Having been away from full hookups for two weeks, our black holding tank (the one that holds what gets flushed down the toilet) approached full capacity. Not wanting to reenact a scene from the movie “RV,” we got busy exploring our dumping options.
Our last blog mentioned the sweet moochdocking setup we have at my cousin’s farm in southwestern Michigan: “with an electric hookup, access to water when we need it, and even a place to dump our black and gray water holding tanks.”
Weighing the Options
Leaving Tagalong behind, Gulliver escorted us to the designated septic tank cleanout on the farm. We drove the different dirt roads approaching the spot, trying to determine the best way to get Tagalong there and in position for a successful fecal matter dump. My cousin’s son and those in the work camp probably thought we were stalking them.
For one route, we would have had to remove some fallen branches from the road and maneuver slowly and purposefully through a tight area to clear a sedan and the bus used for harvesting watermelons late in the summer.
Another path presented an area where a seasonal thunderstorm had gouged a trench across the road, necessitating creative filling in to get the trailer across.
On still another avenue, an electric wire hung low. We scrounged around the farm to find a tool that would help us calculate the height of the wire: 13 feet, 2 inches. Our trailer stands at 13 feet, 3 inches.
After returning the implement that helped us measure, we drove across another area of the farm, hoping to find a more easily accessible place to dump our tanks. We happened upon a promising, easy-to-get-to location, only to discover plumbing pipes but no drainage hole.
Feeling defeated, we ascended a hill adjacent to where the farm’s handyman busily worked on a construction project. We chatted with him about other possibilities: driving an hour away to a truck stop that had a dump station, finding a sewer cleanout or designated dump station in the area, or navigating to a local campground.
We researched a suggested campground and, yes, it did indeed have a dump station, only charged $10 for using it, and was less than 4 miles away.
A Better Alternative
Because we’ve encountered myriad low-hanging trees in the area, we ventured to the campground sans Tagalong to make sure we could take the coach there without issue.
Finding the campground office vacant and the dump station challenging to access since it required a U-turn (not an easy maneuver with a 42-foot trailer), we pulled up to some campers and Bob got out to chat with them.
Most campers are laid back and friendly, and these were no exception. They told Bob they lived at the campground for months at a time and knew the owner well. They recommended that, rather than using the dump station, we pull into an empty campsite, pay the fee at a deposit box, and dump at the hookups at the site.
We jetted back to the farm to get Tagalong. After packing up everything in and around the coach, closing the four slides, and hooking up to Gulliver, we returned to the campground and pulled into a pull-through site. We successfully hooked up to the sewer and emptied our excrement without incident. Whew!
The next morning, our poop became a family matter. Unaware we had dumped at the local campground, the handyman called my cousin with a recommendation for another way to dump our tanks: paying the company that cleans the farm’s port-a-potties to come to us to empty our tanks.
Not a bad idea. It’s nice to have options, especially since we plan to stay on the farm for one more week or so to be around when another cousin and her husband relocate to the area.
Acquiring the recreational vehicle you want is only one step of owning it. After that comes the best part: taking it out and using it. For that, it’s important to know your options. Here are three major types of RV camping:
1. Full Hookups
When you think about camping in an RV, an established campground may be the destination that comes to mind. And there are plenty of good campgrounds from which to choose. But they’re not all created equal.
Some include full hookups, which means you can plug into an electrical box, connect fresh water to your rig, and hook up your sewer hose. This “all-inclusive” option is sometimes referred to as “glamping,” or glamourous camping, because it provides all the normal luxuries you’re likely accustomed to.
This is the type of “camping” we did when we first moved into our fifth wheel. We parked it at a mobile home/RV park with all the bells and whistles, which provided the perfect setting for us to move our belongings into our new home, get used to it, and fix up a few things.
It’s also the type of camping we did in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which freed us to spend more time with my parents, who were about a 10-minute drive away.
Also referred to as “dry camping,” boondocking is the opposite of glamping. This is a much more rustic option with no hookups whatsoever. That means you have to run your rig off batteries, solar panels, generators, or a combination of these sources of energy.
For us, it means our microwave doesn’t work, among a few other things. And it’s definitely not glamping without a microwave.
You can find boondocking options in some campgrounds, but you have many more (free) opportunities on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, national forests, and places like that. Some websites, such as Campendium and freecampsites.net, are dedicated to helping campers find these options.
We boondocked in northern Arizona and really enjoyed being in nature, despite dust. Our site was private, remote, and refreshing — and close enough to the city when we needed supplies. We also boondocked one night at a Minnesota campground with no hookups on the Mississippi River and relished the beautiful view.
This is a bit of a hybrid of full hookups and boondocking. Essentially, moochdocking is camping on the property of family or friends for free. As Bob likes to explain, “It’s where we ask, ‘How big is your driveway?’”
Moochdocking is what we’re doing at my cousin’s farm in Michigan. We have a sweet setup on the property with an electric hookup, access to water when we need it, and even a place to dump our black and gray water holding tanks.
Not wanting to take advantage of family or wear out our welcome, however, we’re helping around the farm and keeping track of the amount of electricity we use so we can pay for it. After all, it’s hot and humid in southwestern Michigan in July, which means we’re running our air conditioner.
What’s Our Favorite RV Camping?
These three types of RV camping are not the only options. Many others combine different pieces of each. For example, you can find campgrounds that offer partial hookups, such as electricity and water but not sewer. In those cases, the campground usually has a dump station where you can empty your holding tanks before moving on to your next destination.
If we had to pick a favorite type of RV camping, we’d probably say moochdocking. But we like any option that allows us to spend time with family and friends. And in some areas, boondocking or a full-hookup campground might facilitate that best.
We left South Dakota with plans to stay two nights at a Minnesota campground overlooking the Mississippi River on the Wisconsin border. After an uneventful trip, we exited the highway, followed a curvy dirt road to the campground, pulled into our very uneven spot, and set up camp.
Because the site was so uneven, we ended up using every single one of our leveling blocks to prop up the tires and stabilizing jacks on the passenger side of the trailer. Breathing a sigh of relief at having just the right amount of blocks, we tried to get into the trailer. I couldn’t even reach the door handle from the ground.
After extending the legs of our stairs as far as they’d go, they hovered above the terrain. If we had tried to climb the stairs in that situation, we could have broken them and/or caused more problems.
We searched the area for anything that could support the stairs and spotted three thin boards under the site’s picnic table. Unfortunately, those still left at least a 3-inch gap — and only helped one side of the stairs.
After more exploration, Bob found some leftover firewood at a vacated campsite. It was just enough. We stacked the small pieces of wood to create the base our stairs needed and made it into our coach to complete setup. Whew!
A Mistake and Low-Hanging Branches
The next morning, as Bob climbed the ladder at the end of our coach to attach our Wi-Fi antenna, he noticed something didn’t look right around one of the vents. Upon further examination, he discovered a major issue: A screw had pulled out about halfway from securing the TV antenna to the roof and, as a result, had pulled the rubber membrane — the main roofing material — out from under the nose cap.
With a storm in that afternoon’s forecast, Bob secured the roof with duct tape and the shiny type of duct tape that’s used on water heaters.
It seems I had failed to secure the TV antenna, which sits toward the front of the trailer, in the proper position for travel. Normally, the rounded portion faces front. This time, however, the rounded portion had faced the driver’s side, leaving the metallic parts of the antenna free to grab onto leaves of low-hanging branches we passed.
As we had entered the campground the day before, we encountered some branches that hung a bit low for our 13’ 3” rig. Tagalong made it through, and we didn’t think anything of it. Evidently, we should have.
4 States in 1 Day
Gulliver is not a storm chaser. No, he’s more of a storm evader — at least when he’s pulling Tagalong. After hemming and hawing about staying at the beautiful campground and risking roof leakage, we ceded to Gulliver's nature and quickly packed up the trailer, hooked up, and hit the road — and some more low branches in the process of leaving.
We had planned to spend at least one night in Wisconsin, but storms were expected to blow through there that afternoon too. So, we hightailed it through three states all the way to my cousin’s fruit farm, Piedt’s Farm, in southwestern Michigan, where we could be close to Elkhart, Indiana (RV mecca) if we needed more repairs than we could do on our own.
After a two-hour round trip to Camping World the next day to get roofing supplies, we spent the following day hanging out on the roof in the hot sun trying to get all the wrinkles out of the rubber membrane. We taped it down with super sticky tape made especially for RVs and succeeded in fixing the roof.
Despite the trials, we’re still having fun, especially since the electric bikes we ordered arrived. We’re enjoying time on the farm, eating fresh produce, spending time with family, exploring my old stomping grounds, and traveling down memory lane. I was born in the area and spent my fifth-grade year here after moving out of state at the age of 4.
South Dakota doesn’t have the most attractive climate — unless you believe an early-period brochure in the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls that advertised a nice climate with very little snow. (If you’ve ever followed South Dakota winter weather, you know that’s far from true.)
Chicago may be the windy city, but we quickly learned why South Dakota ranks as the third windiest state. We’ve been here nearly two weeks, and the unending wind is blowing us on. The whole trailer sways, the coverings over our slides rattle, and the annoyance doesn’t stop. We had one day, maybe two, when we could put out our awnings. The other days were too blustery.
So, why are we making South Dakota our home? Well, most full-time RVers choose one of three states as their state of domicile: South Dakota, Texas, or Florida. If you’re on the road full time, you have to have a place of “residence” in order to register your vehicles, get driver’s licenses, etc. These three states make it relatively easy to do so and have no state income tax and low sales tax.
What do the states get out of it? They benefit from income and fees they wouldn’t otherwise have, and they get more voters to boot.
Attracted to Lower Fees
We chose South Dakota for its lack of state income tax, low vehicle registration fees (compared to Arizona), absence of annual state vehicle inspection, low vehicle insurance rates, and low-cost driver’s licenses — which must be renewed in person every five years.
In addition, the state makes it easy to take care of what could otherwise be complicated matters, such as out-of-state vehicle registration transfer. How? Through RV-friendly, third-party, mail-forwarding agencies such as DakotaPost, Americas Mailbox, and Your Best Address.
It quickly became apparent that registering our vehicles in the state would be way more arduous than we anticipated. Arizona holds the liens and, thus, titles for our vehicles. But South Dakota is a title state, meaning the title is needed in order to register a vehicle.
So, we enlisted DakotaPost to request transfer of our vehicle titles, as well as to help us get both vehicles registered. And, bonus: Because we signed up for the DakotaPost mail forwarding service (a requirement to use any of its other services), we can have our South Dakota license plates forwarded to the address of our choice when they’re ready.
If you are or become a full-time RVer and use DakotaPost as your mail-forwarding service, please mention that Robert and Lana Gates sent you.
South Dakota offers other benefits to us as well. For one, we’ve been able to take advantage of a rare opportunity to spend the past two weeks playing games and interacting with my parents. They moved to Sioux Falls nearly three years ago to be part of the Union Gospel Mission, which my great-grandfather, Thomas F. Morse, started in 1900.
My parents had a good run here but grew tired of the cold winters and, unfortunately for us, put their South Dakota house on the market. It’s already under contract, and they plan to leave the state in August.
I still have an aunt in the area, however, and we’ve enjoyed spending time with her as well during our stop here.
Did I mention this was our first time in South Dakota? Yep, and we didn’t even have time to stop to see Mount Rushmore or the Badlands on our way to Sioux Falls as we were trying to stay ahead of some storms. It’s just as well, though, because parts of the Mount Rushmore state memorial are under construction. We’ll come back when we can see the whole thing and explore the Badlands as well.
We haven’t been on the road all that long yet, but we quickly discovered some items that make full-time RV life easier. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a full-timer driving a motorhome, fifth wheel, travel trailer, truck camper, or something else, you may find the following gadgets helpful as well.
I should note, as an Amazon associate, we may earn from qualifying purchases. Here are our top six must-have RV gadgets, in no particular order:
1. Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
If your rig didn’t come with a TPMS, this is an important must-have to avoid tire issues while traveling. Although Gulliver came with a TPMS, our fifth wheel did not. If we were to have an issue with one of our four trailer tires while en route, we might not even know until arriving at our destination — which might not be near a tire service center.
The RV tire pressure monitoring system we purchased and installed, EEZTire TPMS, includes the ability to set alert notifications at parameters of our choosing, such as if a tire reaches a certain temperature or pressure threshold.
2. Solid Rubber Wheel Chocks
Our very first camping spot on our RV journey wasn’t super level. We had prepared for such an event by purchasing what we thought were heavy-duty wheel chocks. When we detached our fifth wheel from Gulliver, however, the trailer moved and crunched one of the chocks. That didn’t give us much confidence in their ability to keep our rig, which can weigh up to 17,000 pounds, from rolling.
After that, we invested in some solid rubber chocks that are so strong our trailer tires can’t run over them. They may be bulkier and take up more space in our storage compartment, but they also give us great peace of mind. You can’t put a price on that.
3. After-Market Tank Level Monitoring Kit
If you only stay at campgrounds where you have full hookups, then the built-in gray, black, and fresh water tank sensors that come with your coach may suffice for your needs. But, if you plan to do any boondocking (dry camping), knowing the accurate level of your holding tanks becomes paramount.
Like many other RVers, we faced the dreaded problem of our black tank always registering full, even right after we emptied it. Because we like to boondock, that proved problematic. In addition, our tank monitor dashboard only displayed levels in thirds, which didn’t provide the degree of detail we wanted. So, we invested in the Tech-Edge iSeries Tank Systems Monitor.
Tech-Edge is located in Sweet Home, Oregon, only about an hour away from our family in Eugene. We took a nice drive to the manufacturing plant to pick up our kit and enjoyed a scenic lunch stop overlooking a reservoir. No, you don’t have to go to Tech-Edge in person. The company does ship its products. We just didn’t have time to wait for the shipment.
Installing these monitors on your own can be challenging. You have to be able to reach an end of each tank in order to attach aluminum tape and sensors and then wire them to the monitoring dashboard. Bob called the company while installing the black tank sensor and found the staff to be extremely helpful. And, we can now gauge the actual percentage in our black tank.
4. Portable RV Surge Protector
This item can cost a pretty penny but, compared to the potential damage it protects against, it more than pays for itself. Plugging in at campgrounds comes with its own set of risks. If you get a faulty hookup, you could fry all the electronics in your coach — refrigerator, microwave, TV, etc. This gadget ensures that doesn’t happen.
RV surge protectors come in various sizes and strengths, depending on your needs. We bought the Progressive Industries EMS-PT50X RV Surge Protector as we have a 50-amp rig. Not only is it surge-proof, but it’s also weather-resistant.
5. Leveling Blocks
Once you arrive at your camping spot, it’s important to level your coach. This makes for a more enjoyable camping experience while moving about and sleeping in your rig but, more importantly, it protects your refrigerator. RV refrigerators are designed to be as level as possible in order to work properly.
One thing that can greatly help in your quest for a level setup is a collection of Camco Leveling Blocks or Lynx Levelers. These can be stacked in pyramid format like LEGO building blocks to build a ramp and resting place for your tires. They can also be used under your rig’s leveling jacks.
6. Command Hanging Strips
We learned about these amazing pieces of technology by 3M on YouTube. Command Strips come in various shapes, sizes, weight capacities, and colors to help you organize your coach and make it more homey.
We use them to store our TV remote, organize belts, hang our shower squeegee, hold our keys, hang pictures and our all-important United States RV map on the wall, and a whole lot more.
Those are our six must-have RV gadgets. What are yours?
I never thought we’d be the kind of RVers who spend a night in a rest area or Cabela’s parking lot on their way to a destination. At the outset, we had planned to stay a week in each location we stopped. As is typical, however, those plans changed because our new lifestyle requires us to pay close attention to the weather.
After a relaxing, rejuvenating time with family in Eugene, Oregon, we picked up our rig in Medford, Oregon, the morning of June 3, happy to have our home back. Instead of embarking on our transatlantic cruise to London that day as originally scheduled, we departed on a cross-country trek to South Dakota.
Since I’m still not working full time (I have had interviews, and I’ve picked up some contract/freelance work in the interim), we decided to make the journey in five days. That would allow us ample time to recover at the end of each day to make the trip enjoyable.
Knowing where we planned to be which days, we checked the weather in those locations and learned about some developing thunderstorms. Not wanting to set up or even drive in inclimate weather if it could be avoided, we condensed our five-day journey into four days in an effort to beat the storms.
That resulted in some intense drive days — and saddle soreness — but we enjoyed seeing the varying country and wildlife in the states we crossed. Which states were they? Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming before arriving in South Dakota. We weren’t able to put Utah on our map as we only drove through it and didn’t spend a night there. (Sorry, Andy and Erin, but rest assured we’ll be back at some point.)
Along the way, we learned some more important RV lessons:
1. Everything Takes Longer Than We Think
Just because we’re full-time RVers doesn’t mean we get special treatment when our coach needs service or repairs. We have to wait in line behind the weekend warriors just like they have to wait behind us.
Although we had hoped to drop off our coach for only three days, the service center had it for eight. Similarly, just because we think our rig will be ready for pickup at a certain time doesn’t make it true. Even though we arrived at the service center at 9 a.m., we didn’t leave there until 11.
The same longer-than-we-think concept applies to packing up and getting on the road. It always takes us longer than we think it will. And, if we have to stop at a dumping station, we can plan on adding another hour to our trip.
2. Use Produce Before Dropping Off the Coach
Not expecting to lose our rig for as long as we did, we left everything in the fridge and freezer. Not only did our ice melt and meld together, but our produce also went bad, making for a messy, smelly reunion with the coach. We should have thrown out the ice and eaten the produce or taken it with us rather than leaving it.
3. Cleaning Is a Full-Time Job
Gulliver eats a lot of bugs while traveling for days. We need to clean his grill every 1,000 miles or so to keep him looking shiny. Our trailer also needs regular attention.
I had asked my fellow full-time RVer sister-in-law if she cleans her rig before or after moving. The answer was both.
We need to clean the coach before closing it up for a journey if we’ve been in a single location for more than a few days. But we also need to clean the trailer once we arrive at a destination if we were on the road for a while because dust enters from the slides and from the tires jostling things around on the highways.
4. 200-300 Miles Is Ideal for One Day
We arbitrarily chose a goal date of August 1 to arrive in Massachusetts. That meant ambitious journeys between locations spaced a week apart. Because we’ve learned lesson 1 above, we know those targeted destinations aren’t ideal and have made some changes to our schedule and itinerary as a result. (That’s also what’s resulted in our long-haul treks.)
In the future (at least after August 1), we plan to go a little slower and cover less ground in a single day — and not choose arbitrary dates to be in a certain location if we can help it. It’s more important to enjoy the journey.
After equipping Gulliver with new shoes, we left the tire shop in Northern Las Vegas around 3:30 p.m. on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, wanting to get some ground behind us. Three hours later, we stopped for the night at a rest area north of Tonopah, Nevada. We slept comfortably without unhooking the trailer or opening any slides and, as a result, were able to get back on the road early the following morning.
Saturday we drove through the historic town of Hawthorne, Nevada, home to the Hawthorne Army Depot and nearly 2,500 bunkers that were used to store reserve ammunitions after major military conflicts, starting as early as 1930. We also skirted Walker Lake, which is surrounded by camping areas, and witnessed three young bighorn sheep cross the road in front of us.
Wanting to put California on our map (the rule is we have to spend a night in a state to be able to put it on our map), we spent Saturday night in a casino parking lot in Susanville, California, arriving around 2 p.m. Although the casino was closed due to COVID-19, the restaurant remained open. After donning the face masks we were given to walk through the casino, we enjoyed a nice relaxing dinner in the restaurant.
We ventured farther north on Sunday, semi-circling California’s magnificent Mount Shasta at the end of the Cascade Mountain Range. Standing 14,179 feet tall, Mount Shasta’s snow-topped summit peeks above the pine trees from many miles away and is quite a sight to behold.
Mission Accomplished: Medford, Oregon
We had planned to park and stay at one of my cousins’ in Medford, Oregon, upon arrival but learned he had been exposed to someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19. So, we opted to visit his sister and her husband who are also in the area. After examining their driveway, however, we determined we wouldn’t be able to get our trailer up it, especially with the low-hanging branches. (Our rig stands 13 feet, 3 inches tall.)
We quickly searched RV parks/campgrounds in the area and found a place behind what used to be an Econolodge with 12 RV spots. The location had one vacancy, which we took for two nights. The spaces were tight, and we had the biggest rig. It reminded me of “A Goofy Movie” when Pete and PJ set up their expansive RV next to Goofy’s.
The majority, if not all, of the other 11 spots were occupied by full-time residents. To say the place was sketchy is an understatement. For example, one of the residents suggested we fill our rig with marijuana to sell elsewhere. But we just needed somewhere to park and sleep for two nights while hanging out with my cousin. And it worked without event, thankfully. We were happy to pull away from there and have no intention of going back.
We headed to a Jayco dealer to get estimates on some minor RV repairs: drawers opening every time we go down the road, loose flooring in the hallway that leads to the bedroom and bathroom, non-functioning USB plug-ins, ripping/peeling trim on our internal stairs and, of course, the cattle guard-related cosmetic damage to the outside of our rig.
As it turned out, the service center didn’t have trim color to match the exterior of our rig and wouldn’t be able to get it for a number of weeks. Not planning to spend that many weeks in the area, we opted to deal with that later down the road. But we are having the other issues looked at.
With free parking in the RV shop in Medford, Oregon, we headed to Eugene, Oregon, where our son and two of Bob’s brothers live. Although temporarily homeless, we’re enjoying catching up with family.
We spent our first week on the road north of Flagstaff, Arizona, near Humphrey’s Peak, where high temperatures ranged between 60 and 70 degrees and lows dipped down to 27. Yes, you read that right: 27. We had to dig out our winter clothes and heavy blankets, especially after leaving 100-degree temperatures in the Valley.
We camped with Bob’s brother, Tom, and family. They’ve been full-time RVers for two years and gladly shared lots of tips and tricks. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to start our journey (although a little warmer wouldn’t have been bad).
Since I don’t have a full-time job right now, we decided to get a jump-start on the holiday weekend and head to Oregon. We planned to travel to Medford, Oregon, in three days. Plans are subject to change, and they certainly changed for us.
Pit Stop in Las Vegas
We made it north of Las Vegas around 4:30 p.m. when a fellow motorist waved us down to let us know something looked wrong with one of our truck tires. We thanked him, moved to the right, and started navigating Google Maps to find a gas station with enough clearance for our trailer.
As it turned out, the exit we took also led to a tire shop — probably the last easy-to-get-to tire shop before leaving the greater Las Vegas area. We went directly there.
Upon examination, we realized the tread on our front passenger tire had started to split. It wouldn’t have been much longer before it let go completely. The other front tire didn’t look much better. God was definitely watching over us. If we had attempted to drive to our intended destination, we could have had a major incident on the freeway.
The listing agent for the sale of our house had encouraged us to get new tires before our journey. We should have listened to him.
We decided to replace all six truck tires, but the shop couldn’t get them until the next day. Not wanting to pull the trailer anywhere with the unsafe truck tires, we spoke with the store manager about where we might be able to park the trailer.
He called the owner, and they agreed to let us park our rig at the back of their lot overnight. Even better, they let us sleep in it on the property as long as we didn’t open the slides. (Fortunately, our model makes it easy to get to the bedroom and bathroom without opening any slides.) And, the property had 24-hour surveillance.
Rolling with the Punches
We could have been frustrated and upset, but instead, we chalked up the detour to part of the adventure. We gained time to bum around the northern Las Vegas area, taking a Lyft to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
The beautiful thing about our new lifestyle is we don’t have to be anywhere at any certain time. So, we’ll just arrive in Oregon a day later than anticipated. No big deal. The important thing is we still have our home and each other, and Gulliver has new shoes.
Some people see life as a highway or an opportunity. I see life as an education. There are always lessons to learn along the way. Transitioning to life on the road in a fifth wheel is no exception.
Bob and I packed Gulliver and our trailer over a two-day period. We had to ensure everything fit in a secure spot for the nearly 200-mile trip ahead of us to Northern Arizona. Because it marked our first lengthy journey, preparation took much longer than we anticipated. We didn’t end up leaving the Phoenix area until 1 p.m.
Here are five lessons we learned along the way:
1. Don’t worry about the cars behind you.
We settled into a comfortable pace going between 60 and 65 miles per hour on the freeway and watched those who wanted to go faster pass us by. And it didn’t bother us at all.
As we neared our destination, though, we had to cross a cattle guard off the beaten path with metal fence posts on either side. The cattle guard sat maybe 50 feet from the main road, and a couple of people were behind us. Because our rig is long, we were concerned about those other vehicles sticking out onto the main drag.
That concern led us to make a tighter turn than we should have, and we scraped our new home along the metal fence post on the right side of the cattle guard. Ouch! Thankfully, the damage was only cosmetic and should be relatively easy to fix. It could have been much worse.
Next time we encounter something like that, we’ll take our time to get through it carefully, clear of any obstacles, regardless if vehicles behind us are sticking out into the road.
2. Arrive at your destination with plenty of daylight.
Because we got a late start on this first leg of our journey, and we had to stop along the way to fill our fresh water tank for dry camping (meaning no hookups), we didn’t arrive at our destination until about 6 p.m. The sun still stood high enough for us to park and set up, but the unlevel ground led to some setup challenges that resulted in multiple moves. We didn’t finish parking and setting up until after dark.
Had we arrived earlier, we would have had plenty of time and sunlight to get situated just right, even with the challenges we encountered.
3. Leveling blocks don’t have to be reserved for tires.
The major issue we encountered was that the uneven ground caused our stabilizing jacks’ auto-level mechanism to extend the back jacks all the way, leaving no room for further adjustments. As a result, the rig couldn’t complete the leveling task.
We had some interconnecting leveling blocks with us and had only ever used them under tires on our former travel trailer (which didn’t have stabilizing jacks). It didn’t dawn on us until close to 8 p.m. (mind you, we arrived at our destination at 6) that we could use them under the stabilizing jacks to prevent overextending the jacks. Another lesson learned.
4. Make sure you’re communicating on the same page.
A phrase such as “straighten out” may not mean the same thing to you as it does to your spouse. Does it mean “straighten the steering wheel,” “drive straight in the direction you’re headed,” “straighten the truck to the trailer,” or something else?
Be sure you discuss ahead of time the terminology that will help you communicate best. That will avoid frustration and could save hours of time.
5. Be prepared for the temperature at your destination.
We transitioned from an elevation of 1,700 feet to 9,000 feet — and a temperature difference of at least 30 degrees. We traded 90-degree, shorts and tank-tops weather for 60-degree temps that quickly fell as the sun neared the horizon.
In situations like this, it’s a good idea to have a jacket handy because you may not have time, or stability, to get into your rig and get warmer clothes right away.
We’ve been living in our fifth wheel in a mobile home/RV park in Apache Junction, Arizona, since early April. It’s been a nice transition for us to get used to our new home, which we love, and learn where we hid things we need. We’ve been getting organized and actually found more things we could part with, which resulted in a few more trips to Goodwill to drop off donations.
We hung some pictures to make our place feel more homey. Command Strips come in quite handy for RV living — and they’re available in a number of styles and uses. We found ones to hang a shower squeegee, a towel, our PlayStation controller, our TV remote control, our kitchen scrubbies, belts, and more.
Prepping the Exterior
The outside still needed some attention too. Bob found homes for our belongings that go in what we call “the cellar,” the wall-to-wall storage area in the front of the RV underneath the bedroom.
He wired the solar panels and got them working (they’re loving the hot Arizona sun) and even installed circuit breakers so we can shut them off if needed.
We measured the height of our rig so we can be sure to steer clear of any low bridges. We also got a truckers’ phone app, Co-Pilot, in which we enter our vehicle height, and the app routes us to avoid low-clearance obstacles.
Although our June transatlantic cruise was canceled, we still got a cruising sensation every time one of us walked around the rig. So, we decided to buy and install a kingpin stabilizer. True to its name, it helped stabilize the trailer and also added a level of security, as it prevents anyone from stealing our home. (They’d really have to know what they were doing to steal the rig anyway.)
We gave Gulliver a much-needed bath. We also gave him a hood protector, which will prevent dings from rocks, potentially deflect some bugs, and make him look really cool.
Our U.S. map is hung and ready to be filled with the states we visit. Although we’ve both been to the majority of the states already, we’ll only fill in the map with states Gulliver takes us to.
There’s not much left to do before we’re ready to truly hit the road and leave the heat — at least until November. We plan to be back in the Valley of the Sun November through February so Bob can help with annual heavy maintenance on the B-25 WWII bomber at the Commemorative Air Force. We also plan to attend ground school there to be able to tour with the Maid in the Shade next summer like in years past.
For the first stop of our journey, we plan to head to Northern Arizona, gradually working our way to Eugene, Oregon, to visit our firstborn and deliver some things to him. We plan to arrive in Massachusetts, where Bob’s from, Aug. 1. We’re looking forward to our cross-country trip. Cooler temperatures, here we come.
This is the travel blog of Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong. We live on the road full time, enjoying all the adventures that come our way.