Real Talk: RV Life Edition

I know we can make this life look so enviable. We shoot and edit photos of beautiful locations, fun adventures, or picturesque roadschool moments and post them to our IG and blogs. We gush in blog posts about how perfect our current location is or how much fun we had at the latest National Park we visited.

The truth is this life can be hard. I share 300 square feet with one adult, one six-year-old, a 65 pound dog that is mostly deaf and mostly blind, and a cat. And this time of year, that adult is only here about 10 days a month.

That means I’m solo-parenting a moody, growing, opinionated, insanely intelligent six-year-old. In 300 square feet. We can’t go to a splash pad every day. We can’t go hike Zion every day. We can’t go to a new park every day. Sometimes it gets boring if we need to have a day of laundry and cleaning or run errands all day.

It gets hard.

The worst part is not having a babysitter. Now, I know most people would say it’s pretty easy to fix that, but I’m not most people. We don’t have any family anywhere near our summer Utah location, and I have pretty high standards about who I’m willing to trust with my child. I think it’s a combination of the struggle it took to have him, knowing he’s the only kid I’ll ever have, and my own anxiety, but I’m not just going to find someone on care.com and cross my fingers that the worst won’t happen.

So, it gets hard.

I’m sure that most days he’s just as ready as I am for a break. He’s done hearing me ask him to put away his toys, or to finish his meal, or to brush his teeth. Some days he just wants to go do something fun. Some days I just want to be able to get my hair cut at the salon that doesn’t allow children. Some days I just wish Ben was here to defuse the situation (#riverguidewifeproblems).

So, it gets hard.

Then, I remind myself how much better this life is for us now.

When we still lived in a big rental house in Southern Arizona I worked full-time as a teacher and yearbook adviser and rarely saw my son. I worked 14-16 hour days teaching literature, helping kids learn to take action sports photos, staying after school until 10PM to chaperone them while they took those photos, and meticulously editing every single letter and punctuation mark in the yearbook. All to help pay the $400+ summer power bills. Now I see him every day and it brings tears to my eyes that I can finally raise my one and only little boy that I worried I might not ever have.

When we still lived in a big rental house in Southern Arizona, we only saw Ben about 5 days a month during his summer river season. We have doubled the amount of time we see him by going mobile and being so close to his summer work location. That extra time is priceless for this little boy of mine who calls his Daddy “buddy” and lights up with joy each time he comes home off a river trip. That extra time is so valuable to the man who was just as worried as I was about possibly never having a child to call our own.

It gets hard, but somehow it’s so much easier when you think about all that you had sacrificed in your old life to show you how much you would benefit from this new one.

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Life Update: Why I’ve Been a Blog Slacker

Hi guys… Is anybody still here? I know it’s been a place full of chirping crickets and not much else for months on end. So, here’s the life update, otherwise known as my explanation for being a blog slacker.

To put it simply, things did not go as we originally planned.

We moved the RV to its summer spot in Hurricane, Utah last June. We were super excited about being in beautiful southern Utah and our proximity to amazing places to explore. We fell in love with our RV park and I got Riv signed up for swimming lessons. We were settling in nicely and finding a routine.

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Our spot at WillowWind RV park.

Then Ben broke his foot at work. He was rigging at Lee’s Ferry and stepped just the wrong way. Boom. Broken foot. Cue first event we didn’t plan for. He obviously could not go on that trip he was rigging and then also missed the trip after that, which meant two trips worth of tips he was missing out on financially. Since I’m not working in order to homeschool Rivers, that’s a big financial hit. It might not be a big deal to a family that sold a huge house and used the profits to finance their fulltime RV life. But that’s not us. We need Ben’s summer income to finance our winter adventures, and everything else. Pretty quickly our conversations turned to what we would do this winter instead of the travel we were originally looking forward to. It would definitely mean a very different first winter in RV life.

Ben healed up well without surgery and was back on the river by mid-July. We continued back into our routines once Ben was guiding again. Lots of trips to Zion and swimming lessons, library visits and splash-pad park days. I’ll be catching up on my backlog of posts and sharing some of the adventures we had over the last 8 months in future blog posts.

The season ended without any more mishaps and we made the decision that Ben would need to do winter work for Western to make up for the lost income during river season. So we moved to the warehouse yard instead of setting out on six months of travel. I’m not going to pretend like I wasn’t bummed. We had such grand plans for our first year of this new lifestyle, and they were gone. I had to turn it all on its head and realize how lucky we were. There are actual 30-amp electrical hookups, sewer and water all available in the warehouse yard, how cool is that! Plus we had an easy, convenient place for Ben to work, just 50 feet outside the door of the RV. The big bonus was for Rivers. He got to spend some quality time with some quality human beings in Ben’s coworkers. Not long after we pulled in and set up house in the warehouse yard, river guides started showing up to do winter rubber work. Riv decided these were truly his people and spent every spare minute trying to hang out with them. I have to give a big shout out to Mickell, Mark, Daniel, Steph, Emily, Mackay, Brian, Stephen, RD, Aimee, and of course Corey for playing with my kid and tolerating his lack of volume control! He loves you guys so much and hasn’t stopped talking about all the fun he had with you this winter.

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So, we’ve been here in Fredonia living life, homeschooling (mostly unschooling, but more on that later) and adventuring on the weekends when Ben is off. It’s not the big grand adventure we planned, but it has been full of quality time with awesome people, so we definitely can’t complain about that. In just shy of four weeks we will be heading back to Hurricane to get settled for Ben’s river season again. He has a great schedule this year that he is really looking forward to. I also have a chance for the first time in NINE YEARS to go on the river with him again. I’m still trying to talk myself into it, because I haven’t been away from Riv for more than three days since he was born! Ten days away from him sounds pretty sad to me right now. I’m sure I’ll get myself hyped about it in time.

All of this is to say, I’m back! I have literally 25 blog posts lined up to work on. I am finally prioritizing time to organize and edit the photos, and get all the words in order. In the meantime, I’ve also been trying to get better about posting on IG, so head over there for some visual updates of what we’re up to!

 

Fall Colors on the North Rim

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Last weekend we took a quick day trip up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to catch a glimpse of the changing colors. It’s so amazing to actually experience a change in seasons.  It was nice to wear hoodies and run around in the crisp clean air.

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Rivers got a chance to earn his second Junior Ranger badge and he was so excited to take his pledge with the sweetest park ranger.

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I think the highlight for Rivers was spending time with Ben. It’s hard for him to deal with his daddy being gone so much during the summer, and he was just ready to run around and play.

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After a game (or ten) of tag in the parking lot, we hit a couple trails and viewpoints.

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On our way back out to Fredonia, we stopped by a spot with some amazing Aspen trees, hanging on to their last glowing yellow leaves.

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If you have never been to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I highly recommend it. There are some amazing overlooks and trails, and the lodge itself has some spectacular views. If you visit during monsoon season you have a good chance of seeing a storm roll in over the edges of the canyon through the frame of the picture windows in the lodge.

 

The Search Is On

We started the RV search by googling until our eyeballs almost fell out and clicking through a ton of listings on rvtrader.com. We then decided we needed to look at some of these things in person to really get a feel for their size and floor plan. We headed out to La Mesa RV (LMRV) in Mesa, Arizona to check things out. We immediately ran into Bob who was an incredibly knowledgable guide through our next four trips to explore models. In all we made three trips to La Mesa RV, one trip to Glendale to a big RV show put on by the valley LMRV dealerships, two terrible but informational trips to Worldwide RV in Mesa and one incredible trip to Affinity RV in Prescott.

In the beginning we were thinking we wanted to do a custom sprinter van conversion. We both liked the idea of it fitting easily into parking spaces and looking pretty normal on regular city streets. Then we remembered that Rivers owns like 4,000 Hot Wheels cars and there was no way we were going to survive in a footprint that small. Then we moved on to class C options. They seemed really cool and our favorite was the Winnebago View. Those weren’t going to work out because Rivers needs to travel properly restrained in a car seat and they don’t offer that option (legally, anyway). We finally settled on the safest method being a 5th wheel or travel trailer and a truck to tow it. As much as that sounds like narrowing things down, not so much.

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There is an incredible amount of options and choices in the world of towables. We started out looking based on price. The travel trailers (TTs) are much cheaper and in some cases have more spacious floorplans. The interior ceiling height was fairly low, though, which is a problem if your husband is six feet tall. We did entertain the idea of getting a TT for a while and found a ton of models we liked. It was nice to have Bob as our salesman, and once he had the full story of our plans to fulltime in it, he really knew what direction to guide us in. We really liked Bob for his no-bullshit style and the amazing wealth of knowledge he had. He was very honest with us about a few brands that he felt were cheaply made and would not stand up well to full-time occupancy no matter how careful we were.

On trip number two to LMRV Bob showed us a bunch of travel trailers and of course we fell in love with a few. Our original favorite was the Dutchmen Denali 371BH. It had a bunk house for Rivers to have his own space, a bathtub, a kitchen island with lots of storage and nice solid surface countertops. With two opposing slides in the living room and kitchen area, it provided a really open feeling to the space we knew we would spend all our time in. Then Bob wanted to show us some Keystone brand options. Our favorite Keystone TT was the Keystone Outback Ultralite 293UBH. This model was cool because it had three beds in the bunk house and a small dinette. We thought it would be a great space for Riv to color or play with vehicles on the table top. It also had a bathtub, which was an original necessity on my list that I had to give up once I realized how impractical it was. We also noticed during this trip that the TTs didn’t offer much extra storage space. Considering we would be fulltiming, storage was a big necessity. We left that day feeling like we were definitely headed in the right direction of finding the right setup for us.

After looking at so many towable options Ben set out to research towing and the kinds of hitches available for TTs these days. He had memories of traveling with his family when they had a TT they towed to the mountains, and was hoping that time & technology offered a more stable/less swaying option. During his research he became pretty convinced that with as much as we would be moving around during our winter travels he would prefer towing a fifth wheel (5er). We also learned how much more headroom it would offer for him, so we decided to hit up LMRV again.

On our fourth trip to the dealership we found out Bob wasn’t there because he was busy getting things ready for the company’s big RV show they would be hosting that weekend at University of Phoenix Stadium. We were then warned that inventory was low on-site since many of the rigs had already been moved to the stadium in preparation for the show. One of Bob’s colleagues showed us a couple of 5ers they still had and we made plans to hit up the RV show to have a better selection to consider. Since we had a few days before the show we used the LMRV website to look at the brands & layouts we would want to see in person.

Next Post…The Rv Show