“Life is a Highway”
“I want to ride it all night long …”
It was way back in 2005, the year that Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, when Nadyne and I first decided we were both deranged and interested in someday living full-time in an RV. We were touring different motorhomes in an RV show in Las Vegas and we almost simultaneously announced, “I could do this.” My favorite uncle and his wife had started their retirement by traveling around the country full-time in a motorhome in the 1970’s, and they were at it for decades. But, little did we know our “someday” would be over a dozen years later.
Our first attempt at purchasing a beautiful new fifth-wheel was thwarted in Tulsa, Okla., by evil bankers refusing to finance it, even with $40,000 down. We were living in Wichita, Kan., at the time and the only reasons the curmudgeonly loan officers gave was that we were renting our house and could, conceivably, move into the rig and skip town, never to be seen, or make payments, again. This was before full-timing in recreational vehicles became popular and the concept was extremely misunderstood by the nefarious financial institutions. Even if we had owned our home, we would have sold it before hitting the road, so what was the difference? We exhausted all possible sources of financing and gave up.
Dejected from our RV purchasing attempt, we instead bought a manufactured home in the Denver area with that $40,000 and set about making a stationary life there. Soon I was suffering in a full-time job, Nadyne was starting up a consulting business she could operate from home, and together we started paying off debt.
With my retirement approaching, we decided to try again, since this time we owned our home. A credit union gave us a pre-approved loan and we started shopping. We had no idea what we wanted, but with a new-found love of ATV four-wheelers, we thought having the pickup bed free would be nice. We ended up buying a used 30-foot pull-trailer in January of 2014 and when spring weather took hold, we took it out on its maiden voyage to Trinidad State Park, about five hours south of home. It wasn’t very long into the weekend when we realized our mistake- no flippin’ way we were going to be able to live in this trailer full-time.
We got back to town and almost immediately went shopping for a fifth-wheel, giving up any hope of hauling around a 4x4. I had a Ford F250 gas-fueled pickup and wanted to keep the length and weight down, so a toy hauler was out of the question. I had a floor plan in mind and started looking for a quality used rig with the layout I wanted that was in the 30- to 32-foot range and under 10,000 pounds dry weight.
In the meantime, we were kidnapped by a newly-forming camping group … okay, it wasn’t exactly kidnapping. In the Camping World booth were a few Good Sam representatives trying to find members for their chapters and the closest one to us north of Denver was brand new. Nadyne dragged me kicking and screaming to the next meeting of the New Directions group, their second, and by the end of the meeting I was becoming comfortable with the idea. We hadn’t yet made many friends in Colorado and here was a chance to make several.
New Directions goes on one camp-out a month together outside of winter months, and we joined them for four outings of jocularity during summer, each time getting to know our new friends better and better.
We bought our 2011 31-foot Crossroads Cruiser fifth-wheel with barely enough time in October to make the last outing of the season and tried for one more outing in November before winterizing. Unfortunately, Mother Nature laughed at our plans and an arctic blast came through at the beginning of the month, dropping the temps to 0 degrees. After a few days of cold and snow, we found that our water pump had frozen and had to have it replaced after we had the de-winterized rig in the spring.
We made a decision in 2016 to retire and move into the fifth-wheel sometime between the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2018. Until then, we would downsize, giving away and selling as much as we could while still living in our house. The actual retirement plan ended up moving back to the spring of 2018, and over the late winter we sold our house, closing the sale in time to move into the rig to leave town. (Actually, I had to work for two weeks after we moved out of the house and stayed in an RV park during that time.)
We packed up our 1,680-square-foot house to move into our massive 340-sqare-foot RV. It WAS hard, and it didn't happen overnight. We had been doing the necessary things -- selling, storing and giving away stuff -- for months by then, and we still had to store more than we had hoped. On D-Day (Departure Day) we were still giving away furniture, like our living room sofa set and a full-sized dinette. In the span of a month, we had dealt away or carted to storage our living room and bedroom furniture, our guest room furniture, the dining room set, two wine racks, two big-screen TV's, most of the house's decor, half of my tools, three-fourths of our wardrobes, and even a car. Everything we had stored for a rainy day was gone.
While they mention the emotional pain of minimizing your possessions, what the bloggers and YouTubers don't really tell you is that some of the pain is the pure loss of value. Thousands of dollars' worth of things we bought because we needed them, or wanted them, was left behind. We obviously didn't have room for everything, so intellectually it made sense. However, I still felt the loss of monetary value from my day-to-day life over the first few months of full-timing, especially since it happened over a relatively short period of time. Even small, unsellable items can bear a cost.
Over our entire RV life, we have continued to downsize. It is amazing to think how little we really need to be happy. We have each other and we had Lucy.