More on the Wheels

Two years ago I was busy prepping my home of twenty-plus years for sale, disposing of the bulk of my belongings, and waiting for my little house-on-wheels to be built.  It sounds so simple when you look at that sentence.  It wasn’t.  As anyone who has walked through something similar can attest, it wasn’t simple at all.  But it was worthwhile.  Totally.

Part of the preparation process was setting up this blog.  I envisioned the blog would be a place for me and others to share what it is like to age in America today and, more specifically, to talk about traveling this country in an RV.  There has been a tiny bit of conversation in the comments section, but not much.  Way too much of the space here has been taken up by me examining belly button lint–Dawny’s and my own.

Speaking of which, why don’t dogs have belly buttons?

Back to our regularly scheduled program…

In an effort to steer the conversation towards something more RV-related, today’s post will discuss the wheels part of our lifestyle.  I’ll note what works for us, but keep in mind that there are many, many ways of doing this and other options work much better for other travelers.

Our house-on-wheels is, more specifically, a 25-foot long motorhome (rather than a trailer towed behind your vehicle).  Unlike most people with motorhomes, we do not tow a car behind us (called a “toad”).  When researching the RV lifestyle and all the different types of rigs and ways of traveling, I decided to wait to see if I was going to really need a toad.  I am happy I waited, since it has saved a lot of money not having to insure and maintain another vehicle.  And it turns out that we have been able to navigate life just fine without one.  At 25 feet, we fit into most parking lots easily, taking up just one and a half spaces front to back.  Even a tiny trailer towed behind a normal-sized car is longer than that.

As for the decision to go with a motorhome rather than a towed trailer, the primary reason I went with the former is my total lack of confidence in being able to maneuver the latter.  Watching people back their trailers up into their camping sites can be highly entertaining.  I do not think that even after two years I would be able to handle that very well, especially without a second person to act as spotter.  Dawny would eagerly fill that role, but I fear she may run off after the first squirrel, leaving me in the lurch (and the source of great entertainment for our neighbors).

There are several benefits you get when your car and your house are all wrapped up in a motorhome.

When stuck in a traffic jam, you can make a sandwich, use the potty, or take a nap, all without leaving the car.  Heck, if the traffic is stopped long enough, I imagine you could make a few bucks selling tickets to the potty.  Just kidding!  I would never!  Also, if the weather is really hot or chilly, you can fire up your generator and have the A/C or heat on without having to run the vehicle engine.  Nearly every winter I see news stories about people stranded on some interstate when caught by a surprise snow storm.  Not only would you be warm and safe, you could host quite a party.  When traffic begins to move again, send your new friends on their way, hop into the driver’s seat, and mosey along.  (Cautionary side note:  The party scenario is for extroverts only.  Introverts can just roll down their shades, lock their doors, and crawl into bed until traffic starts moving again.)

If you are camped someplace that turns scary and wild in the middle of the night, you can hop out of bed and zoom away without having to go outside at all.  In just ten steps I can cover the distance from my bathroom or bedroom in the rear of the rig to the driver’s seat.  Turn the key, and off we go!  The only thing I might lose is my electrical cord.  If you hook up water, too, then you’re liable to have some damage when the hose is pulled off the connection to the house but, hey, small price to pay if the situation is dire.  Personally, I operate my water system using the water pump and fresh water holding tank and do not hook up to on-site water.  Simply refilling the tank once every week or two is easier for me.  Inflicting less damage while fleeing zombies or bad guys is just a side benefit.

Unlike most RV’s nowadays, mine does not have a slide-out.  In the interest of simplicity, I opted not to get one.  While it affords extra floor space when it is slid out, it also adds extra weight, takes away storage space for the slide frame and mechanism, and is one more thing that can possibly go wrong, not to mention the potential access point it gives to spiders, dirt, and moisture.  Dawny and I don’t need any more floor space, but I can see how it might be nice if more than one person was living here.

I love our little house.  In the area between the rear (bedroom/bathroom) and the front (pilot house), I have all the comforts of home:  a full kitchen, dining room/living room/office, loads of cabinets, several closets, and an entry foyer.  The TV is at the very front over the driver and passenger seats (and Dawny’s bed) and can be viewed from my favorite spot at the dinette or from my bed in the rear.  It is a very open floor plan with clear line-of-sight throughout and windows on all four sides.  This is especially nice when the weather is bad and we are housebound for a spell.  Things feel cozy, not claustrophobic.  If interested, you can view my floor plan at the manufacturer’s website, www.phoenixusarv.com.  It is the model 2351 but without the slide and with a closet in place of the chair behind the passenger seat.

In the interest of full disclosure, be aware that there are a couple of downsides to traveling in a motorhome compared to towing your house behind you, especially when you don’t have a toad.  No matter where I go, even on a short little errand, I must take my entire house with me.  Actually, this can be a benefit.  Driving the house a ways at 60 miles an hour can interrupt any hitchhikers who may be spinning webs or building other kinds of houses on mine (with the exception of tenacious little critters like Renaldo).  Also, Dawny is with me always that way.  While I am shopping, I can run the generator so that she can have the A/C or heat on, if needed.  And when I come back with my groceries, I can pop the gelato right into the freezer and the rotisserie chicken into the refrigerator.  Heck, I can crank up the antenna and watch some TV before returning to the campground if I want to.

OK, so that downside wasn’t too bad.  Let’s try again.

If I want to tour a little town with tiny streets and tight parking spaces, I’m pretty much out of luck.  Same thing with big cities.  I can’t imagine trying to drive my house through the streets of New York City or the heart of Washington, D.C.  There are ways to deal with this, though.  You can rent a car in situations where that might make sense.  In a city, you can use taxis, Uber, or public transportation.  I have also found that fellow campers can be very generous and offer rides to the store and other places when they notice I don’t tow a car.

Another potential downside of traveling in a motorhome with no toad is what do you do when either the motor part or the house part needs a massive repair?  Your whole house and your wheels are all stuck in the shop together.  Where do you go?  How do you get around?  What about all your stuff???  All good questions.  The one time my RV was in the shop for an extensive period of time (two weeks), we were lucky to be visiting a friend with a dog-friendly house, a spare room, and time to drive us around.  If that hadn’t been the case, I would have seen if the shop would have let us stay with the rig–many will–and if not, we would have to have found a pet-friendly hotel nearby and maybe rented a car.  A nuisance, yes.  Insurmountable, no.

So, approaching our two-year anniversary, I can honestly say I am very happy with the choices I made when we set out on our adventure.  For anyone reading this post who is considering a similar purchase and looking at all the choices, I would simply recommend that you research, research some more, then research again (yay Google!) and go see as many RV’s as you can.  It pays to go to an RV show, if possible, where there will be lots of types of RV’s and manufacturers.  What looks good on paper can look (and feel!) very, very different in person.

Thanks for reading, and if anyone wants to pipe in with their own RV lifestyle experiences and choices, please feel free to use the comment section.  It might take a little time before the comment posts, as each one comes through me first.  This is my home, after all.  Meanwhile, happy trails to everyone, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mommas out there!

Confession:  Unable to rest while an unsolved mystery lingers in the air, I googled the question of canine belly buttons.  Yes, of course, dogs have belly buttons.  They are very small compared to ours.  They don’t have innsies or outies, just a tiny scar covered by fur.  With no room for lint.