the eclipse all in only sixteen days. But of course, if you want to see a total eclipse, and you have other commitments that is what you have to do.

      Really we want to see everything. What always surprises me is the must-see items that we don’t learn about until after we have departed.

  3. We have also completed our 5 years. We are starting to lay out the year 6 map. About the same miles but you have 5 more states than we have. We have been to Kentucky but not the Virginia’s nor Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, or the Dakotas with our rig.

    I wanted to go to Alaska this year but since we started work camping in Yuma it limits our movements a little. We did 7000 last summer and will do that again this summer.

    When we go to Alaska we figured it would be more like 9000. This year we are only going to add 2 maybe 3 states but 4 Canadian Providences and do a lot of review areas.

    But no matter what it will be fun. Love watching your journey. One concern is places to stay a long the route in Canada and Alaska. We have a lot of Canadian friends we have made so we probably will do a little mooch docking.

    The most we paid last year for our stays was $25 and that was a lot to us. It is getting hard to travel with the rising cost of parks. Elks lodges have saved us but our preferences are still boondocking. Happy travels.

    1. Several of the states we have visited by not really explored. It might take multiple years to explore Texas even if you didn’t spend lots of time in west Texas.

      I hope that even when we get all fifty states (Hawaii is going to be difficult in an RV, let alone our RV), we can go back and really spend plenty of time exploring the things that we missed.

  4. How great to read each episode as you travel our great country.

    Once in a while, I wonder how much of it you saw from a cockpit & now get to count the rocks, and trees, & paddle the eddies in a slower more colorful way.

    So many of your camps & side trips are names & places of our last 2 yr 9 mo. recent travels. Surprised we haven’t been blessed being near in some place @ times.

    Guess we’ll keep looking for those 2 blueish kayaks & listen for snapping shutter sounds all around us hopefully meeting you there.
    T & M

    Btw we’re pushing 50k thru 27 states now. Headed to AZ this Monday from Sonora CA.

    1. I so enjoyed flying the in the Navy. For me the helicopter was perfect. It was the world’s best jeep. See everything without bouncing down the road.

  5. I love this post so much. Your style of not going too far and never going too fast while trying to see everything is so attractive. You are living the dream.

  6. I can’t believe that it has been 5 years… wow does seem to go fast for you both?? Well will you just keep going until one day you say … I need to find a place that we can stay and live out our old years… So Proud of You Two! Much Love and keep Trucking and driving well and Healthy ❤️❤️

  7. Enjoy your travels! we did full-time RVing in a pull-behind camper for 15 years and loved every minute! we had to stop because my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s!

    We visited all but 2 states… Alaska and Michigan. (took a cruise to Hawaii for our 50th anniversary).

    You should be sure and visit Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas… it’s beautiful! TRAVEL ON

  8. Congratulations on your anniversaries. You seem to be moving slowly, enjoying the places you visit, good for you.

    We retired two years ago and have been full time 2 years now, and very much enjoying it. Thor vegas 24.1 does us great, fully capable, and almost never hook up.

    We did Alaska this year, 2022, and it was great. Three weeks in Canada, arrived later May in Tok Ak. Departed Sept 8 and 3 weeks through Canada again. Ten thousand miles.

    Be ready to spend more on fuel and everything else on that trip. thanks for sharing, best wishes, and happy trails.

  9. I assume you can join a blog but don’t know how. I enjoyed your writing & would like to read more articles as you post them.

    Could you let me know how to join your blog? We are full-time RVing for a couple more years.

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