The grand totals and some final thoughts

Trip Start Jun 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 13, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The breakdown

-        approximate total cost of trip = $11000

broken down

-         (groceries and supplies) + (entertainment, recreation, dining out and tours) = $5000

-         fuel = $2600

-         RV parks/campgrounds = $1900

-         misc (tires, tolls, repairs, internet, laundry, etc…) = $1500

-         approximate miles traveled = 11200

-         gallons of diesel used = 980

-         average price paid per gallon (diesel) = $2.71

-         average miles per gallon (towing) = 10.3

Here's the floor plan of our living quarters. It is the 2007 Legends 31RE3SLF-5 model.

The specs:

Specification                                                                        Description


Width                                                                                     8'1"

Height                                                                                    12'9"

Interior Height                                                                    6'4"

Hitch Weight                                                                        1,875 lbs

Dry Weight                                                                           9,855 lbs

Gross Weight                                                                       12,035 lbs

Cargo Weight                                                                       2,180 lbs

Fresh Water Capacity                                                        63 gals

Grey Water Capacity                                                         80 gals

Black Water Capacity                                                        40 gals

Furnace BTU                                                                         35,000

How we paid for the trip

I know $11000 sounds like a lot of money to spend on a vacation and it probably was. We had to remind ourselves that we would have probably spent that much on our groceries, utility bills, mortgage, entertainment and weekend outings if we had stayed home for the summer. It made the number not seem so crazy (even though we were shooting for $10K). $11K is still a lot of money and, since we didn't have that kind of cash laying around, we had to come up with it. We started putting some money away earlier in the year. We thought it would be so impossible in the beginning but when we moved out of our house and into the trailer, then got rid of all the utility bills, we were able to save up the majority of what was needed. We basically freeloaded at my father in-law's property for almost 2 months before we left on the trip. By the time we left we had put away about $8 or $9K. We had an empty credit card and used it to fund the trip. We put almost everything on the card then paid it off at the end of each month. Upon returning we are around $2K in the hole. Because we are back to work and "freeloading" again, we aren’t too stressed, and should have that covered pretty quickly.  

It’s important to mention that $11K is what we spent on our roadtrip but we do have other bills. Car payments, storage unit, insurance, medical and cel phone are the major ones. Most were paid up front before we left so as not to have them weighing on us all summer. I did not include them in the $11K figure mentioned above.

The budget

In the beginning of the trip I was stressed about sticking to our budget. I didn’t want to blow through all the money in the first month then come home and owe mass amounts of $$$. We were always online seeking out cheap or free places to stay. We would talk about going out to dinner and I would cringe a little bit at the thought of dropping the extra cash knowing that we could go back to the trailer and eat hot dogs or spaghetti. We would look to stay way out of town, at a crappy rv park away from the main attractions, just to save $10 or $20. It took about 2 weeks before we decided to change our thinking. We were not going to skimp anymore. If we were in Texas and wanted to try some local BBQ then that is what we would do. If it was $10 more to stay at a park near town that had a pool, as opposed to staying at some creepy RV park, then we would take it. We splurged a little and, yes, we ended up going over budget. The justification was, we figured that we would not get the chance to do another trip like this for….well, maybe ever so why were we holding back just to save a few bucks. In the big picture the 1 or $2K we went over budget was worth it. We didn’t want to come home and say something like.... "Florida was a pretty cool place but it would have been really nice if we could have afforded to stay on the beach". Noooo. Instead we would shell out the extra $15 per night to stay on the beach and get the full experience. Because of this way of thinking we returned home a little in the hole but with far fewer regrets.

Not so much down time

We quickly realized that we had taken on one helluva task trying to make it across the country and back in such a short amount of time. Within the 1st couple of weeks we were already starting to rush things along and found we didn’t have a whole lot of down time. To give you some idea of the “kickback time” we thought we would have; we had packed a guitar, a guitar tabs book, several books and magazines, puzzles, sketch books, games, DVDs, etc… The guitar came out of the case only 2 times in the whole 10 weeks. I never did have a chance to get into a new novel. The several mags I brought along, ones that I would normally read religiously from cover to cover, were either used to start a bbq or just unopened. We did get a game out every once in a while and we were able to watch a few DVDs but the amount of down time was only about 10% of what we had expected and prepared for. It sounds weird to say this now, but it’s kind of relaxing to be back at work! We’ve learned from this and our next trip we will stay at least a couple of weeks at each location….even if that means we only make it to San Diego!

Meeting people

I found that, more often than not, we had to venture outside of the “bubble” to get to meet people. If I was just setting up camp and minding my own business then folks would tend to ignore us and walk right by. We are a little younger than the majority of the RVers that we were among so most of the older folks just left us alone unless we made an effort to say hello. After some weeks on the road, in tight quarters, looking and conversing with the same 2 people for hours on end, I felt motivated to strike up conversations with total strangers when the opportunity arose. (I’m not known for my social skills either. Ask anyone. Vonnie is much better skilled in the art of conversing.) We learned that our California plates attracted some attention. Once we were into Texas and beyond we noticed very few California plates, maybe only a handful the whole roadtrip! If we said hi to someone walking by, they would say “Noticed the California plates.”….or something like that, then want to know what brought us so far from home or how long we’ve been on the road. Good icebreaker. We have been RVing for 10 or 12 years now so we like to think we know our way around an RV. None of that matters to most of the senior retired RVers we would come across. We had to learn to just shut up and listen as they would "take us under their wing" and guide us in our ways. Pretty soon we would find ourselves meeting the wife and the pets and maybe taking a tour of their rig! Pretty cool. Once you get these folks talking it was usually tough to get a word in edgewise. I once sat and listened to an old retired machinist talk to me for over 20 minutes. I could barely squeeze a word in. He didn’t care or seem to notice that I was all packed up. Vonnie, Vi and Chula were already in the truck and the engine was running! We were pulling out and I had just jumped out for a sec to stow my leveling blocks when I said hello to the guy. Real nice dude and full of info. I felt bad having to cut him off to inform him that we were checking out. He could have gone on for hours it seemed. I remember he had a really cool little travel trailer/toy hauler that he built himself. That’s beside the point….

The people we met that were more our age were usually on shorter outings of no more than 1 or 2 weeks. Those folks, we usually came across in a social setting like when we were poolside or on the beach or at a pub. They were always easy to chat with. After hearing that we were touring the US they would grow interested. Then, after learning that we were just regular, blue collar, working class people (as opposed to lottery winners or whatever.) they might start talking our ear off. They would become very inspired and start picking our brain. That was kind of fun for us because we got to act like we sort o’ knew what the hell we were doing. I can’t count how many times someone would say, “I’ve always wanted to do what you guys are doing.” Or “My parents took me on a roadtrip like that when I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to take my kids cross-country.” After hearing how envious some people were it made us feel like we’re somewhat normal….like we weren’t the only ones that planned to do something this ridiculous! We had good times and shared some good conversation with plenty of folks. And, consequently I’m feeling a little less like a social retard.  

About the dry camping, or “boondocking”, they call it

We could boondock pretty comfortably in most places and it could have been a real money saver if executed properly. Unfortunately for us we never mastered the art of this. The thing we started to notice was that we were spending more money boondocking in a department store parking lot than if we just grabbed a campsite somewhere for $10 - $20. I don’t know why but after a long drive we would end up stretching the legs by walking around a store buying stuff at 9 or 10 at night. Half the stuff we really didn’t need. I was the worst. Rarely did we stay in a parking lot somewhere and not enter the store and drop some dough. The point is, for us, we were able to save a few bucks by renting a campsite as opposed to camping for “free” somewhere, and proceed to walk into the store, buy 2 DVDs, a dog comb, a box of 3 million AA batteries, and a pack of Oreos. I once bought a pair of cargo shorts for Christ sake! I hate cargo shorts.

Not a camping trip

This was not a camping trip nor was it ever intended to be one. This was a roadtrip and a tour of the US. We had to know this from the beginning to pack accordingly. Of course we stayed at some campgrounds in the woods or on the coast. The difference was that we didn’t have to set up our campsites with a bunch of gear. By the end of our trip the 3 of us could have camp setup in about 10 minutes….if that. Violet handled the jacks, pulled the rug out and laid it down then dealt with the pets….dog run, food and water, etc…. Vonnie would help me manage the hookups (all but the sewer) and then slide out and do some interior maintenance (usually dealing with pet hair). We left the big ice chests, fire pit, camp stove, zero-gravity chairs, lanterns and a bunch of other camping gear back at home in storage. It was extra weight and we suspected that we would never be at our campsites long enough to utilize any of those items. That was the case.

My methods of documentation

I wanted to document the whole roadtrip from start to finish. I figured the best and easiest way to keep track of the finances was to use a single credit card for everything. The statements are itemized for me and I didn’t have to do much sorting. Once I got home I was able to download the last 3 months of statements and review them. That’s how I came up with the above totals. To keep track of the fuel usage and mileage I just kept a little notepad handy on the dash and reviewed it once we got home and I had pumped the last tank of fuel. Of course we kept at least 1 camera on us at all times. That was easy since we all three have digital cameras and our cel phones have cameras. I didn’t count how many pics we took along the way but I speculate it was over 1000 of them. As far as the journal went, I just forced myself to write every one or two days, usually while having coffee in the morning. If I let more than two days go by without documenting the goings on then I would start to forget where we were or what we did. To remind myself, I would have to pick Vonnie’s brain then get the cameras out to look at the recent pics. It was a fast paced lifestyle, those couple of months, and at times, tough to cram it all into my brain. It sometimes would feel like a week went by when it was only two days. When we would pull into somewhere with wifi I would upload the entries in my journal to this travel blog. It worked out pretty good and we now have a pretty solid record of the “2010 summer roadtrip”. I think we will also be having a book printed out from the blog. That will be pretty sweet to have for “show and tell” I think.

Feeling safe

Safety was a big issue that we talked about in the beginning of the trip. For everyone to get decent sleep we all had to feel comfortable about where we would pull in for the night. We had certain guidelines we stuck to like when boondocking, the parking lot had to be lit and it was a bonus if there was another RV or two camped out near us. That just made us feel a little more secure. Like we had some sort of camaraderie going and they would have our backs if something were to go awry. Our truck has an alarm and I always slept with the truck keys next to me. If I felt like something was going down outside then I could hit the panic button on the remote to get the horn honking and headlights flashing, then I could click on the scare lights mounted to each side of the trailer. Another thing we had going for us was that our dog has a good solid bark and for the most part remained alert at night. I remember one night when she was going ballistic about the sound of a plastic bag that had been caught in a shopping cart and was blowing in the wind. Although it was probably completely unnecessary, I did keep a shotgun under the bed as a last resort. Thankfully I never had to pull it out accept for the incident in Niagara (read earlier post). All of these things helped us feel secure about sleeping in so many strange places along the way. Aside from clicking on the scare lights on a couple of occasions when a gust of wind would wake us by grabbing the awning and shaking the trailer, I’m happy to say we never had to use any of the above precautions.

Back to work

In the past couple of weeks so many people have been asking us, “So, how was it to go back to work?” The truth is the shock wasn’t as bad as we thought. Waking up to the sound of an alarm clock was annoying of course. Here’s the deal.

I had to accept the fact that we need income. It’s as simple as that and that’s all it took to get me up at 4:30 am and off to my first day back at work. It’s sad but that’s the truth. I would love to tell you that this summer off was completely “life changing”, that we’ve now chosen the “gypsy lifestyle” and we have decided to travel for as long as we possibly can, picking up small jobs for income as we go along. But that just wasn’t the case. It is a realistic thought and totally possible but just not the life for us….yet. The time off has definitely put some things into perspective. A lot was learned, but “life changing”? Not so much. We are run of the mill regular working class citizens with bills to pay. Although I haven’t given up on the dream of traveling for years at a time or even full time, the timing just isn’t right for us now. Someday hopefully. We have a handful of responsibilities; the kid’s going to go to public schools, she’ll continue to play sports and she’ll probably go off to college someday. We need medical coverage, a roof over our heads and an automobile. Some sort of retirement wouldn’t be that bad to have as well. All this shit requires cash and lots of it. It sounds a little depressing but that’s the cold hard truth.

So, we have some goals. We first need to pay off a little debt, then we need to move out of the RV and back into a regular home. Vonnie and I are pretty comfy living in the 5th wheel but Violet’s completely over it. She’s in need of a bedroom….with a bed and dresser and closet and some posters on the wall. The sort of stuff 12 year olds like to have. These things will require cash flow. The best way to acquire “cash flow” is to return to work. It’s simple and I choose not to over analyze the situation. When thought about in that manner it makes it easier for us to return to the “daily grind”. People all over the country (or world) are in desperate need of employment. We have to consider ourselves lucky and take advantage of the fact we have it. It does help that, for the most part, we both like the line of work that we’re in. We both have been working since we were teenagers. We’re used to it.

Some final points I will note

-         The weather was wet. Warm but wet. Wetter than we thought it was going to be for sure. We did not pack accordingly and finally ended up buying some umbrellas. The awning was pulled out at most locations, not to keep us shaded, but to keep us dry.

-         We circumnavigated the US but, really, barely scratched the surface of each of the locations that we stopped in. The opinions we formed of these places were drawn in a matter of hours. Rarely did we ever feel like we got to know any town, city or, much less, an entire state.

-         We traveled with some of our house plants aboard. This is a first for us. It was easy and they didn’t die. Actually they stayed really green and healthy.

-         The mass amounts of pet hair that invaded the truck and trailer required our constant attention. We tried several methods of keeping after it; lint rollers, lint brushes, the rubber bristled rakes, etc…. They all worked a little bit but not great and it was an ongoing problem. 

-         Smart phones were a huge help on our trip. We used them constantly to locate, navigate, email, play tunes, whatever…. They saved us so much time and got us out of many jams. We were spoiled by these electronic devices and relied on them quite a bit. We had no regrets about our inflated Verizon bill.

-        Stuff doesn't get dry in the summer months when you are east of the Mississippi. Shoes, towels, articles of clothing, whatever.... Hang it out in the sun and wind all you want, it won't get dry. Our skin looked great though!

-         It is possible to OD on sightseeing. By the end of the trip I couldn’t go on one more tour or enter one more museum. I may not enter another museum for years to come.

-         Was the whole trip worth us turning our lives upside down for several months and possibly several more months to come? Yes, and I would do it again next year if I could. Initially we thought it to be such a big thing we were attempting to pull off. We talked about it and planned it for almost a year. Now, upon returning home we realized how easy it was. A little adventurous at times and of course there were some uncomfortable moments but the whole thing turned out to be much easier than we had expected. It really was. It boosted our confidence level in the thought of planning another extended trip someday. Of course, until we find a permanent place to live, our journey continues!
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LizMfromaz on

I stumbled on to this site in a round about way. I loved reading about your trip and feel like I got to know you and your family a bit, as well as helping my husband and I decide where to go next on a vacation! We diffenently are going back to Hilton Head in South Carolina and the surrounding area. thanks so much for an enjoyable read. Sincerely, Liz

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