When Life Happens

Our one week vacation over the Christmas holiday went by way too soon, and now we were back to the realities of life. We were in the thick of winter in Colorado. Fortunately, the climate in Pueblo West is much milder than in other parts of the state. It’s actually located in what’s nicknamed the banana belt of Colorado. But regardless, it’s still colder, and of course, snowier than Phoenix, Arizona.

By the afternoon, the sun usually melts most of the snow on the road,

Winter 2011 – Our RV was nestled on the side of our new home. We began to enjoy living in this newly built house and finally understood why our customers loved the floorplan. After selling our large custom home, we decided to build our “bread and butter” floorplan for ourselves. Sure, I had spent plenty of time in this floorplan at the model home, but I had not personally lived in it.

Our poor RV covered in snow. She wants to go to south.

As well as selling our custom home in 2010, we also sold the model home. We were still in the throws of surviving the Great Recession, and although we managed to keep building homes here and there, it was a scary time financially. Building one home at a time was a far cry from juggling the usual six at a time.

In our small community, we were considered a mid-sized volume builder. There were no national builders for us to compete against. I loved my job and quite often worked seven days a week, but that all changed when the economy changed. Nonetheless, we were one of the lucky ones still able to hang on with a couple of new custom home builds contracted for the year. A lot of home builders had closed shop along with many of the subcontractors. It was a challenging time to work in the construction industry.

The phone call we all dread

April 2011 – The phone rang. It was my sister. Mom had been in and out of the hospital the past year, but this time my sister wasn’t sure how much time mom had left. Her COPD was winning! After the recent hospital stay, mom was admitted to a rehab center, and her survival was questionable. I immediately booked a flight from Denver to Chicago for a ten-day visit.

My brother arrived a few days earlier than me allowing him a little one on one time with mom, and then he left before me so I too could have some one on one time with her. Dad was doing as well as could be expected and was grateful to have his three children nearby to help him through this difficult time.

My mom and dad, aka Oma and Opa, in their early 80s.

A week after my return to Colorado, my mom passed away. Those precious conversations are forever etched in my memories. I’ll always miss her!

I feel so grateful to have had ten days to sit with mom and just talk. Not everyone is as fortunate. Mom repeatedly encouraged me (and Al) to “Hop in that RV and LIVE … enjoy life while young and healthy … life is short. Who needs a house when you have an RV … a house on wheels. Go live, explore, have fun.”

She absolutely loved the RV lifestyle and when they had to call RVing quits due to health reasons, she was pissed. “Damn cigarettes!” she’d say.

Life goes on

With the arrival of spring and the snow long gone, our new home was in dire need of landscaping. And I was in dire need of a project to keep my mind and hands occupied as I worked through my grief.

There are very few subjects that Al and I have difficulty working through together. We’re a pretty good team and have worked together from the moment we met during our airline careers as Pilot and Flight Attendant. Then years later, we ran a home-building business together. We rarely fight with the exception of backing up an RV or doing yard work. Then, all bets are off!

Al having fun with the Bobcat. So this is what it took for him to enjoy yard work? Boys and their toys!
While Al dumps the gravel with the Bobcat, I rake it out. Team work!

Unfortunately, Al’s dad put a bitter taste in his mouth when it comes to yard work. His dad didn’t just want Al to mow the yard but also wanted it done a certain way including alternating directions from one week to another. I’m sure that’s the short version of the story, and we’ll leave it at that. I guess, we all carry around negative experiences from our childhood, and when it comes to landscaping and general yard maintenance, Al prefers to hire it out. End of subject.

But with our finances in less than stellar circumstances and my go-to landscaper out of business, what’s a gal to do? I know, bribe the husband with a Bobcat rental. A week later, we had just enough landscaping around the house completed to make it look presentable until I could come up with a plan for the rest of the property, and the bonus was a husband who didn’t complain once about landscaping the yard ourselves. That’s a win in my book!

Ah, but what about that neglected RV on the side of the house? We really should plan a trip, but that’ll have to wait until work allows us to sneak away. I’m just glad we’re still working!

Our crew swinging trusses at one of our job sites.

Trip Planning & Favorite Apps

Trip Planning & Favorite Apps

What do you do when it’s 105 degrees Fahrenheit outside without a cloud in the sky? You stay hunkered down inside the RV with the air-conditioner blaring and do some serious trip planning. Yep, it is definitely time to head north in search of cooler weather. With this year’s Phoenix high temps arriving early and some days soaring well over ten degrees higher than normal, it’s beginning to make a Wisconsin forest infested with man-eating mosquitos look pretty darn inviting. I can hear the buzzing now!

Between COVID and the soaring temps, the interior of my RV is beginning to feel more like a rubber room with a crazy lady holed up inside instead of the free-wheeling vessel of months past. Ah, this too shall pass … soon I hope 🤪

So with a clear date in mind (well, kinda) to finally hit the road and point the RV in a northeasterly trajectory, Al and I pull up Google maps and start discussing the route and timeline for our 1,900-mile journey to the north woods of Wisconsin. This year, we won’t be doing any dilly-dallying along the way. Instead, we’ll focus on the destination and keep the wheels rolling and see if we’re up to some long driving days.

We always have several plans in mind with lots of flexibility built-in. Research is the key to any successful road trip whether it’s via RV or automobile. With a trusty pen and notepad in hand, ideas, mileage, and stops are quickly jotted down.

Favorite Apps for RV trip planning

I have a few apps that I really like that aid us in our trip planning. Some of which, I use more than others. The two apps that I find myself using most frequently, especially while on the road, are Allstays Camp & RV  ($9.99 one time fee) as well as GasBuddy (free).

My favorite feature about the Allstays Camp & RV app is their map. I can zoom in on any given location and find just about anything that’s relevant to my travel day including low bridges. Yeah, when the RV measures out to be 12’6″ tall, we obviously like to avoid bridges under 13′ high and the Allstays app notes those low bridges. Since we mostly stick to main roads and interstates, we’re usually going over and not under these low bridges, thus not too much of a concern. BUT it’s wise not to be surprised!

Gas Buddy AppI know a lot of RVers use a GPS specifically geared toward RVing and trucking. We don’t and only occasionally use our basic Garmin (an old GPS at that). I much prefer to navigate myself via a map. The GPS, named Hildi, has lead us astray more than once. So I don’t always trust her and like to back her up with a paper map and my iPhone.

I also enjoy all the other info noted right on the map including rest stops, Walmarts, Propane (LP), campgrounds, RV Parks, etc.

Although the Allstays app notes diesel gas stations (predominantly truck stops), I prefer using the app called GasBuddy when searching for filling options. Not only does the app list gas stations and addresses near your location, but also, up to date pricing.

We aren’t necessarily price based diesel shoppers, meaning we’re not always looking for the cheapest fuel, but it is nice to know what price to expect before pulling into any given gas station.

When it comes to diesel fuel, going the cheap route will almost always cost you more down the road via maintenance. Yep, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt … expensive lessons learned. I’d recommend talking to your favorite diesel mechanic about what to consider when fueling up.

Apps for finding camping options

When it comes to finding places to stay, I usually start with Allstays because I’m already on the app map, and then I jump over to Campendium (free). The Campendium website was developed over eight(?) years ago by a full-time RVing couple. So they live the RV life, are knowledgeable, and know how to serve the RV community.

I was actually one of their Beta Testers back in their infancy and used to post campground reviews on the site regularly, but since our style of RVing has changed over the past few years, I haven’t engaged on the platform for quite some time, but I still use it routinely for research and ideas.

Campendium is most helpful for finding boondocking/off-grid camping. I especially like the reviews written by fellow RVers and the links to blogs/vlogs providing additional information.

iOverlander (free) is another good app for boondocking/free camping.

The newest app that I just started playing around with is called The Dyrt. I’m still learning the ins and outs and looking into their trip planning feature ($29.99 a year). I’ll let you know what I think.

Saying goodbyes

So with our trip planning pretty much accomplished, we’re spending this Memorial Day Weekend hanging with family and saying our goodbyes. It’s always bittersweet for me. On one hand, I’m excited to get the wheels on the RV rolling, after all, that is why we live the RV lifestyle, and on the other hand, I’m sad to bid farewell to family and friends. But adventure awaits, and I remind myself, 4-5 months down the road, we’ll be returning to our home base back here at the RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona. But today … lake life is calling!

How are you spending your summer? Are you going anywhere exciting or opting for a staycation?

Life is about the moments. Don’t wait for them, create them! – Anthony Robbins

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