We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment. ~ Hilaire Belloc
It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end
~ Ursula K. LeGuin
Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey
~ Babs Hoffman
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be. - Douglas Adams
tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out
that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity;
that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of
timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life."
"The strongest reason for the people to retain
the right to keep and bear
arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in
2009 Year in Review
Quick Recap of the Year
We had been sitting still for the end of 2008 in Michigan resolving some family issues. When that was under control, we spent the last few months of the year getting the camper back in travel condition before we hit the road again.
2009 would turn out to be our best year on the road with amazing sights seen, so many new friends to add to the contact list and memories that would take a few lifetimes to forget.
Right before we left, I had brought the camper to General RV to have new brakes put on and we found our frame had stress cracks in it where the axles mounted to the frame.
With some serious welding and beefed up plates put on the frame, the welders fixed that issue and we never saw another problem in 2009. Knowing that we're overloaded or right at our Max GVWR for the coach, having the beefed up frame was a bit of insurance for our minds if not for our safety.
We also moved up to a higher rated tire all the way around the camper and it's probably one of the best things we did.
For the entire year of 2009, we never had a single tire blowout or flat tire ( I think we had 3 during the 2008 season) and our tires seem to be wearing less due to their higher weight rating and thicker sidewalls.
We left Michigan knowing we were going to head South to get out of the snow and find some warmth.
Our only real goal was being at the Rock Bottom Chuck Wagon Races in the end of May and arriving in Yellowstone to report for work by June 1st.
We spent a month in Florida which was fun as always. Plenty of party time with old friends who introduced us to many new friends we still keep in touch with today.
We earned some money in April while staying with Cindy's sister in Louisiana when we helped build a greenhouse on her property. We left Louisiana headed for the Rock Bottom Chuck Wagon Races which were nothing short of spectacular. From Arkansas we drove straight to Yellowstone was an ordeal in and of itself.
The job we were originally hired for only lasted a month before we quit and hit the road to go play at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, get wild and crazy at the Sturgis Bike Week in South Dakota where we met some great friends that we still talk with on a regular basis.
From South Dakota we came back to finish the season in Yellowstone working for a different company that we ended up loving.
You'll have to read our blogs during that time of year to get the entire story, but if we ever decide to work camp for the National Park System again, it will be for one of the Non-Profit Organizations like the Yellowstone Association.
Yellowstone National Park ended up being an amazing time and it gave us a chance to see the park from the start of the season all the way through to the very end. Our photos from our time in Yellowstone still amaze me and I wouldn't have changed a thing on our stay there.
The amount of hiking and outdoor activities meant Cindy and I were in the best shape we'd been in for years. I guess high altitudes and long daily hikes will do that to the physique.
Leaving Wyoming we headed into Utah where we spent a month visiting a friend who runs a Dual Sport Motorcycle Tour company. Moab holds a special place in our heart and its one of the few places that Cindy said to me "If you want to stop traveling, I'll be completely content living here." which is very rare for her to say. In all our travels, there have only been a few places that she has said this about.
With Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park and the amazing red rock that surrounds this area, it was heaven for our cameras. While in Utah, we headed up to the San Rafael Swell with some friends we had met and spent a few days exploring an area we had never even knew existed, yet fell deeply in love with.
When we got snowed on in Utah, we packed up and headed West to California where we rented a Vintage VW Bus and spent two weeks driving the Pacific Coast HWY. If you ever want to experience the PCH, give VW Surfari a call as it's the best way to navigate the winding scenic road.
We spent Thanksgiving in San Diego with our good friends Jeff, Mike and their families and seriously thought about settling down to find jobs as the bank account was within $1000 of hitting the ZERO mark.
It was then the adventure took a big, drastic, 180° turn. We got a call from the owner of a small Motel/RV Park in Cedar Key Florida who we had contacted some time ago inquiring about working there.
The owner said the current managers had bailed out on him and if we were still interested in the job, it would be available come the first of the year.
We decided that if we were going to have to settle down and get jobs, then we might as well be working for ourselves, so we said 'Goodbye' to the West Coast and drove across the country one more time to plant some roots in Florida.
Now onto our questions we always answer in the Year In Review Recap.
What Was Our Favorite State? (This is probably one of the most asked questions)
Pat - After this year of travel, I'm really fond of Utah. The state is so diverse and has alot to offer if you love the outdoors. From the San Rafael Swell, to Moab to the thousands of miles of hiking trails in between.
It's really a great state for people who like hiking, biking, motorcycles and off-roading. It has a good mix of weather even though it can get pretty hot during the day. It has a change of seasons and offers a good mix of terrain.
I think back to it often and when ever I bring up moving there to Cindy, she always is eager to entertain the idea.
Cindy - California, I love that you can be in the ocean, hiking in the mountains or baking in the desert all within the same day. I really liked the people there and the fact that everyone seemed to be very active and youthful.
Where Was Our Favorite Campground?
Pat - I have no idea how to answer this since we have stayed in so many and rarely use traditional style campgrounds. When ever I think about campgrounds, I think back to Arkansas and their abundance of State Parks that were so well kept and so thought out.
Most were situated right on the water, offered electrical and water hook-up's at the site and had a dump station somewhere in the camp ground. Best of all, most were under $20 a night.
If I had to pick, I'd pick the state of Arkansas.
Cindy - Camping at our friends place in Moab was awesome. Right downtown so we could walk to anywhere we needed. Minutes from Arches National Park where I'd go hiking with our friend Leah, and the people in this area were all really cool.
What is the One Thing We Miss the Most From our Past Lives?
Pat - Having a steady supply of tools and an area to work on things when needed. Trying to have things worked on while on the road is hard and very costly. I often think how nice it would be to have a garage where you could pull the camper in and build custom boxes or fix things up, but this would defeat the purpose of living on the road fulltime wouldn't it :)
Cindy - Call me crazy, but mine would be, Having a steady job. I wanted a purpose and a goal to work towards. I missed that alot as crazy as it sounds.
What is the One Thing We Like the Most About Traveling Fulltime?
Pat - Just being able to go where we want, when we want and stay where ever we want due to our camper and the way it's set up. Spending a few weeks in the VW Bus really showed us how nice it is to have a made up bed, have a huge refrigerator and have the living room to work on without tripping over one another.
Those people who tell you they hate RV'ing or dont like to go camping; well I dont think they've done it in our camper.
Having the bathroom is something I'll never go without again. That week in the VW Bus was something I'll never forget, but it sucked to have to search for a bathroom every time we needed one. Having the camper behind you with a fully stocked bathroom is a luxury I'm pretty spoiled by.
Cindy - All the different people we meet. I love meeting people and each area has their own mix of what makes it unique.
What is the One Thing We Like the Most About our Camper?
Pat - That its completely self contained. With no slides, no gimmicks and nothing too fancy, it's really the perfect little base camp to tow around behind our truck.
Cindy - Solar Panels! They allow us to stay in so many places that others have to leave to go find shore power. Plus I like that we're living totally comfortable and normal, yet doing nothing to pollute the environment.
What is the One Thing We Like the Least About Our Camper?
Pat - My biggest pet peeve with our camper is the lack of space to leave the computer set up. Cindy and I are always working on the computers.
Problem is we only have one table in the entire camper. This means that if I have my laptop set up and she wants to serve dinner, I have to put away the laptop and everything hooked to it.
This might not seem like a big deal, but try and do it multiple times each day, especially when trying to update the blogs, work on the photos or check emails and it becomes a argument that we cant seem to figure out a solution for.
I wish we had another table or an area where the computer can be set up and left.
Cindy - The couch in our camper. We want to take it out and put in a custom mattress that would be more supportive and much more comfortable. I think in the 3 years we've been on the road, we've used this couch as a bed a total of 5 times. It's really a waste of space!
What is the One Item We Couldn't Do Without?
Pat - The Solar Panels! I say this each year, but it makes such a difference because of the way we travel. We've stayed with so many people who have to use generators, or really watch what appliances they're using and for how long.
For us, that's never been a problem and we didn't realize how spoiled we were till we slept in the VW Bus for that trip up the Pacific Coast Highway.
I'd give a close 2nd to my Mesh Office Chair. We used to have a rocker that came standard with the coach and if the temperatures were hot out, there was no air circulation and the chair became uncomfortable. After a year of sitting in it fulltime, it started to sag and we got rid of it.
I moved up to a nice Mesh Backed/Seat Office Style Chair and it's such an improvement. Working on the computer for long periods of time is now so comfortable and it makes a huge difference in hotter weather.
The chair is lighter and being as its see-thru, you dont tend to lose things behind it like we did with the traditional rocker. Plus, this new chair is adjustable in height, has the ability to lean back and its on wheels, so it's easy to move around if we need to get behind it. It's probably one of my favorite upgrades on the camper.
Cindy - My Dogs, although that would be two items. They keep me company when Pat is working on the computer, they pre-heat the bed for us when it's cold out and they act as security if we're staying in a rest area or anyplace that I might feel sketchy about.
A simple walk around the truck with the Pit Bull a few times before we go to bed and it's like pulling out a big gun and showing it to everyone around you. They tend to think twice before approaching me or the camper.
One Item We Made the Mistake of Buying?
Pat - I'm an idiot when it comes to impulse buying, so this list is too long for me. There are lots of things we own that we could do without. But none of them jump out at me right now. I dont think we purchase too many items this year that we didn't use.
Cindy - By this point in the adventure, we give serious thought to anything we're going to purchase. I cant think of anything we bought this year that we didn't use and use it to its fullest potential.
What Was A New Product You Got That Really Impressed You This Year?
Pat - When we knew we were going to be spending such a long time in Yellowstone, we splurged and got a Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens. This monster weighs over 11lbs and is really long. Hand Holding it is next to impossible.
We got a Wimberley Gimbal Head and it makes the lens super simple to use. Without the Wimberley, the lens and our time spent in Yellowstone wouldn't have been as enjoyable as they were. I would say that the lens was our best purchase, but they sort of go hand in hand, you cant own a lens like this without attaching it to a Wimberley Gimball Head.
Cindy - Getting the Camping Lab Roof Top Tent was pretty cool. It really makes leaving the camper back in a safe place and going out for a night or two super easy.
The White Rim Trail was alot of fun and the wind storm we hit would have ruined the trip if we would have been sleeping in a traditional ground tent.
What is the most important thing we have learned in our third year on the road?
Pat - We've pretty much perfected the art of Boondocking and Drycamping. There is never a worry or a thought about our systems or what will work or fail.
By spending good money on top-notch equipment right from the start, we've now spent 3 full years using the AM Solar solar panels, the Lifeline AGM batteries and our Inverter without any issues. The inverter has froze up a few times, but all we have to do is pull the main fuse, let it sit for a few seconds and it re-boots itself.
I dont consider this a big deal because it is a piece of electronic equipment. Hitting the ALT>CTRL>DELETE button once or twice in 3 years is pretty good track record in my book.
I think back to what we know now from what we learned the hard way when we first started and I only think about how much money we could have saved if we knew it was so easy to boondock right from the start.
Cindy- If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Yellowstone & Working for Corporate :(
One Item We Found that We Never Knew Existed?
Pat - Before this trip we had never had Satellite radio. I cant imagine listening to normal radio these days. The fact that you can have uninterrupted channels where ever you go is just awesome.
I would have to say that for anyone fulltiming, this is a must. Best part about it is its so affordable. For roughly $12 dollars per month, its so worth it and we love every minute of it.
Cindy - Facebook which led to Farmville. For some time during this past year, I became completely addicted to Farmville, which I now agree with Patrick was a total waste of time.
Our Favorite Place for Food?
Pat - I would have to go back to New Orleans. I think I gain 15lbs every time we visit this city.
Cindy - My Kitchen since we're too broke to go out to eat.
Our Favorite Place for Nightlife and Entertainment?
Pat - We had alot of fun in New Orleans this past year. The Burlesque Show was awesome and something we talked about for some time afterwards.
Cindy - Rock
Bottom Chuck Wagon Races were totally awesome and something I'll never
forget. The bull riding, the wipe outs during the races and the
mud wrestling that ended the event.
Pat - I love my Columbia Pants and own a few pairs in various colors. They're super light weight, dry overnight if washed and hung before we go to bed and can be unzipped and converted to shorts if we leave in the morning and its chilly, but by mid-afternoon the temperature rises.
Once I started buying these pants, I was able to get rid of a few pair of shorts and a few pairs of jeans and have lots more room in the closet.
Cindy - For me, it would be my cowboy boots. I practically live in these things and they fit in when walking in high grass, when going out on the town or especially when attending rodeos.
What is the Hardest Thing We've Found about Living on the Road Fulltime?
Pat - Earning Money. When we put a Donate button on our website we got some flack from people leaving comments like "You want us to fund your lifestyle when you dont even have a job!?!?" Some people were downright rude and left some pretty nasty comments about even having the donation button on there.
But when we stop traveling to get jobs so we can earn some money, we get twice as much feedback from people complaining that we're not keeping the blogs updated.
I dont think people realize how much of a fulltime job the blogs, the website and the non-stop traveling is. I'd say if you were to add it up, we put in a minimum of 25-30 hours each week just on our blogs, the photo editing and the behind the scenes work that is never seen or talked about on the blogs.
Plus, the website alone costs us a few hundred dollars each year to keep active. The computers and camera gear seem to be always needing something and the internet card we pay for is $60 each month so we can keep the website updated while on the road.
Many people think we're simply rich and dont have to work, but we're anything but rich and most would be surprised if they knew we were usually trying to scrape together anything we can to simply stay afloat.
If we had money, we'd
probably stay in alot more campgrounds or places that cost money but
offer a more picturesque place to sleep. It's not always that
glamorous to sleep in truck stops or rest areas on a nightly basis, but
if it means staying on the road more, than that's where we have to stay.
What is the Easiest Thing We've found
with Living on the Road Fulltime?
East Coast RVing and Exploring is out of the question because there is really no place to camp for free. West Coast and Desert Camping is very easy and very affordable because of BLM land and empty desert.
reason why we've spent so much time out west and have yet to see the New
Our Favorite National/State Park?
Pat - Yellowstone without a doubt. But that's during the spring and fall months. It's amazing to me that most of the visitors come during July and August. Those two months the park was empty of animals to photograph and the temperatures made hiking and enjoying the beauty hard to do.
Spring time with all the babies was straight out of a National Geographic Documentary and September and October during the rutting/bugling season was music to our ears and eyes.
Cindy - Being as we spent so much time in Yellowstone this year, I'd have to give that a nod of approval. But I agree with Pat that so many people visit during the summer months when the park is totally different than it is during the spring and fall. If you're going to visit Yellowstone, do it in June or wait till September or October.
One Item We Wish We Could Change?
Pat - This was my same answer for last year and I'm hoping to get it changed before we go back on the road in 2012.
The motorcycle carrier and mount. I'd love to move the motorcycle to the bed of the truck so I could shorten our length and keep an eye on the bike while driving. It's my one thing that I always worry about.
I think I made a mistake with buying the ARE cap and not spending the money on a good aluminum flat bed (Highway Aluminum Beds) with some built-in storage boxes. It would have cost a bit more in the long run, but the usability of it all would have made up for the cost ten fold.
Cindy - My biggest gripe with our camper is our lack of counter space. I love to cook, and I'd rather be eating my own cooking rather than any restaurant we've found. But try preparing gourmet meals in a camper with no counter space and a sink that is full with one dirty dish or pot in it.
Pat built me a flip up counter that really helps, but I see some campers that have lots more counter space and it always makes me very envious.
What is the Most Important Thing We Want
to Do/Accomplish in 2010?
But for the 2010 year, I'd like to work on the photos and getting some work published, articles printed in some magazines and some of the images printed and in galleries.
It's a shame to have
all these photos just sitting on a hard drive.
To have the opportunity to tackle such a big job is going to be so fun for us. We love taking things that have lots of potential and ringing out every last drop of it to make it successful. Even though we wont be traveling this year, I'm very excited.
A Few Things We Learned in 2009
Doing so much boondocking in the spring of 2008, we really learned how much money this can save, and how enjoyable it is. It really makes you look at maps differently and makes you seek out new places that aren't normally on the typical tourist map.
Carrying the extra water tank in the bed of our truck really solved many of the issues we were having with running out of fresh water and saves in plastic bottle usage when it comes to the environment.
Using the solar panels to their full advantage. We found that it's almost impossible to drain the bank of batteries as long as we have sunshine throughout the daytime. What we've been doing is while we're traveling, we run the inverter and switch the refrigerator over to electric so it's drawing from the batteries for most of the day. This saves in propane usage and we've never had a problem with our batteries being low.
Driving less and doing more while we stopped in a certain area. We found that if we completely exhaust the area we're in, you'd be surprised how much time you can spend without having to do too much driving or moving of the camper.
This helps that we have the motorcycle in tow, and allows us to really explore an area without too much worry about parking, fuel mileage or getting in or out due to the size of the rig when we're all hooked up.
A few Tips & Tricks we've learned in our first few years on the road.
Work Camping and the Work Kamper Website. If you are trying to stay on the road fulltime and dont have a retirement income to lean on or a trust fund with your name on it, then Work Camping might be for you.
This is basically what we did for the 5+ months we spent in Yellowstone National Park. Will you get rich working and traveling like this? NO, but it can keep you on the road for much longer than traveling fulltime without stopping here and there to work will allow.
Plus you get to meet some cool people and its a great place to network to find other places where people are traveling and what's available.
Passport America - This RV membership costs $45 to join, and enables you to stay in select campgrounds for half price. We waited till we knew we were going to be staying in an area that had a few of these campgrounds to choose from, and in a single week of camping for half price, we more than paid off the membership cost.
The membership is good for one year, so in that time, we feel that we will make our money back tenfold when it comes to savings. Make sure to check with the campgrounds as many have blackout dates, but over the course of a year, we'll save some serious money.
When we do stay in a campground, we always try to make sure it is a Passport America affiliate
Recycling while on the Road - Being major recyclers when we lived at home, it was killing us to be tossing out so much recyclable stuff while on the road. What we've learned to do, is carry a few of those heavy duty washable plastic bags (The type you're supposed to use for grocery shopping when you don't want to use their bags) in the back of our truck.
One is for aluminum and steel recyclable cans and any other plastic that's recyclable. By crushing any of the cans and squashing anything plastic, we are able to go for long durations between recycling centers. The second bag is for cardboard or paper products that are recyclable.
Kudos to states like New Mexico, Minnesota, California and parts of Arizona that had recycle centers at every State Park and a collection center in each town we passed through. In this day in age, it's just amazing that this isn't mandatory for every state across the nation.
We also try and stay away from anything in glass containers simply because of their weight and breakability factor while bouncing down the back roads of America. We've found it is also harder to find recycle centers that accept Glass containers. This is weird considering that it is less expensive to make glass from recycled materials than it is to produce the product from scratch.
A Good Set of Water Filters - This was another thing that didn't take too long to figure out. At first we were only using our fresh water tank for cooking, flushing and showering. For drinking water we were buying bottled water. -
DON'T DO THIS!
The price added up quick, and the amount of plastic bottles we were wasting was just astonishing. We bought two Whole House Filters from the local hardware store and put a Charcoal filter in the first one with the most expensive Class A filter in second one.
We also bought a food grade 35 gallon container that we keep filled for drinking water only, but can reuse over and over. We keep it in the bed of the truck and use it to fill the five gallon jug that we bring into the camper to drink out of. This keeps our normal 40 gallon water container that is connected to the camper strictly as shower water and water used for washing dishes and what not.
Filtering the water through two filters is amazing how good it makes it taste, and the set of filters cost on average $25 a month. They say that the filter is good for up to 6 months, but we never know where we are getting out water from, so we stay safe and change it about every month or around there. This not only saves us a ton of money, but we never have to worry about our drinking water right out of the tap. And the main reason is we no longer have all those plastic water bottles to recycle.
Less Is More - We learned this the hard way. When we first left, we thought we needed to bring so much stuff to make the trip enjoyable. What we found was the more things we had with us, the more we needed to shuffle them around every time we needed to get to anything.
This is also when we learned the saying "The Best Things In Life, Aren't Things!"
It didn't take long before we were filling bags with clothes to be donated to Goodwill, BBQ Grills that rarely got used, but took up valuable space and just odds and ends that never came out of the storage bins all got tossed out or I should say 'given away' to people that might be able to use it.
I weighed the amount of clothes I gave away at one time to Goodwill, and just my clothes were over 50lbs worth of extra stuff!
I'd still say that we're still a bit overloaded when it comes to junk, but some things we need to keep just incase that time arises when we might need it. Or at least that's what we keep telling ourselves.
Wilson Signal Booster and Antenna - We only just found this, but it's something that I wish we would have had all along. This small amplifier hooked up to a short antenna boosts our cell phone signal along with our broadband connection to keep us online even when we're out in the boondocks.
You can read the full review of how we installed this simple amplifier and what a difference it made.
GPS - There is no need for me to explain this too much, by now everyone should have one or know what they are, but I honestly cant imagine traveling without one. Our unit, recommended to us by Tom & Mary at the Sunline Meet & Greet has saved us so much fuel and kept us in the right direction, that I cant imagine traveling without it. Not to mention the amount of arguments it's kept us from happening when it comes to getting us lost.
Another great thing we learned from Tom was about the POI Factory Website. This website is filled with free Points of Interest that will help you find just about anything you are looking for.
Satellite Radio - Another item that we cant imagine being without. For over 20,000 miles our satellite radio has kept us awake, and listening when normal signals just couldn't keep up. For anyone who spends time behind the wheel, this is a must.
Digital Cameras - I don't even have to go into detail on this item. But our adventure wouldn't be the same and I'd go as far as to say would be next to impossible if we were still shooting 35mm film. To see what equipment we use, check out our Photo Gear Page
Forums - I know this doesn't seem like something that would help you with a long distance journey, but being a member of a few different forums was a life saver.
From getting questions answered for free to getting so many hints and tips on great places to visit, many being ones you could never find in a travel guide. Learning so many things that kept us from making these mistakes ourselves was a huge help.
By surfing the forums, it made our first year tolerable without making too many costly mistakes.
Our Dirt Bag Cover for our Motorcycle - We bought the motorcycle brand new, and within a few states of trailering around with it behind us, it looked like it was a few years old and was taking a major beating.
Once we found the Dirt Bag Cover, I gave it a good washing and it's stayed nice and clean for the last 50,000 miles.
Adding Extra Scissor Jacks - While home, we had General RV install an extra set of Scissor Jacks in front of the wheels on the camper. What a difference this makes while camped.
A Good Attitude - This is a must. Luckily for us, Cindy and I are both really easy to get along with and can go with the flow in just about any situation. Traveling full time would be impossible with a poor attitude.
The Mind Frame to Just Slow Down - It took us way too long to shake the idea that we werent in a race and had to get back to anything. I'd say our first 6-8 months we would both get a little antsy if we sat still for any longer than a day or two.
We're now just starting to realize that we can sit back and relax when the weather isn't cooperating or just chill when we find an area we really like. This is one of the biggest obstacles to let go of.