Feb 19, 2015

Transitioning to an RV

I have been busy working on my music website and haven't been blogging, but I have made several posts on facebook about RV life, and I had a few people tell me they enjoyed the posts and hoped I was documenting them.  So, now that we've lived in an RV 104 days, I went through my old fb posts and compiled them to share in journal form.  It's a little long, but here it is anyway.

November 7th
Safe back in California and we are officially full-time RV-ers. Now to clean out the junk we threw in in the last minute, get it to pass the smog test, and get this thing registered. Yeah, we're crazy. ;) :p I'll have limited Internet over the next few days until we figure out that bit. Adventure time!

November 13th
California is so cold these days that we wish we would have dressed the kids in long-sleeved shirts instead of t-shirts last night. So cold we are going to start dressing them in warm pjs at night to compensate. Last week we ran our air conditioner because it was in the 90's, but this week it's dropped down to the 70's. Brrr.

November 19th
Right now I live in San Bernardino. You know, because my house is here. We now know our sewage works great, and that we've got a nice engine, it just needs a tune up. We are living in a nice mechanic's yard who will fix it up after his day job. It was pretty cool to drive an hour and still be home. I'm going to love this RV life.

November 20th
Here's how to cut back on your water consumption in one easy step: Move into an RV.

November 21st
My inlaws spoiled us with a bunch of recently expired meal pouches from Mountain House. They have been so easy to prepare. We've heated the water in the microwave, poured it in the pouches, and served it into paper dishes. In this way, I haven't washed any dishes this last week and it's been pretty nice. But eventually I'm going to learn to be a crock-pot queen. That's my goal.

November 26th
Our RV is now smogged and registered. Yay! That means we can take it to a campground now. Small steps.

December 3rd
You know what I think is ironic? The nature of the majority of my kids' fighting has changed since we moved into an RV. And what do they fight over? Who gets to be CLOSER to who. aka: "I want to sit by Ruth!" "It's my turn to play with Patrick!" "I want to hold Philip." Here we are in tighter quarters than before, and this is what I'm hearing. They also have no problem at all with huddling around a screen together.

December 6th
Yay! We had a great landlady to let a stay what turned out to be a whole month, but it is SO nice to be at a campground now, to shower on our own dime. I love this, and I feel motivated to make the the full-timing lifestyle work for us. Prado Park is so beautiful right now. By the way, I'm going to update my current city every time we move, just for kicks and giggles.

December 11th
This is where we'll be spending much of our time over the next little bit. Thousand Trails's membership is a great deal for families (no extra fees for the kids!), and this one has internet. It's really nice! The kids love the canals. By the way, they're having a special right now where if you buy the $545 membership by the end of the year with someone's referral number, you both get an extra zone. We're in a facebook group set up help people get those extra zones. So we can go to any TT in the South east and west, plus the northeast. Two weeks in the campground, one week out of their system, $3 after the first 30 free days. If anyone is interested, PM me, and I'll help you get in the line-up. We've already got our bonus zones, so I'm just passing on a good deal. 

December 13th
I didn't think a Thousand Trails upgrade would be worth it, but I was wrong. So now we're "elite" members. Yep. That means whatever route we travel, we'll be hugging their campsites. I'm excited, because so far we have really enjoyed our stay here. We've already met four other full-timing families- nice people, great kids. This is such an affordable way to live!

December 15th
You know what I really like about this RV life? The rich and poor live together alike. Fancy rigs parked right next to old, converted vans. We have met people on both ends of the spectrum. There is no slummy corner of the campground, or ritzy area where the best rigs park. And none of these people have not smiled back at us when we wave at them. It's a whole different world we've entered.

December 20th
It's amazing what a big difference a little space heater makes in a small space. The cheap one from Wal-mart didn't work, so we took it back and got a nice one from Sears. Yay! We're pretty cozy now. Just because it's not freezing doesn't mean California never gets nippy in December.  :) Plus, the 7" rosemary tree from Trader Joes makes a great little Christmas tree.  Happy little shopping trip today.

December 22nd
It was warm today, and we finally got to use the swimming pool. It's heated! So fun! Dear Michael, you might have a really hard time convincing me to go back to a stick and bricks home. I kinda really love living in a campground. I've always wanted access to a pool. Our kids are finally going to learn how to swim!

December 24th
This is a longer update of a more personal nature for anyone interested.
I read an interesting article about how sad it is that people spend so much time on facebook trying to make their life look glamorous. I'm guilty of that. And not just because I'm trying to convince myself, I really am a happy person. I have so much to be grateful for. My dream of living in an RV is happening. We're healthy. We're in a nice campground and our Thousand Trails membership means that our utilities will be affordable and we will be able to count on being in nice places. Our kids are happy, they've adjusted well, and we feel very good about this new transition we are making for our little family. We have also been blessed financially throughout our marriage and have never really struggled that way before. Lucky, I know.
Well, this year we really stretched ourselves, jumped out of our comfort zone, and quite frankly, fell flat on our face. I mean, we've had great experiences, met wonderful people, and have learned so much. But financially, well, it's been a rough year, and there are not-so-glamorous parts of our situation I haven't shared as much. I'm a very proud person, really, and I've had to let go of a lot of that pride lately. It's been good for me too.
We really are okay. Michael and I have had some serious planning sessions this week and there are things about the mobile life that we can really leverage to make things happen. I'm very optimistic about our future, about the music business I've wanted to build for so long, and the chance Michael will have to learn the healer's art, as he has longed for. We have some connections, training materials we purchased when we had money, and a dream we are going to run with. The future looks bright.
Even so, we have felt the pinch. We just have to work through the consequences of some poor choices we made this year, but we're going to funnel our way out, and we'll be better for it. Our family and congregation really came through for us for Christmas. Some of our needs were provided for in little ways we didn't expect, like I needed pants, and a new friend gave me hand-me-downs. Then there were generous monetary gifts from family and food from our congregation. God is in the little and the big things. It's been overwhelming. I didn't see myself as someone in need, but in truth we really did need a leg up this month, and we have been so blessed. So so blessed by so many different people. I don't deserve it. But we really are grateful! In turn, I hope we will be better able to see the needs of those around us, and to be more charitable in the future because of this experience.
Thank you so much, dear Christmas angels. You know who you are.
Tonight we attended our campground's candlelight vigil, drove around looking at Christmas lights, then decided to drive around our new neighborhood to see the lights too. There are some very creative displays! There are full-blown inflatables and everything. The best part is I recognized the rig of one of my favorite full-timing families that I've been following for some time now online. I hoped our paths would cross and I didn't have to wait long! There will be an awkward "you're my hero" moment, but it will pass and I'm envisioning our kids getting to play together soon. I guess Southern California is a favorite place in the winter. I for one have no intention of leaving until it gets warm. Merry Christmas!

December 25th
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. I hear there's snow at Legoland. Gotta use that pass before it expires in two weeks... But the kids have to drink their egg nog first.  :) Merry Christmas everyone.

December 26th
Here's the problem with the tiny house movement: Sure, having 2-4 different uses for the same space is efficient, innovative, and classy. And Europe is very good at it. But how many large families live in these tiny houses? If one child is using the table for school, you can't fold it down into a bed for the baby's nap. I have found one family with 2 kids that live in one of these show-cased tiny homes, and that's as big as I've found. Now, there are many large families living in tiny spaces in 3rd-world countries, but those homes usually earn more pity than admiration. I'd love to be able to reach out to them, but I don't aspire to have that kind of home- it's not a goal to motivate me. So where can you find large families living in small spaces in a place up to 21st century standards? In RVs. That's part of why I first started looking into it. One family has always stood out to me as an inspiration in that regard- The TicknorTribe. Every child has their own space/bed, their home is organized, inviting, cozy, and surprisingly spacious. I would love to be where they are in 15-20 years. We were honored to be able to meet and visit them this evening. Their family works in construction in the summer, and during the off-months they travel, volunteering and ministering in post-natural disaster zones. Our children loved playing with their children and we were uplifted and inspired today.

December 28th
Running water! We had another Christmas angel. Funny thing is, it's freezing tonight, for reals, for the first time this winter, so Michael had to unhook it. Now, remember that not having running water and not having ACCESS to running water are completely different. There's a nice shower nearby. Even so, washing dishes tonight was a bit easier. My excuse to use paper plates draws to a close. Life is good, and we are happy campers.

January 1st
Our Thousand Trails Elite membership was a big investment for us, but the more I read the fine print, the more I look into the campgrounds that are included, the more excited I am about our purchase. Plus, meeting so many other full-timers has given me the assurance that this is the "thing" to do if you're going to live a transient life. On that note, we've had a few questions about the membership, so I'm going to do my best to outline what exactly we've gotten ourselves into. This post is long, written mostly for the curious about full-timing since TT is probably not the best deal for someone who only travels occasionally. :) 
First of all, TT has been around for many years, and there are more than 100 different memberships out there, each with different perks, terms, and their own rules about what benefits transfer if you sell. They also have a basic zone pass that is non-transferable. If you do buy a used one, read the fine print to make sure you are getting the benefits you think you're buying because many have been sorely disappointed. On the other hand, many are very happy- you just have to do your homework. We have met people who have purchased used as well as new, and if we had to do it again, we might have chosen to buy used now that we know more about it, but when we bought, we committed to four years in order to lower our yearly dues, and when we wanted to upgrade, we were already locked into a new purchase. But we have some awesome benefits only available to new buyers, so we don't feel like we missed out too bad. Plus, fair is fair, we're going to get our money's worth out of this system and then some. Anyway...
The Elite membership. It was $5460-ish as a one-time fee, plus yearly dues. They have a financing option that didn't check our credit and charges $120 a month, but it's 18% apr, (yikes!).. But the option was nice- that's still really cheap rent! Especially when you consider that there is no "child tax"- aka, no extra fees for having your own children come with you, which for our family often adds up to between $6-$25 per day, depending on the campground. The yearly dues are the same no matter what kind of membership you have.
This includes nation-wide access to any TT campground, with no extra nightly fees after the first 30 or 50 days like other memberships. Three weeks allowed in the campground before we have to bounce out- no out time required, so we can go directly to a different TT. This includes utilities, although some campgrounds charge extra for 50 amps instead of 30. These are full-amenity campgrounds with nice amenities. For example, ours has a heated pool, a kiddie pool, and two hot tubs, plus another pool for adults only. There's an exercise room, free mini-golf, free candy-bar bingo and child crafts on Saturdays, 25 cent train rides on weekends, a horseshoe pit and baseball field, and various activities depending on the week. It's nice! These resorts are in some prime locations too. There's one by Yosemite, a few on the beach in Washington, one by Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, one 9 miles from Orlando, one next to Jamestown, one near Plymouth, etc. Some don't have full hook-ups, a handful have water-slides. If you are expecting a resort, you'll be disappointed, you'll have to pay a lot more for those. But if you are expecting a nice campground, you'll be very happy with TT. We love Wilderness Lakes, which is the only one we have experience so far. We stayed 2 weeks with the basic, and she let us stay an additional 3 weeks as a perk for buying our Elite through this campground. That's a nice one-time-only 5-week stay over the Christmas holiday, and we took it! Many TT are off the beaten path a little and don't have good cell-reception, and internet is going to cost us a lot more now. Roll with the punches.
The first 5 years, we get one free week in the cabins, which we can share with our parents if they want to visit us.
We also can get our parents, children and grandchildren (as applicable) memberships will all the same benefits for $69 a year. The only catch is they can't use it the same time as us, with a few exceptions that would still make it a nice option if they want to visit.
We also got a gold membership to Resort Parks International (RPI), which is covered the first year, but is $159 a year after. It has it's own vast network of resort campgrounds that we can visit for $10 a night. We can spend 7 days in the regular, and 14 days in the RPI preferred campgrounds. We also have 4 coupons to print out every year for family and friends so they can go to RPI preferred campgrounds for a week at $15 a night. 27 of Thousand Trails campgrounds are also RPI preferred, which makes this option nice if people want to visit us or just use those coupons on their own.
We also get discounts on other campgrounds (Encore! and Enjoy America), and can get discounts to condos and cruises, should we choose to use those options in the future. Things like last-minute options and cheap rates, and help finding good travel deals and affiliated cabins all over the world. These benefits are part of the gold membership fees. We'll probably keep our membership just because TT campgrounds are not everywhere we want to be, and the RPI campgrounds are everywhere. There's even a hot springs one in Garland, UT.  :) Maybe we'll be world travelers too someday, but that's way down the road.
There's a lot more involved in the membership than this quick overview, but I wanted to share since there have been questions, and I know some people are even considering this lifestyle because of us. It's very affordable if the TT campgrounds are where you need/want to be. We look at it this way: It's about $500 a month the first year, and $50 a month for the rest of our lives. That's a cheap utility bill! Did I mention utilities are included?! Coolness. There was a recent thread I read where someone asked if/how a family of 7 could live under $2,000 a month, and a few said that their Elite membership to TT was the game changer for them. That made us feel good about the purchase! Having made this financial commitment to TT for the first 4 years, plus upgrading our membership as we have done, it is safe to say that we will be living in an RV for awhile. We're not going on a year-long crash course through the country to see everything- no self-imposed deadline to see everything. We're going to go nice and slow- sight-seeing now and again, but also taking lots of time to live life- to earn a living, to homeschool our children, to reach out and serve. This isn't a vacation, it's a lifestyle. And, it's one that will suit us fine. To our Utah friends, you can count on us living in Utah often- especially in Vernal and Paradise (Cache). We know people with children who have done this for several years and they are quite happy. We've been doing this almost two months, and we're quite happy, and they say if you can get past the first month without going crazy, you'll be fine. So that's how 2015 starts for us. Last year we were frantically packing to move to California, and now we live nowhere in particular. Welcome 2015! It's going to be a good year. And I'm excited!

January 3rd
Today I had a flashback to a time years ago as a little girl when my Grandpa Anderson taught me to cook my first egg in a frying pan. It was in his truck camper at the Great Salt Lake. I have a lot of fond memories in RVs as a child as my dad was a traveling salesman and my parents were always game for an adventure. Anyway, I remembered my Grandpa today because... drumroll... our propane works! We scrambled some eggs for the first time in our RV today. And the hot water heater works too! We didn't even have to fix the water heater, just a propane valve. I'm assuming the furnace works too, but we want to clean it out good before we blast our home full of old dirt. haha. This RV is feeling less and less like a glorified tent and more and more like a home all the time.

January 6th
It's no secret that most full-timers are retirees. Which is great, except for the fact that if you're a family with kids, you're a minority and I've heard horror stories about how many retirees don't want kids on their turf. It's something I was a little apprehensive about, so our time here has been a very pleasant surprise. Most retirees are somebody's grandparent, and a surprising number of these full-timers had a large brood of their own back in the day. They have been very warm to us. One evangelical neighbor heard I was a musician and asked if we would like to borrow a copy of her Jane Seymore Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas DVD to watch with the kids. She tries to go every year. She also gave our kids cookies. People who have asked our kids questions and listened to their answers. Today a man asked if we'd like some stale popcorn to give to the ducks. And when our kids played in the big, muddy puddle in our little area this evening, we got a lot of nods of approval. So while I'm sure those horror stories are true and we'll probably experience our own share of it, I'm thinking maybe it happens in more expensive campgrounds, or maybe in more long-term campgrounds where they might be more territorial. Or maybe all the stories about how family-friendly Thousand Trails campgrounds are is more true than I thought. At any rate, there are a lot of older people in this campground that have really made my kids feel special.

January 7th
Okay, here's our campsite. :)  We were fortunate to stay here 5 weeks over Christmas because we had 2 weeks with the zone pass, and when we upgraded to the Elite, they let us add 3 weeks. A one-time nice bonus, so we've been here a month and have loved it. It's close to the family lodge and a 3-minute walk to the playground.

January 7th
Things are looking up here in Duloc. Now the toilet flushes, the furnace works, and Michael fixed something quirky in the engine. It's funny, because flushing the toilet with a gallon jug really wasn't that bad, and neither was washing our hands with a 5-gallon jug with a spigot. Not bad at all, and all part of the adventure. But since it wasn't that bad, now that the toilet does flush, it's this really novel, wonderful thing. Every time I wash my hands, and especially when I rinse something off, I think, "Gee, running water is sure nice. I like having running water." We have full hook-ups, so I can use as much water as I need to get the job done. Not that we waste water, but I don't feel as uptight about our water usage like I did when I had to haul it in. It's a real luxury!

But I digress. The best news I had was that Michael will probably have a part-time job soon in the office at his solar company that will be enough for our needs. (Did I mention our cost of living is much lower now? :) ) The rest of the day he will be able to work his own solar sales or work other business pursuits.

Also, I splurged on myself today and bought a full-sized atlas. We're not in full travel-mode yet, but it's so fun to dream. Today I spent a couple of hours highlighting the places where TT campgrounds are located, and compared them to places I want to visit. Google maps are great for the close-up detail and gps navigation, but you just can't beat a good, detailed paper map for an overview to help one get the big picture. Why I'm so excited that there's a Thousand Trails near Kirtland, Ohio when we're not going anytime soon beats me. But I'm a very happy girl tonight.

January 9th
Choosing to live in an rv was a great decision, as was choosing thousand trails. But I regret choosing this particular motorhome. We've fixed so many things, but another big problem popped up today, and I'm thinking that there comes a point where we have to admit defeat. It would make a great backyard apartment at this point. Meanwhile, the kids are having the time of their lives running up and down the hill with a couple of boys that are living here on their week out of the TT system.

January 10th
I've been thinking about what makes a person be happy. We have gone through a few bumps in the road this year and it has not affected my happiness. But I am very hopeful about our future. I know this is just a bump in the road in our journey to something much better for our family. Is it that hope that makes me happy? Is it our health? What if someone in our family became very ill? What if there was no hope for better financial success, and we were living in an RV worse than this one? Would I still be happy? I like to think so. I like to think that I would draw happiness from the hope of a better life to come, and indeed I know my religious beliefs would pull me through it. Even so, I can hardly blame one in that circumstance for her unhappiness. My current neighbor who used to live in a house, but lost everything during a bad year, including her health. They have the same TT membership as us, but no way of getting to a different campground, so they stay at Wilderness Lakes 3 weeks, a friend with a truck tows them a few blocks away for a week, then they come back. Their off week is hard for her. They don't have a generator, so they use flashlights and candles. Something I didn't know is that with our membership, we can get a day pass into the park to use the facilities even on our off days. They do this to shower, fill the jugs, and even swim on hot days. Even so, I'm feeling a bit like the Queen of Sheba over here because we have a generator. That we now know only mostly works. Haha. But we have options and we're going to work this out. Again, this evening was only a bump in the road. My bump in the road is her reality, with no end in sight, and poor health to boot. I don't know all about her situation, what her husband does, and all that. I just know that she is very unhappy. She was friendly to be sure, and her boys seem to be none the worse for wear, they were so excited when we pulled in next to them with kids their age. But this woman is unhappy and I don't know how to help her. We aren't doing that much better ourselves at the moment, except for us its not that bad. We chose the RV life and look forward with hope. They lost everything and are stuck. I know there are a lot of people out there that are suffering, and would love to be in her shoes, really. Many of them are happy too. I am going to try today to help her, but I'm not sure what we can do. Still, I've got a feeling that there is something we can do, and I'm open to suggestions. She is going back in the park today, but our paths will cross frequently since we plan on spending a nice chunk of time there. It's funny, because there are also many rich people who come through the park. Some full-time, and for some, it is their vacation. It's a nice park! What a crazy adventure for our family. There are a lot of people in the world, and we will meet more of them because we are on the road.

January 11th
Quick update. Michael fixed the generator and boondocking isn't bad at all, though I wish we would have known and could have filled our water tanks instead of going back to filling jugs. Anyway, we had propane and had a nice meal last night. It really lifted my spirits to cook a meal with full lighting in my own home. This RV is serving our family, even if it has required a lot of love. Michael called around yesterday and had another good look at the tag axle. It looks like it's just loose, and can go back and forth. Apparently our leveling jacks work after all, and when we lowered the RV, the axle slid back and wasn't touching the tire anymore. That's why we didn't notice the problem sooner. Well, we might be able to find a cheaper bandaid fix, which is what this rig needs. We would like to make this RV work for us while we stay in SoCal, but we want a trailer and 15 passenger van when we go into travel mode.

January 12th
Here's a shout out for OK Tire service in Menifee, CA. Our tag axle was out and a few places quoted us for $1800 on the phone. My husband did some research, found out whar needed to be done, but didn't have the right tools. We came here, and they only charged us $200 for 3 hours of work. I'm feeling so grateful, because I was about to uproot our family to a different rig and sell this one as a backyard apartment. I'm either the one with rose colored glasses, or melodramatic i guess. Lucky me to have a practical husband. I also know for a fact that Michael made the job much easier for them and affordable for us because he was able to point out exactly what needed to be done. Yay!

January 13th
What a crazy day. Well, I've learned one thing, I don't live in Norco anymore. And we're not location independent yet either, which meant a long drive today, getting Michael to a meeting, picking up his car, and running errands. When we picked up the mail and exciting packages, I overheard my kids talking to a woman about McDonalds. They were telling her how unhealthy the food is there. I'm glad I mentioned that you can get fruit cups in the kids meals instead of fries because it turned out that she's the head manager over 4-5 local stores. She thought my kids were so cute, and she ended up giving us some free tickets for some healthy food at McDonalds. So, since our lunch was mostly free (we supplemented the healthy food with fries and McNuggets, haha), I think they deserve a word. The salads at McDonalds are actually rather healthy. Very little iceburg, it's mostly Romaine lettuce, awesome thin carrot slices, cherry tomatoes, etc. Not to mention grilled chicken and bacon. I very well may go back for it. The strawberry smoothies were really good too. I also noticed that the kids meals had books, which is really awesome. So while McDonalds has a bad rap for being unhealthy, and much of their food is, I've actually been very impressed with the way they are cleaning up their image, offering healthy alternatives, and providing educational toys. We don't not go there because it's not healthy, we don't go because we're cheap. What a nice treat for our family today. Another adventure with the kids was at Walmart this morning where the kids sang "Do-Re-Mi" the entire time. I'm getting used to all the turning heads we always get just by the sheer nature of having 5 small children, it's something I just deal with. Well, today, I rather enjoyed the attention. The kids weren't running amok, they were rather cute, and the stares were not at me (she's got her hands full!), but at the kids. They really brightened a lot of faces. Then I had to open my big mouth and tell Michael about it later, so when we went to Trader Joes this evening, they were walking right up to people to sing to them. You know, because if a little is good, a lot is better, right? Also Michael talked with a professional musician today and they talked about my website. He really likes what I'm doing, and he wants to see my project be successful. He was blown away by the piano chord wheel. J He offered to record the soundtrack my ear training course I'm working on for free in his professional studio. HOW COOL IS THAT!?!? I intend to pay him for his work with the first proceeds we get, but I'm just so excited about recording in a real studio, and happy that my husband went to bat for me. Well, I don't know how we could have packed more into the day, we're home late and I'm exhausted. Lucky for me, I don't have to go anywhere tomorrow, and I'm not planning on it, lots to do here. The stars are beautiful in Pio Pico, tomorrow we'll finally get to see what it looks like in the day. There are a few tents here, it's not all RVs.

January 15th
My husband actually had great cell reception in the back of the campground, and the paid campground internet worked great. Then we got lucky in their wait-in-line-for-full-hook-ups system. The north side has water and electric, the south side has sewer plus most of the activities. So we moved, we've got sewer, we can walk right to the kid swimming pool, mini-golf, youth center, and on the other side is the store and baseball field. We're in this super prime spot, it's so beautiful here. Only there's super spotty internet, and we need it to get our work done. It's so weird, we can see the ranger's satellite dish. M richael thinks it's getting a strong signal from two different locations and our devices can't figure out which one to connect to. Weird. We might just go back to the south side. There's a parking lot next to the pool, and it's not that hard to unhook everything to drive to the dump station. It's just so pretty here. If I'm hard to contact over the next couple of weeks, you'll know it's because we just stayed put. This campground is so beautiful, it's just away from it all. We saw four coyotes yesterday up in the hills behind the playground, and there are lots of wild rabbits and squirrels.

January 17th
Yesterday we went to the Pio Pico youth center, which is only open on the weekends during the school year. In addition to Foosball, air hockey, pool, and a few other similar games, they had craft paper, glue, crayons, markers, and scissors laid out with a craft suggestion, toys, puzzles, and a children's library of about 500 books. I was so impressed! The staff member told me that they were mostly donated, but even so, it was so-o-o nice to let the kids peruse new books. I haven't figured out the best solution to the heavy books/small space/avid readers yet, but this week's solution is the youth center. I'm going to ask the staff member if we can borrow a few of the chapter books to read during the week. They've got a few classics like Treasure Island that my kids haven't read yet. They also had board books, bedtime stories, etc.

January 18th
We had a very special Sunday at church today. After 40 days of collective fasting (someone in the ward was always fasting at any given moment), we had a special sacrament meeting where we invited guests, lots of musical numbers, and talks about some of our most basic beliefs. We did have a lot of visitors, and it was a great meeting. Worth the 2.5 hour drive there and back. Which leads us to the reality that we are a transient family, and it's really hard to commute to the Auburndale Ward that we love so much. We are closing a chapter in our lives and entering one we have never really experienced before, one where we will only visit a ward for 3 weeks before moving on. We have been assured by other LDS families that have done this that there are still many ways to serve and connect, and I do look forward to meeting new people- something that has drawn me to this life. We love you, Auburndale ward! We will visit again, off and on as our location permits. There's just something so official about changing our worship pattern, as if we weren't really on the road as long as we met the same people on Sunday. Well, the next two weeks we will go to Michael's aunt and uncle's ward, and I'm looking forward to it.

January 24th
This is the lovely site we left so we could have internet. Our new site is still pretty, just no sewer and we'll have to drive to get the same amenities. Pio Pico is really a great campground. They have more amenities than most TT because they can be open all year. The youth center is great, and we're reading some fun chapter books from their library. There's Foosball, pool, air hockey, puzzles galore, and toys. With access to all that, who needs a big house? The kids are happy, and Michael is really starting to love the full-timing life too. We've met so many interesting people! I love people. We'll probably live in an RV for quite some time.

January 25th

Living life as a tourist

I felt a real change in myself this week. It's a change I've read about happening in some of the travel blogs I have followed, only they usually talk about it happening after a year of travel. Yet it happened to me now after about three months.

To explain what happened, I'm going to share a story that happened to me when I was 12 and we were visiting Niagra falls. We were just pulling into a gas station or something like that and I overheard my Dad talking with a middle-aged man who had lived there his entire life and had never, not once, gone to see the falls at night when they do their spectacular light displays. In fact, he had never been to the falls at all if I remember correctly. My Dad made some comment about how he knew a lot of people in Utah that had never swam in the Great Salt Lake, never visited Temple Square, or had never visited the National Parks Utah has to offer. People come from ALL OVER THE WORLD to see these places, yet the locals often never go. My parents talked to us about it, and growing up, I'm grateful that they often took the time to take us to local attractions, things like the free museum in our home-town, hiking in the local mountains, and yes, swimming in the Great Salt Lake. I've done that with my own kids too.

No matter where you live, and how stationary your home is or isn't, one can always try to live as a tourist by simply getting out of one's shell when they have the opportunity.

But this post isn't about that, really. It's about the flip side of the coin. It takes a truly wealthy person to always live like they are on vacation. People who travel to Niagra Falls during their time off will most certainly be seeing the falls, maybe riding the touristy boats under the falls, getting the T-shirt, and jam-packing as many wonderful, touristy activities as their stay will allow. I know when my parents took me back east on that trip when I was 12, we did a myriad of activities. Every day we were either driving or seeing something new and wonderful. It was an amazing, life-changing trip for me. Something my parents planned for, saved for, prepared for, and dreamed of, for them and us. There was even a touch of business thrown in to make it more affordable. That's how these things usually are done, how they should be done.

So here's the question: How many people who live in Niagara Falls go during a busy week like that? If they do go to the falls, they probably didn't plan their visit out for months in advance. They are less likely to buy the T-shirt too. It's something they will do on a weekend, or maybe they'll go with their local play group. They are also less likely to go if they have a looming work deadline ahead of them. The waterfall has been there for hundreds of years, after all, and the opportunity to visit won't go away any time soon.

There's a big difference between the local visitor and the traveling visitor. And that quintessential difference just happens in time for full-timing families. They say the first year, you want to go everywhere, to see everything, and soak it all in. The second year you slow down, and by the third year, you feel more like a local. But they're the kind of "local' person that wouldn't spend their whole life living in Niagra Falls without seeing what the whole hullabaloo was about. Of course they're going to see what their local area has to offer if they can and as money permits, but there comes a point where you settle in to your new life too.

That happened for me this last week. Here I am near touristy San Diego, and I had a fairly big list of things I wanted to do here in my head. Well, my husband had a meeting in town and I took it upon myself to take the kids to do something fun. In the end, our navigation system wasn't working as well as I would have liked, and we only drove around town. We saw the skyscrapers up close and drove over a neat bridge over the water, but we also wound up in shadier a part of town and drove under a bridge where we saw homeless tarps set up. It was really an eye opener for the children. For me too. They talk about it a lot and I don't have good answers for their questions aside from the fact that life isn't always fair.

And that was our big touristy day in San Diego- that and a lot of driving while Mommy tried to figure out where she was on the map.

Later this week I felt a strong urge to really button down the hatches and catch up on our schooling. Well, not catch up as much as get back into a routine. I also have a business to build and I was able to get some good work done on that. The kids did a few lessons in their math book, they read a few chapter books, and our neighbors even noticed that we didn't go anywhere one of the days. We didn't. We didn't even walk to the playground, we stayed inside all day long on a beautiful day, just like we did when we were in a sticks-and-bricks home. We were very productive that day. Because life doesn't stop happening just because you live in an RV, and there is work that has to be done.
I always knew that this would be how full-time-RVing would ultimately be. Full-timing it sounds so exotic, but in the end it is remarkably similar to living in a stick-and-bricks home. People think it would make a great reality TV show, but in the idea usually gets scrapped.

So while San Diego has a lot to offer, it's not going anywhere, and I'll probably visit again some time. If I don't see the lighthouse state park, there could be another time, yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubt I shall ever come back. Not under the same circumstances.

This week I realized that during our travels, we might go to a famous city and spend the entire time working on a big deadline, only to move on. And I am okay with that. I mean, of course I would be because that's life, but the old me would have had an agenda, would have a list of things to do and feel disappointed when it didn't happen. Now I'm expecting it to happen more often than not. We also might end up in a random town no one has ever heard of and have the best traveling experience one could hope for. I expect experiences like that too, and I look forward to them.

As our journey and time in an RV proceeds, I want to live my life as a tourist. The same kind of tourist I was when I lived in Logan and our family decided to take a walk on USU campus to see the statues, or go on a nature walk up by first dam, but not if the weather was too cold or the laundry needed to be done. Unless we needed to get out, in which case we went anyway and somehow caught up later. We did what we needed to, when we needed to, both in work and play. THAT is the kind of tourist I want to be. I'm not on vacation, this is my new life. It's not that different from my old life, really. Even so, I feel like I'm beginning to change this week.

January 26th
We had a little adventure this evening. We came into Pio Pico from the north and missed the turn off the 94. We didn't see a good place to turn around right away and ended up driving past a border checkpoint before we turned around. We didn't know that's what it was! It's about 10 minutes north of the border after all. So Michael showed his drivers license, explained that we are US citizens and our story, and the officer just rolled his eyes and smiled as he let us pass. But we learned our lesson! I'm just glad we made the mistake in our minivan and not an RV. We won't be missing that turn again. We're awfully close to Mexico. Sometimes campers here think they hear gunshots in the distance, and I think I may have the other night. But don't worry, usually it's much less scary sounds we hear, like owls, occasional traffic, and the howl of a pack of wild, hungry, ferocious coyotes.

January 30th
I feel an urge to "un-complain" about this rig for a moment. Sure, we've had a lot of problems with the rig, but it's serving our family very well in spite of them. Tonight we went to dump the sewer a little late and it was getting dark. When we unplugged, the kids ran for their flashlights and had a blast pretending our motorhome was a cave and they were explorers. I realized, "Hey, this is a pretty big RV, for them to have room to play like that." It is- people have commented that they didn't know that Bounder made double-axle motorhomes, it's a uniquely large RV for it's kind. We could have bought a beat-up rig that was much smaller. There are also truer lemons than what we have. We had to fix the water, but we didn't have to tear out the flooring to do it. Michael had to fix the propane valve, but after that, it worked. There are still problems with the engine, but it's mostly okay and will 'probably' get us back to Menifee safely next Monday. Our situation could be much worse. We're warm and cozy with our electricity and internet and are eating healthy food in our perfectly functioning, large-for-an-RV fridge and freezer, and it's raining and I don't care. Plus, we're in a beautiful campground where I can take my kids on a lovely nature trail without having to drive anywhere. Can I pinch myself? Plus, I've been very productive with my business dreams this week too, so all around it's been a great week.

February 1st
Happy #‎MormonBattalion day! (yesterday). I am so grateful to the many volunteers that made it so wonderful here in San Diego. Something interesting I learned- the Mormons didn't know much about how to irrigate in the desert, but the Battalion members learned from the Mexicans, and in turn taught the new saints that arrived in the west. This skill was fundamental to survival and our journey to the west could have had a much worse ending without the results of the Battalion march. Granted, we helped the Mexicans too, so it was a good thing for everyone. Today I honor my ancestors John W. Hess, Emeline B. Hess, Reddick N. Allred, and William Bird, as well as our 6 uncles who marched in the battalion.

February 11th
We had a fun day at the playground 100 feet in front of our RV today. It's like a giant sand box, and there were children from two other homeschooling families there today. During our stay in CA, I have really missed interacting with other homeschoolers. Not that there aren't any, but the one group I did play-groups with was too far after we moved to Norco, and most homeschoolers in CA are really part of public-school-at-home programs that are quite involved within their own group. Anyway, I've really missed that, and having a nice, two-hour-chat with another mom who lives in an RV, has four kids, homeschools with a similar philosophy of goal-oriented homeschooling, spends most of her time in Wilderness Lakes like us, and is working towards traveling like us, well, it was nice. Really, really nice. Her kids are older than mine, but it didn't stop any of them from having a ball with each other. We're only about 200 feet from them right now. This RV park is very pretty too.

February 13
I'm giving up on the "work first, play later" routine. So long as both happen, that's okay, right? It worked great in a stick and brick home where the kids had plenty of room to do their thing while I worked with other kids, but it's been hard in the RV. I've resisted the change, but the days we go out and play first seem to be so much more productive overall. The kids are physically worn out just enough to happily sit down and do some brain work, instead of hyper and restless in the morning, fighting it, and then feeling so exhausted from the work part of the day that I don't want to go out and play. The kids I plunk down in front of a screen while I work with the others are also less hyperactive and wild when I turn the screen off. So from now on, we're getting dressed in the morning, and going outside first thing, whether it be for errands, field trips, or in most cases, something here in the campground. Evening homeschooling is working great for us now, and I'm not going to fight it anymore. This is, of course, subject to change when the evenings are not dark, meaning we're stuck inside anyway, but this is definitely our winter plan.

Helen just told me that she wishes that we'd go camping sometime like her new friend she made today. I told her we live in a campground, and she was not impressed. It's only camping if you sleep in a tent.


Carrie W. said...

I know this is late, but "hey hey hey Aggies all the way!"
I live in Lakewood, CA and went to USU from 93-97. My dad was from Logan and my parents met there, then moved to California. I think I have a random cousin who marched with the Mormon Battalion. It has an AWESOME visitors center!!

Tamsyn Spackman said...

Thanks for commenting! USU is awesome. I went from 03-07, so exactly 10 years after you. That's pretty cool. :)

Matt Voges said...

If your kid is demur and his/her attitude is like unfriendly then you should try our water slide game. If your kids play with our water slide game they will definitely happy and it will make smile in their face. Cheap Moonwalks

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