Travel Plans

The Big Lesson Learned

Travelbyvwbus

I think we learned some things from this January trip:

The biggest one – this would have been a very different trip, perhaps a longer one, were we in a motorhome.

A Bit of Background

Last November we rented a motorhome, a 34 footer, for a short trip.  We took it to an RV park right by Joshua Tree National Park and probably would have taken it into the park had we the confidence to boondock.  But as it was our first time, we felt it was important to have full hookups and a dump station.  Partly to see how it was just being in a motorhome and partly to test out our abilities to drive the beast, do the hookups and dump our tanks.

It was a great learning trip – we cooked, we cleaned; we relaxed, read books (well, I did) and watched movies; took long walks around and watched the sunsets over the desert, and generally had a lovely time.  I did a lot of writing while there and we had time to be both together and companionably apart.  Privacy is important to me, probably a holdover from being an only child.

But renting was not cheap – we knew that going in and would not have chosen to rent for a much longer trip.  We also had one mechanical issue with the coach – the levelers never worked properly even with the rental guys trying to fix this before we left.  Their last minute fixing held us up in leaving the area and we ended up arriving at the RV park at night.  We never were able to lower the levelers properly and, although it didn’t ruin anything, it was a bit odd to be listing to one side for a few days.

So before we took our road trip in January we had the experience of a trip in a motorhome with which to compare, albeit a short trip.

A Matter of Cost

In the past, I have teased Bob a bit by saying, “every time we go on vacation, no matter where we go or how we go, we spend about a grand a week”.  Yes, that’s a lot of money, although maybe not outrageous to some.  I mean, some people can easily spend a grand a DAY and others, just a grand a month.  But over the ten years we’ve been together and vacationed, we have regressed to the mean of a grand a week.  Which, to remind you, is over and above our normal expenses of mortgage, utilities, etc.  (Note:  When we went overseas early in our time together it was more, but I wasn’t keeping track of the money as well in those days.)

Most of the costs are obvious – we need to get where we’re going and when we get there, we have to pay for some sort of lodging.  Then there are costs for tickets, souvenirs, and so on.

On this trip, with the exception of the time at my dad’s house in central Florida, we paid for a relatively modest motel each night, and we ate out at least one meal a day, opting to utilize the free breakfast at the motels we stayed at.  For our lunches, we ate Clif Bars, packets of nuts, and apples or bananas.

We had expenses for the dog, too – most of the Best Westerns charged an additional fee for her (very understandable), although the La Quinta Inns did not (I’m voting for a La Quinta Inn in most cases for this reason alone).

But food costs are a bit tricky.  When we’re home, we eat rather simply and we tend to eat the same stuff over and over.  I remember reading something about how people actually eat and that’s pretty typical.  But when we’re on vacation, we spend more because we’re eating out, and we eat more because restaurant food has that novelty factor and that deliciousness factor and that “what the hell, I’m on vacation” factor working for it. (See my comments below on the “on vacation” mode of being.)

And then there’s liquor.

We keep a fairly well-stocked liquor cabinet at home because we do like our cocktails.  We also keep a fair amount of good beer around as Bob likes his IPAs.

When I buy a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin (yes, for martinis), I buy a big 1.75 liter bottle from Total Wine or Costco, so I get a bargain.  But when I buy a drink at a bar or restaurant when we’re on vacation, I pay a huge premium.  Now, we didn’t drink everyday when we were gone (nor do we drink every day when we’re home, either . . . just sayin), but when we did it was expensive.

So it’s obvious that in terms of cost, the cost of motorhome park fees would be less than even modest motels (and way less than the nice hotels that we have occasionally been to), fuel would be necessarily more, though, and eating in the motorhome most days would lower the food and liquor cost quite a bit and still allow for nights out on occasion.

But, I hear you saying . . . but there’s the COST of the motorhome to begin with.  That’s true.  They aren’t cheap and they don’t generally appreciate in value.

So why even consider one?

What Price Lifestyle?

I’ve been pondering this for awhile now.  And I think there are a couple of aspects to the lifestyle issue.

First, there’s the pace of life as both a journeyer and a sojourner (a sojourner is one who rests in one spot for awhile) that appeals to both of us.  We have always had that wanderlust and we found ourselves always curious about both the places and people as we traveled through an area.

In the car, the pace felt rushed, even on the trip back home which took about twice as long as the eastward trip.  It was mostly about moving through, or journeying.  In a motorhome, there is this, but often you stop for a few nights or more in one place  before moving on.   So there is that sense of the sojourn as well as the journey.

But there is another issue though that seems a bit, I don’t know . . . strange or unexpected to even me.  And that is the cozy factor of living in a motorhome.  None of them are huge, no matter how large the camera angles make them seem – certainly not as large as the home we currently live in which is about 1900 square feet.  Living sanely and with enough personal privacy in a space of 300-400 square feet (or less) seems counter intuitive, but when we did it, it quickly felt warm, cozy and homey to both Bob and I.  I was surprised and didn’t expect that experience, but it was true.

Lastly, To Be a Journeyer and Sojourner

I mentioned above that the “on vacation” mode was probably one factor in our eating out both more food and not as good food due to the novelty, the deliciousness and the “what the hell, I’m on vacation” mode of being.  I’m not sure that’s how it would be in a motorhome, though.

I posed this on an RV forum and got responses which mostly were in the vein of, “Well, we quickly realized that no matter where we are, we’re home” which I realized I felt when we were renting, too.  Even though we didn’t own that motorhome, I was making dinner in it, and washed dishes and then settled in to read a book or went outside to just enjoy the place we were in.  Yes, I was on vacation but I felt, intensely, like I was also at home.

I don’t know yet how it will be to be in our own motorhome, moving about the country for months at a time.   I think that having our own bed to sleep in nightly, not having to pack up our bags and unpack them over and over, and not having to worry much about check in and check out times will all contribute to this feeling of being home, rather than on vacation.  And having normal routines and rituals will help as well.

Ultimately, what we learned is that this new life in retirement is full of things we have yet to experience and we won’t be able to do all that we want to do or go to all the places we want to go to.  Being together and finding spaces to be apart is important, and finding meaning in our lives will be a challenge always.

I think, for us, life will be in the journeying and the sojourning wherever we are.  And in this, we will always be at home.

Categories: Home Sweet Home, Life on the Road, The Hunt for the Wild RV, Travel Plans | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Fee-Free Dates for 2014

Laura:

Some great information on camping in US National Parks – I didn’t know they even had “fee free” days and one of them, MLK, Jr., has passed. But there’s more in 2014, so if you are thinking of going, now’s the time!

Originally posted on Three Modern Nomads:

If you don’t have a yearly pass to your local U.S. National Park, then mark your calendar for at least one of these fee-free dates. During these times, entrance fees to the parks will be waived. In addition, some other special offers may apply.

January 20, 2014
(Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

February 15-17, 2014
(Presidents Day Weekend)

April 19-20, 2014
(U.S. National Park Week Begins)

August 25, 2014
(National Park Service Birthday)

September 27, 2014
(Public Lands Day)

November 11, 2014
(Veterans Day)

For more information and trip planning links, visit the National Park Service’s website: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

 And please don’t forget to support some of your local and non-profit attractions in 2014! :)

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Categories: Travel Plans | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Half the fun (okay a little less than half)

An Atlas Page

An Atlas Page

I love maps and atlases.

When I was a kid, I could get lost in the Rand McNally Atlas’ pages.  What was it like in the middle of Kansas or Nebraska?  Where did state route 11 go?

I would imagine the people who lived in these (to me) exotic locales.  Were they having a type of simple fun like catching fireflies in jars and picking blackberries in the woods, or were they living lives of domestic drudgery, clothespinning sheets on the line and handwashing dishes?  Did they enjoy math and hate p.e.?  Did they spend their summers working on the farm?  Did they wonder about a person like me?

I suppose, growing up in the suburbs, that I spent more time imagining the life of those living in small towns somewhere in the south or midwest.  Somewhere that was leafy and green during the summer and probably cold and even snowy in the winter.  Definitely something different than my Southern California life!

So planning a trip allows me to indulge my map and atlas obsession (I wrote “fetish” but that’s just way creepier than I think it is).  I take a day-glo highlighter and trace over I-10 from Los Angeles all the way to I-75 in Florida and then south to Ocala, which is somewhat north of The Villages.

Just to be clear, there is no specific place on my Florida atlas that says “The Villages”.  It makes you think it is more of a state of mind than place, but that’s not true.  My dad has a postal address of The Villages, Florida.  What The Villages really is, though, is a huge amount of developed land that crosses three counties and encompasses many different communities of senior citizens.  I think he said it’s the largest senior citizen community in the Untied States.  Which I believe.  You keep driving and run into varied village squares, state of the art medical facilities, and golf carts.

Ahh.  The golf carts.  Most garages have special places to park them (they are garages and a half); there are golf cart pathways snaking around and through the various villages; and you can decide to have a “mercedes” or “woody” golf cart to impress your friends and fellow carters.  They are much more than just a way to get from the first to the 19th hole.

You would be excused if you begin to think they have the right of way over cars – because let’s face it, they do.

So this is where we are headed to.  This state of mind and place where golf carts rule and you probably have to travel a ways to find a decent Starbucks.  Where Dr. Pepper rules over Pepsi or Coca Cola and grits are a substitute for hashbrowns – always.

And where the early bird special is just called supper.

Categories: Travel Plans | Tags: | 2 Comments

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