Questions answered from both Brian and Michelle
As we travel and talk with people, we often get many of the same questions. This week we decided to answer some of those questions in a “she said, he said” format because as you all know men are from Venus and women are from Mars. Ok, maybe, maybe not, but we don’t always agree or have the same stories. So here’s what he had to say…and what she had to say too.
How did you get into RVing?
Brian: We have loved to travel and spent many years as tent campers. We got to a point where we wanted to be able to be gone longer and go further, but the tent was a little limiting due to weather and other conditions so the decision to upgrade to an RV was an easy one.
Michelle: This is a funny story actually and I can’t believe Brian didn’t tell you first! As you have probably read in our blog posts we hiked across Spain on the Camino de Santiago in 2017. When we laied in bed in the evenings, resting our bodies, we talked about how much we loved being outside and seeing the world and we didn’t want the adventure to end. However, we talked about how challenging it was to only camp in a tent because of weather and determining if it was worth gathering all of our gear up “just to go out for the weekend.” We lived in a condo with very little space so our gear always had to be tucked away in our basement. We also didn’t have the the space to spread out our gear to let it dry out (and something always needed to be dried out!). So I started watching a lot of YouTube videos about RV’s and researching how much they cost. Then one day on the trail I said to Brian, “what would you think about buying an RV?” He said what I knew he would say, because this is his standard answer, “Absolutely!” We continued researching for the perfect RV, in our budget, over the summer, made our list of “must haves,” and the day we got off the plane from Spain we started shopping. Within a week we found the perfect RV, bought it, and have already put on over 8,000 miles. Best decision ever!
Brian: Michelle forgot to mention that CC (Casa del Camino) is not even our first RV. We actually left the lot with a smaller RV initially and immediately regretted the decision. After a stressful weekend in that camper, we bought our F-150 and upgraded to our Apex 269RBKS.
Michelle: Ugh, Brian. I wasn’t going to tell them that story! Geez, have some dignity. Hahahaha
What was your biggest RV newbie mistake?
Brian: Last Christmas on our way home from Florida we were really struggling with when would be the best time to winterize. In Tennessee, the weather forecast said that the overnights temps would drop down to about 30 and we knew that we would be OK. The temperature actually dropped down to the mid-twenties for most of the night. The next morning, I couldn’t get the valves open to drain the tanks because they froze. Even with a space heater and blow dryer, I had no luck. We decided to drive knowing that things would warm up as the morning progressed. When we stopped for lunch, there was a giant icicle hanging off the dump valve. I was terrified that it was a poop-cicle. It turned out to be from the gray tank, but it was still a pretty expensive mistake!
Michelle: Yeah, that possible poop-cicle was quite a scary moment and a costly mistake but at least it was only gray water. But that was not our biggest mistake by far! Learning about x-chocks and tire blocks and a million other things it seems like you need to know so your RV doesn’t move while it’s parked was quite overwhelming. We knew very little before we bought an RV since our outdoor home had always been a tent (and a really nice one I might add). I assumed that all RV spots were pretty level since we had always found pretty level tent sites. The problem is that even “pretty level” with an RV means you better make sure the rig doesn’t move. <insert facepalm> as I prepare to relive this story.
We were camping at Winton Woods campground in Cincinnati. We had an absolutely beautiful campsite on the lake. The site seemed pretty level but we needed a couple of leveling blocks on one side, then we put our x-chocks in and lowered the tongue jack. Brian unhooked his chains from the truck and I was about to unhook mine when the entire RV rolled backwards! Yes, our rig was headed for that beautiful lake we had to camp next to, I can’t believe it but we almost lost our rig into the lake. Fortunately, I had not taken off my chain and the truck saved us. The problem? I will take some of the blame. I didn’t tighten down the x-chocks enough. But from now on we always us x-chocks and we put chocks behind and in front of the tires. The sad part is, that isn’t the only time the rig has moved. Don’t even mess around with your set up, always make sure the rig is 100% secured before you unhook it from your truck. Live and learn, thank goodness we still have our CC.
Where is your favorite RV location or adventure?
Brian: So far I would have to say that some of the campgrounds we found in Michigan have been my favorites. I really loved the Munising Tourist Park Campground in the UP of Michigan. Our site was about 100 feet from the water and we had beautiful views of Lake Superior. I also really love camping at Traverse City State Park. The sites are a bit tight (click on the link to read a previous blog about these sites) but you are across the street from Lake Michigan and right on a bike path that will take you just about anywhere in Traverse City. I have also really enjoyed the Zion River Resort in Virgin, Utah. We have only tent camped there in the past but it is definitely on our list for our next trip to Zion National Park.
Michelle: We always like to say that our favorite adventure is the one we are on right now. We try to live in the moment but we are always thinking about what’s next. We leave in a few days for Gatlinburg, and oh, how we love going down there to camp and hike. The best part is now that we have an RV we can spend more time there since we are not paying for a hotel. We can camp over our Thanksgiving break and Spring Break in our rig when normally those are times we would have to find a hotel. On this trip to Gatlinburg we are camping only 5 miles from the downtown strip and on the trolley route. I love trying out new campgrounds while we are there. The next thing I am looking forward to in our Summer 2020 out West trip. We have traveled out west 3 times but only going by hotel or in our tent. It is very exciting to think about taking our rig, our cats, all of our gear, and seeing the countryside. We hope to boondock and stay at Harvest Hosts. Which means our next RV upgrade is going to have to be a generator. Oh the money you spend when you are an RV’er.
What is your best RV upgrade?
Brian: This probably sounds funny coming from a guy, but I love the new curtains that we just put in. The wooden window boxes that hid the top of the blinds were so bulky and made the RV seem very impersonal. Our new curtains soften the interior and make the room feel so much bigger and bring more of our personality into Casa del Camino, our home on wheels.
Michelle: If you are not a cat owner, this may sound utterly ridiculous but my favorite upgrade is what we have done for our cats. When you travel with two cats and they are not happy, they will let you know immediately. The first big change we made was converting our outdoor kitchen into a litter box and storage area and adding access through a cat door in the bathroom. This space is completely theirs when we are parked and there is plenty of room for our outdoor grill and cooking tools while we are traveling. This keeps the litter out of our rig and it’s easy to clean because we do it all from the outside. The second change we made was adding a cat tower. Fortunately, we have room for one in our rig and the cats love running from one end of the rig to the end with a bonus run up the tower. We have leashes for them and we get them out when there are opportunities but the tower really helps when they are cooped up in the rig for several days in a row.
Do you plan to go full-time?
Brian: We would both quit our jobs and go full time tomorrow if we could. Unfortunately, there are bills to pay and we do both really love our jobs! I like to say that we live like we’re retired on weekends and any break that we get from school, which is why we spend as much time as possible on the road.
Michelle: Absolutely! There are a lot of decisions to make before we can go full-time, mainly those decisions revolve around finances. We both have been teaching for more than 20 years and are well-vested in our retirement plans. Therefore, quitting our jobs and going full-time is something that will happen but not for a bit. The best part is that for a couple of months a year we get to live like full-timers since we are both off in the summer.
We want to bring you more “He said/She said” segments. Let us know what you want to hear by leaving a comment or question below. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to see gorgeous photos of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.