wrestling toward the wonderful

The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead. The grand and the simple. They are equally wonderful. ~Marjorie Pay Hinckley

For some, this idea of perpetual travel brings about mental hives. For others, perhaps the thought encourages wistful wonder. Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, there is a possibility that the images conveyed by my Instagram account shout, “amazing fairytale life”. In the interest of reality, I’d like to bring a little balance to the table. I will be the first to agree that we live amazingly blessed lives. We consistently make efforts to remain mindfully grateful of the opportunities we have been given.

That said, this fulltime traveling gig is not for the faint of heart. There are downsides. There are difficult days. Currently the change/consistent ratio is super skewed in the direction of change. We can hardly keep all 6 of us accurately knowing which state we are in before the answer changes. We don’t always know in the morning where we will be sleeping that evening. When we think we know where we will be sleeping, there’s always a chance we could be wrong. Today is a great example.

trees

As we pulled out of Trail’s End campground ((silent moment of thankfulness)) we confidently continued on our way, happy to have a short 2-hour drive before us. The thought of a short drive day with lots of downtime afterward seemed just the ticket to decompress from our busy week. However, upon arrival, we realized that because we had previously decided to stay an extra day in New Salem and an extra day in St. Louis, our schedule had shifted forward and what previously was a weeknight arrival was now a weekend arrival, and a holiday weekend to boot. Surprise! People like to camp on holiday weekends. The one available site was at an awkward angle that was too tricky to back into. Lesson: don’t assume you will have room to stay on a weekend just because summer is over. Pay a little more attention to the holiday calendar. Call ahead to check or make a reservation.

We abandoned plan A and carried on down the road. Because plan B involved boondocking in a Wal-Mart parking lot and decompression at Wal-Mart is an oxymoron, the vote was to keep driving until we were ready for bed. However, not all Wal-Marts allow boondocking. When we were ready to call it quits for the day, the one we first stopped at was not interested in hosting us for the evening. Lesson: Call first before pulling into the parking lot. Some parking lots are tight and tricky to navigate through.

Wal-Mart #2 was a go however and thankfully it was only another 15 minutes down the road. Because I’m learning as I go, thankfully I had a quick and easy “plan B” dinner option to fall back on when at 8PM we finally opened up the house and were ready to call it a day. After the kids were tucked in bed, Trent and I had a little “date night” activity. The lights hanging above our kitchen island had come loose during the drive and together we dismantled and repaired the problem.

mailbox
World’s Largest Mailbox

As I reflect on the day, I can also remember a period of 10 solid minutes of reckless crying in the backseat when Quinten’s apple fell onto the floor and more than one emergency potty stop on the side of the road. However, that one quirky town in Casey, IL where we parked the RV, everyone piled into the van, got ice cream cones at McDonald’s and took a side trip to see a handful of “world’s largest” items comes to mind as well. There was also that moment when Tanner confidently declared from the back seat that when he grows up he is going to own a campground and charge $1/night (actually at first he said he wanted to “be” a campground but we soon figured out his full intent). In addition, the seemingly endless fields of corn finally gave way to forests of trees tempted to turn the corner into brilliant color. And now, as I lay in bed with the bustling city’s sounds and sirens around me, I can hear the soft, silent breathing of my favorite person, asleep in bed next to me. This life isn’t glamorous or easy. Neither is marriage or parenting or homeschooling or any other number of things that add value and meaning to life. I’d rather wrestle through a challenging day, than surrender to a defeated life.

What about you? What challenges in your day bring you down? What do you do to refocus yourself?

if you don’t like your view, just wait a day or two

I’ve visited places where the locals say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes.” In other words, if you can be a little bit patient, change is sure to come. I’ve been thinking about this concept of frequent change as it has a strong application to our lives right now.

We are winding down toward Tennessee in a rather quick fashion hoping to meet the fall colors in the Smokey Mountains sometime in mid-October. Currently, we are in St. Louis, Missouri. The last two weeks have seen the bulk of our forward movement–every few days moving another few hundred miles.

Making decisions about where we will park the RV while in-route has been interesting. While the Internet often has a wealth of information to offer, (spoiler alert) it’s not always accurate. A few days ago we were parked in New Salem, IL as the only RV in a cul-de-sac type row surrounded by trees and quiet beauty. While we didn’t have an electric hookup, we were close enough to connect to water and the $10/night price was just right.

Upon arriving to the St. Louis RV park we’d planned to stay in, we discovered that Google had neglected to mention that they were closed for the season. A quick internet search and a few phone calls later, we decided to stay at the only place we could find with full-hookups that wasn’t in the $50/night range. Plus the online reviews stated things like, “The new owners are really great” “So clean and peaceful. . . we will make this a yearly tradition” “Safe, clean and family friendly” and “Very clean and close to town” so we entered the address into our phones and off we went to Trail’s End.

google

Now let me preface all that I am about to say with this: I am not an RV park snob. As long as we feel safe, I have no problem staying in ‘cheep’ establishments in order to save some money. However, based on the nightly price and many 5 star reviews, I honestly had a different expectation set in my mind than what I saw when we pulled into Trail’s End RV park. “Oh my” is all that came out of my mouth. Someone was clearly tickling the online reviews for this place.

trails-end

Thankfully, my husband is becoming a master at backing into tight spaces because there was no room for error. I was hardly much help in directing him because the neighbor lady had my full attention. She was yelling and shouting at her kids and the closest nearby adults. I am pretty sure she was yelling at me at one point in which I simply responded, “I don’t work here.” Despite my husbands fantastic rear navigation, the sites are so short that there is hardly any room to park our car and truck without jutting out into the circular dive area of the park. This should be fine provided no one needs to drive by pulling anything long while needing to turn. . . Once we were situated, I began to open up the 5th wheel by extending the slideouts. At first we were a little concerned if we would have room to do this without hitting our truck which was wedged between our RV and the next one over, but all was fine. However, the weather was pretty warm so I decided to extend our awning to provide some shade. Oh, there’s the neighbor’s side right there. . . never mind about the awning. We also step carefully as we walk to our vehicles (which are parked conveniently close) as to not trip over our neighbor’s sewer hose.

Tonight it became apparent that there was some sort of motor raceway located nearby as a sound like that of a swarm of bees swept over the campground ebbing and flowing throughout the evening. Trent and I keep exchanging looks and teasing comments. Its comical especially given the stark contrast to our little New Salem spot just a few nights ago.

trails-end2
Notice the sewer hose?

As I lay in bed with the unique hum of engines revving outside my window, I am reminded that we always have something to be thankful for. Here I have electricity, which means I can freely run my washing machine as well as the air conditioning and microwave (all at the same time if desired) without overloading our batteries or generator. Here it is still $20/night cheaper than the other options in the area that offer full hookups. Here there is no hurricane hurling toward us with powerful destructive intent. Here is only “here” for a little longer and then we will shake the dust of this place off our feet and march forward to something new. In our family, “if you don’t like your view, just wait a day or two.”

RV catches on fire

If there is one thing I have learned to count on while living in an RV it is that no two days are ever the same.

Life around us is always introducing new experiences. Last night it was a RV that caught on fire.

Thankfully, it happened before the couple went to bed for the night.

Thankfully, they (and their dog) got out safely.

Thankfully, the fire didn’t spread to the neighboring RV (which got moved as soon as possible) or the nearby trees.

Thankfully, we have a close and responsive fire department.

RV catches on fire

However, no number of thankful things can erase the fact that this was a devastating situation for the owners of the motor home.

It is believed that there was some sort of electrical malfunction in the back of the diesel pushing rig. The owners were watching TV and felt a strange shaking almost like their dryer was running. Moments later there was a popping sound and a fire had started. They were able to escape with their little dog and the clothing on their backs.

RV after the fire
After the fire

You can be sure we will be reviewing our fire safety routines after this sad situation.

How to install a Maxxfan deluxe in your RV

 

Even though we purchased a new RV (click here for our video tour), there are still modifications we would like to do to make it even better.  We are upgrading the battery pack and installing an inverter so we can dry camp longer, adding a washer/dryer, beefing up the master bedroom closet, and upgrading the ventilation system. Today I’ll walk you through the changes we made with the ventilation system.

Why we decided to install a fan

Our Coachmen Brookstone 395RL RV came with a passive vent in the loft area. A passive vent is basically a screened hole in the roof that allows heat to escape. We wanted a vent/fan system that would move air in or out depending on our preference. After researching the options we choose to install a Maxxfan deluxe because it moves more air than the leading competitors and there’s a built-in rain cover so we can operate it while its raining (other fans require a separate rain cover to allow simultaneous operation).

Cute little helpers

The Maxxfan install process

I videoed the process of installing our fan in order to show you some of the steps that I felt were missing from some of the other videos I found online (such as how to find and connect to the 12v electrical system). I hope you will find it helpful if you decide to take on a similar project. I invite you to watch the video and if you have any questions feel free to post them here or on YouTube and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Note: At the beginning of the Maxxfan install video I talk about a few verses in Proverbs that encourage me. I am not a proponent of the prosperity gospel. I’m not saying that if you give, you will be wealthy monetarily. Giving is simply a response to what has already been given so abundantly to us. Even if you don’t feel rich or can barely make ends meet each month, look at your life through the lens of someone living on a few dollars a day. Its pretty easy to see how everyone living in a 1st world country can say they are “rich”.

Our thoughts on our fan now that we have used it

We have been using our Maxxfan for over a month now and have been completely pleased with the amount of air that we are able to move through our RV because of this one change. At this point in the year we are using it mostly at night to pull the cool evening air into the RV while we sleep and it has been highly effective. We have also found that it is very quiet (especially compared to the fan in our bathroom vent). This is appreciated especially given its proximity to two of our children who sleep in the loft where it was installed.

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Family Adventure Podcast interview

faithtakesflightfamilyadventurepodcastToday I had the privilege of being interviewed by Eric Hemingway for his Family Adventure Podcast. Listening to his show has been like a gateway drug for our wanderlust hearts as we have prepared for living full-time in an RV so it was an honor to be a guest on his show. In this interview I talk about how we prepared financially. I discuss homeschooling and what was hard about that transition. I share details on downsizing and the difficulties that we faced in that area. Finally, I speculate what the next year might look like for us. I invite you to click here to listen to the interview.

Show notes:
I mentioned the author Robert Kyiosaki and his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Another book that was helpful to us that didn’t get mentioned was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The homeschooling book that I refer to is 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy. The website Fulltime Famlies and it’s facebook group is also mentioned.
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