I haven’t been writing on this blog like I intended, despite us setting out for our Great RV Journey 2 months ago. The fact is, the realities of RV life have been hitting us a bit harder this time. There’s been more stress, more time fixing problems, and less fun activities to write about. The point of the blog, however, is to show the truth, though, the good and the bad. Let’s talk about what M and I have been up to.
Hitting The Road
It took a few days to pack the camper before we left. Pennsylvania was having a mild winter, so we weren’t concerned about our impending journey. Just before we left, however, we got some snow. Maybe that was the omen.
When we hit the road, we headed for a small town in Western Pennsylvania, and the drive was a mess. Constant, driving rain – the kind that affects your visibility and lasts for hours.
I want to add here, most RV campgrounds aren’t paved and cushy. They’re gravel lots with grass patches, often pretty wooded, especially on the East Coast. As a result, in rain, they can get really sloppy. Some may pump out water on days like that – this one wasn’t one of them.
So our first campground was a big plot of puddles. We were only staying one night, so we just set up for a quick camp (which fortunately meant less time in the rain!) and chose to stay in, because we did not want to be out in that weather.
The next day, we continued on, heading to West Virginia. The drive was pretty with mountains and forests lining the road, but the rain was determined not to let up. That meant another quick camp in another sloppy campground and another day of not really wanting to be out in that kind of weather.
Killing It In Kentucky
On Day 3, we reached Georgetown, Kentucky. We finally managed to escape from the rain, although it was still really windy. By this point in a trip, we’ve normally lit campfires, had some relaxing evenings, and are excited. This time, the wind meant no campfire, the storms were stressing me out, M, even the dog. We still hadn’t stopped long enough to really get the RV into order. I had some work to do on the road, so part of our time in Georgetown was me digging through everything to find papers I needed, searching for functioning Wi-Fi, and playing catch-up.
We did get out of the RV a bit during our few days there. We went to the Ark and the Creation Museum, which are always interesting to see. However, we were still trying to get farther south to escape the cold, so we didn’t stay long.
Our next stop was Bowling Green, Kentucky which was nice, although again, a short stay. The weather stayed mostly in our favor and we were able to go to Kentucky Down Under. Absolutely worth a visit, if you’re in the area. It was fun, and a break we really needed.
Sweet Home Alabama
After Bowling Green, we headed to Huntsville, Alabama, where my sister and her husband live. This was going to be our first full-week stop, and we were so excited to finally really be kicking off the Great RV Journey of 2023. And we did! Alabama was wonderful. Things didn’t go according to plan, for various reasons, but we got to spend some quality time with my sister, which makes it all worth it.
We also spent some time in my sister’s tornado shelter. The trip may have been looking up, but the weather was still iffy, and there were a few tornado warnings really close to my sister’s home. In between the rough days, we headed to Fort Payne to see the Alabama Hall Of Fame, and a few other places that my sister recommended.
Our plan was to stay in Alabama a week. Unsurprisingly at this point, the weather took yet another turn, and we stayed a few days longer, waiting out a big storm passing Memphis, our next destination. Nice to have extra time with the family, but another delay making our trip difficult. (Lisa-Marie Presley also passed at this time, and her funeral in Memphis was the same weekend we were going there.)
North and West
After leaving Alabama, we headed to Memphis, then to Hot Springs in Arkansas, spending a few days in each place. However, we were again mostly limited to the RV by weather and the fact that we were behind schedule. I like to stay flexible on these trips. However, you do have to book campgrounds in advance and it’s not fun to stay somewhere when you’re not getting to do anything, so the delays were making me a bit tense. By this point, my daughter and I had been cooped up in a small space for a few weeks!
We landed in Gilmer, Texas, where I had plans with a friend, and enjoyed our time there. Surprisingly, the highlight was the Kilgore College East Texas Oil Museum! It was quite interesting, and we learned a lot, which we put into use as we noticed oil machinery around town! Still, while we were having a patch of good weather, just west of us, directly in our intended path, were ice storms.
We chose to stay two days longer than expected to avoid the bad weather. This also gave us time to explore the antique markets. It turns out, nearby Gladewater is the antique market capital of Texas! That kept us somewhat entertained, but we still had to move on…
A Rash Of Bad Luck
From Gilmer, we decided to head north into Oklahoma and around to Amarillo, hoping to skirt around the worst of the winter storm.
Did you know that the Texas Panhandle has more wind than the average place? I didn’t – but I found out. In Amarillo, we did successfully avoid the ice but the wind – oh, the wind. It was blowing hard, which also made it very cold out, so our plan of escaping winter weather by heading south was a dismal failure. Instead, we were barely able to open the RV door most days, and it took a significant amount of coaxing and bribery to convince Ariel that she really did want to go potty out there.
The covers on the RV’s propone tanks froze, making it difficult to refill them. We constantly had the heat on, so we were running out of propane. I ultimately had to cut the cover off to access the tanks. Our gray water tank valve in the RV was open since we were leaving the faucets dripping to avoid the pipes freezing. When we prepared to leave, the valve was frozen open and I couldn’t close it! Luckily, later in the day, it got warmer and I could finally close the valve.
Changing Our Plans
At this point, we were supposed to head west to Albuquerque. However, M and I realized we weren’t actually having fun. And really, why are we going to drive for 8 months and live in a tight space, practically on top of each other, if we aren’t enjoying it? We could count on one hand the days we’d genuinely enjoyed. That’s not how RV life is supposed to be.
So we sat down to figure out a new plan. At this point, we had a few options. We turn around and head to Florida to wait out the winter (but we wintered in Florida during our last 8-month RV trip. We could head south to wait for winter to end, and rush through other destinations to get back on schedule. We could head south, toss our plan out the window, and regroup as we go, deciding where to go based on the actual weather conditions and where we could drive without stressing over time.
We chose the third option. The most important thing about this trip is to enjoy it. If we’re so busy trying to get back on track that we can’t do things, we will not enjoy it. So I found a campsite near Austin, Texas, and we decided to start working our way there. I estimated it would take 4 days to get there, since we only travel up to 200 miles a day – the capacity of my gas tank while towing.
The Problems Never End
Again we created a tentative plan. From Amarillo, which was about to get hit with a storm, we’d drive to Lubbock, then Abilene, then Fort Worth, staying a night in each place, ending in Austin. But of course, life doesn’t go according to plan. In Lubbock, we experienced some tire trouble. While we were able to get a temporary repair, it continued to be an issue, forcing a second repair in Abilene. Fortunately, due to wicked wind gusts, we’d already decided to stay a second night. Towing in 50-60 mph winds is NOT my idea of a good time.
We continued onto Fort Worth for a night, and then we set out for Austin.
When we reached the Austin KOA, we were amazed. It was clean, well-kept, DRY. We went to check in and every single person we spoke to was kind and friendly. We planned to stay a week, but they offered us a huge discount if we stayed for two more nights. After a look around at the gorgeous site, we jumped on the opportunity.
This introduction to Austin, Texas was a sign that our trip was turning around. We finally, 7 weeks into the trip, had the chance to really do all of the things we wanted, to feel like we were really camping. We had our first campfire, spent multiple days out exploring the town in perfect weather, met new friends, and relaxed.
In a much better state of mind, I was able to sit down and make plans for the next few stops. While I’ve only booked a few weeks out, I’m not worried, because we’ll approach the future focused on enjoyment rather than a strict plan.