We are closing in on finishing up our 3rd year of living the full-time RV lifestyle.
The road has been a good one to us. Not that it’s been all fun, frolic, and laughs but it has brought us closer together – not only physically but emotionally as well.
Kathy and I just celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary with an Amtrak trip to Glacier National Park. During our lifetime together, a lot of that time was “alone” time. In one of my early career positions I was gone “on the road” nearly every weekday, sleeping in motels Sunday through Thursday nights somewhere in my multi-state territory.
Even when I was at home, my time was consumed with working on the “work” business from home involved in conference calls and drafting of sales proposal letters along with being active in the only real hobby I ever had … local ham radio clubs and events.
Kathy had a handful of different jobs over the years (most importantly raising the kids and keeping the house together) with most of the time working in the school system so she could be off work and at home when the kids were at home. We were fortunate because with her job schedule we didn’t need to hire child care.
But now our lives are a polar opposite of that earlier time. We are together ALL THE TIME. We travel side by side, we share meals, we do the mundane tasks of grocery shopping, house cleaning and laundry together, and we sleep next to each other. I think we have both come to appreciate each other far more than earlier in our marriage. We’ve always had a lot of mutual love and respect for each other – rarely raising our voices to the other. But before … we had other things to occupy our time. If we felt the urge for some “space”, we could easily separate ourselves from the other. Now on the other hand – it’s not so easy. After all, we live in a 300 sf box with a little bit of green space around us.
Our three years together in our “Green Machine” Airstream motorhome has given us the luxury at this stage in our lives of … in a way … becoming one.
When we started this lifestyle three years ago, we realized that in order to travel from place to place and enjoy the local life, we needed to have some assistance with the household budget. We sold our house, paid off what little remaining debt we had and decided we would live off our social security income and a small pension Kathy had from working at the school system. We decided we would keep the retirement nest egg (IRA’s, investments) alone for future use when (if) we get off the road. Oh sure, it’ll happen sometime. We will either run out of good health or run out of our love for the road, but by leaving our investments alone so they can continue to grow, at least we won’t HAVE to come off the road because we’ve run out of money.
Although I had no employer monthly pension income (I was self employed the last 20 years) we had purchased an annuity years ago that could now provide a supplement to our Social Security along with Kathy’s small pension.
Yes we could “make it” on those income sources alone, it was going to be tight. We’d have to always be scrutinizing the budget each month and we’d have little room if any for any emergency expense or extravagance.
Somewhere, somehow … we discovered Workamping/Hosting/Volunteering and the opportunities it can provide. These experiences have given us the opportunity to travel and have rent-free sites and utilities. In addition, these opportunities have given us something else that we never really expected … new and lasting friendships.
Workamping/Camp Hosting/Volunteering opportunities are generally long-term commitments. What I mean by that is that most often (but not always) your “employer” would like to have their “staff” on board for the season or even year-round.
Starting out, our first gig was 6 months long – the winter season in Arizona.
Although our owner/managers (George & Sigrid) were wonderful to us, treated us so well – like family … we ultimately decided when making arrangements for future opportunities we would look for more “short term” commitments. We’ve since been working one-month to 3-month gigs.
This way we can continue to travel around the country and have more new experiences and make more new and lasting friendships. If we worked for 6 months in each location, we’d be 130 years old and still not have completed our Bucket List!
Here’s a U.S. map showing where we’ve AT LEAST stayed overnight in the last three years. You can see we’ve still got a long way to go … we need to spend more time along both the east and west coasts.
Oh yeah, earlier I mentioned this part about friendships but then I got off track – excuse me. We have discovered that working (volunteering) as we travel allows us to meet, get to know, and build lasting relationships with lots of wonderful people from all over the country.
Right now as an example, we are acting as tour guides at DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in Spearfish, South Dakota (Black Hills and Badlands area)
There are 10 couples here, all living in our rigs side-by-side in Volunteer Village at the Spearfish City Campground right across the street from the hatchery.
We work side-by-side, share most nights of the week around the campfire cooking smores and enjoying each other’s stories and even have monthly pot luck meals along with weekly free music festivals in the city park just a few hundred feet away.
When we have to say goodbye and hit the road again, we stay in touch with our new friends as we travel using both Facebook (groups) and a Facebook-like app made just for RV’ers called RVillage.com. Both of these are great resources to keep up with our buddies and see what their next adventure is and maybe where we might apply to work/volunteer in the future.
We’ve already had at least a dozen experiences over the last three years where we have volunteered with folks in say, Livingston Texas and met up with them again in Burlington Vermont or Ludington Michigan (or somewhere like that). Sometimes it’s planned, but more often it’s serendipitous!
But what about our family and “old” friends? Do we miss our kids and grandchildren? You bet! It would be great if we could do what we are doing AND fly back home to Ohio at least once or twice a year to spend time with the family. But, fact is we just can’t afford to that. Life is often about sacrifices (and opportunities!)
It really depends on where we are working and how long the commitment is and where the next commitment will be. We don’t plan our work locations based on traveling back home once or twice each year. We plan our work locations on where we have NOT been, what we might like to see, and how appealing the location and job description/compensation package is.
We were last in Ohio April of 2018 for a month and we will be back there summer of 2020 so we’ll have plenty of time to catch up. The photos below of the kids, grand-kids, in-laws and old neighbors might be a couple or a few years old, but they’re some of our favorites.
And of course, we post LOTS of info and pictures on Facebook, videos on You Tube and posts here on the blog for family and friends to see what we’re up to.
So yes, it’s great to travel the country and see all the great exciting new places, but we’ve found that the wonderful personal relationships we’ve developed with all our new friends as we travel and volunteer are the larger perk of the RV lifestyle that we embrace.
If you are interested in finding out more about our Workamping and volunteering experiences, just scroll on up to the top right hand side of this post and enter either “volunteer” or “workamp” in the search box and hit “enter”.
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We’d love to hear from you. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, you can send us a note. Again, thanks for riding along. ’til next time – safe travels.
Writing this on Nov 19, 2018
While we worked at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF) in the fall of 2018, we were able to take some time to see some of the local sights.
We took a drive up to Sandia Crest (that we could see from where our coach was parked).
The drive along the winding curvy road along the edge of the mountain to the peak (crest) at 10,760 feet came to a dead end where there was ample parking area, a coffee and gift shop, and a forest of cell and radio towers.
Now the trip to the peak and the view from the top was great … ooh I forgot to mention … we were there with our new good friends from Wild Rose, Wisconsin … Bill and Jackie. We really enjoyed their company and their friendship while in ABQ and we look forward to seeing them again yet this winter in Arizona – perhaps while we are in Quartzite for the “Big Tent” RV Show.
On our way back down from the peak, we were told by others that we just had to stop and check out Tinkertown. And are we glad we did. You can drive right by it if you’re not careful. There’s one small hand painted sign along the road side “Tinkertown 500′ ahead” and if you’re not really looking for it, you’ll zip on by.
Tinkertown is one of those places that some like to call “eclectic with a touch of whimsy” – I think it’s really eclectic with a boatload of whimsy.
So what is Tinkertown? Well, this clip from their web site says it best;
“It took Ross Ward over 40 years to carve, collect, and lovingly construct what is now Tinkertown Museum. His miniature wood-carved figures were first part of a traveling exhibit, driven to county fairs and carnivals in the 1960s and ’70s. Today over 50,000 glass bottles form rambling walls that surround a 22-room museum. Wagon wheels, old fashioned store fronts, and wacky western memorabilia make Tinkertown’s exterior as much as a museum as the wonders within.
Inside, the magic of animation takes over. The inhabitants of a raucous little western town animate to hilarious life. Under the big top, diminutive circus performers challenge tigers and defy gravity while the Fat Lady fans herself and a polar bear teeters and totters.
Throughout, eccentric collections of Americana (wedding cake couples, antique tools, bullet pencils and much, much more) fill Tinkertown’s winding hallways. Otto the one-man-band and Esmerelda, the Fortune Teller, need only a quarter to play a tune or predict your future. Through a doorway and across a ramp waits a big-sized surprise: a 35′ antique wooden sailboat that braved a 10 year voyage around the world.”
Here are some pictures that I took as we traveled through the “museum” constantly fascinated by not only the craftsmanship of Ross Ward, but the imagination he must’ve had to come up with all this. Absolutely amazing. Read on.
As always, you can click on any of the individual pictures to see a larger image. And be sure to click on the images of the sailboat the “Theodora R” and the map on the wall of the 10,000 mile voyage – fascinating.
To learn more about this fascinating museum and the fascinating man who had the vision and the talent, visit their web site at http://tinkertown.com/
Just one more example of all the interesting places to see in this great country of ours.
Thanks for riding along .. until later .. take care of yourselves
herbnkathy – Currently wintering at Rover’s Roost RV Park in Casa Grande, AZ
We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, got settled into our space, and started our orientation process pretty quickly.
Kathy and I will be “workamping” for the next six months at Rancho Verde RV Park in Camp Verde, AZ and what a beautiful small park it is. We’re excited to be here and we look forward to our new lifestyle experience.
The park is small (just 40 sites) and has green grass and large shade trees between each site, neither of which we expected to find in Arizona so it’s a real pleasant surprise. Camp Verde is located just east of I-17 about halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff. Right now (mid-September) the daytime temps are in the 80’s and low 90’s while the nights fall to the low 50’s and high 40’s.
Here’s just a few pictures of the park entrance, the office, our site, and one of the rows of RV’s. About half of the sites are long-term (months to as long as 12 years) with the others being daily or weekly.
George and Sigrid are the park owners and Steve and Cindy are the park managers. All four folks are wonderful people and while Cindy has been working with Kathy in the office to get her up to speed on the reservations process and billing software, I’ve been learning from George and Steve about all the systems that need either scheduled or “as needed” maintenance, (fresh water / irrigation water / black water / electrical pedestels / laundry equipment, etc.). They’ve got a very well-equipped (and organized) shop with all the tools and materials necessary to allow us to take care of most maintenance needs on our own.
After Oct 1st, there will be a 3rd workamper couple here so we’ll each (couple) will work 2 days on and 5 days off with each of the three couples working every 3rd Sunday as well. With a full complement of workampers, the owners will be able to take some well-deserved time off and not have to be here all the time.
Kathy and I have only gone into town (Camp Verde) once so far to pick up some groceries. It’s a cute little town and we look forward to going back and taking more time to see all that it has to offer. We’ll also be spending time doing a lot more sightseeing near towns like Jerome, Cottonwood and more. We already have plans to go up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon next week because that are closes for the season on October 15th.
All in all, we are thrilled to be here and continue to look forward to this new lifestyle experience.