On May 13th, we’ll be hooking up our 5th wheel RV to our pickup truck, loading up the 4 dogs, and pulling out of our driveway.
We’re Heading West.
The Great American Road Trip, a 6,000+ mile RV adventure through 18 states, will be officially underway!
The Great American Road Trip
By the end of Day 1, we’ll be an easy 170 miles from home and camping in the State Park on the shores of Lake Guntersville, Alabama. We’re taking it slow on that first day, just to work the kinks out.
We’re be taking it easy for the entire journey West.
We’re following “The 330 Rule”, a self-imposed guideline to limit our mileage to 330 miles maximum per day, and stopping each afternoon by 3:30 pm. I saw the 330 Rule on RVLifestyle, and decided to adopt it for our Great American Road Trip (imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right?).
We won’t arrive at our final destination (Tacoma, WA) until June 8th, after taking a month to drive from our home in Blue Ridge, GA to a campground near our daughter and her family. Then, we’ll sit tight and enjoy June and July with our new granddaughter before heading back home in August.
Isn’t retirement great?We're taking a month to drive from Georgia to Washington. We're going to enjoy the cross-country adventure. Click To Tweet
Today, I’m sharing our plans for The Great American Road Trip. Let’s start with what we’ll be sleeping in…
Since we knew that camping was something we wanted to do in retirement, we built the purchases into the Steps We Took Before Retirement, and purchased both the truck (Ford F250) and the RV (Reflection 337 RLS) in my final months of work. After we bought it, I took the beast out to a BIG parking lot to practice backing (Note: 5th wheels are harder to back than “bumper pull” trailers due to the physics of the hitch location, but I got it down after some practice).
We spent last summer (our first in retirement) camping around our part of the country and became comfortable with our setup. We also learned how to effectively camp with 4 dogs, and found it is generally a positive experience. I wouldn’t suggest attempting a cross-country trip until you’ve had some “local” practice, and learn a few tricks (e.g., walkie-talkies are very helpful to communicate between the “spotter” and the “driver” as you’re backing into your campsite).
We made some upgrades based on our test runs, including the installation of a backup camera on the back of the 5th wheel and an automated tire pressure monitoring system to minimize the risk of a tire blowout en route.
We couldn’t be happier with our rig and are confident that it will be well within our capability to drive the unit 6,000 miles over the summer months.
The dogs don’t have a clue what’s coming. Speaking of the dogs, let’s introduce you…
The 4 Dogs
Since you’re going to be getting to know the dogs a bit this summer through my occasional updates from the road, I thought now would be a good time to introduce you. We’ve camped with the dogs numerous times over the past year, and I’m including pictures of each dog from various camping trips:
Coco (aka “Coco The Loco”)
Coco’s our crazy dog.
She’s a dog we rescued 6 years ago as a puppy, and she’s schizophrenic. She’s a Dutch Shephard/Malinois mix, a breed often used for police work. She typically as loving as they come, but her “Dr. Jekyl” comes out when she meets strange men. We think that behavioral trait goes back to her abuse as a puppy, and we keep a muzzle close by when there’s a chance she’ll meet a stranger. She’s lightning fast and loves to run (and, unfortunately, to hunt). For obvious reasons, she’s now kept on a leash (or in our fenced in yard at the cabin) 100% of the time. She sounds crazy, but she really is a great dog. And, she’ll keep us safe if anyone gets any crazy ideas about breaking into our camper!
PS – A Secret? Coco is s
ort of “my” dog. She’s my favorite, and I’m hers. I hope the other dogs don’t read this post, wouldn’t want any hurt feelings.
Sawyer (aka “Sawyer The Lawyer”)
Sawyer is our only dog that isn’t a rescue.
He’s an Australian Shephard we got before we were involved in dog rescue, and he’s true to his breed’s calling. He’s a natural herder; when we used to have Pygmy Goats he loved to “round them up” after we let them graze in our yard. He even herds us when we’re taking hikes, running laps around the rest of us while we’re walking down the trail. He makes sure we all stay together as a pack, and makes sure we follow the rules (hence the nickname).
PS – A Secret? Sawyer is
sort of my wife’s dog. He whimpers like he’s dying whenever she gets her purse and heads for the front door (funny, he doesn’t seem to do that when I’m the one who’s leaving). He’s one loyal dog, and his loyalty for my wife runs deep.
Nymeria (aka “Nervous Nymie”)
Nymeria was never intended to be our dog (and we never would have chosen that name!)
Our daughter asked her to “keep her until she’s housebroken” shortly after she adopted Nymeria as a rescue while she was in college. 5 years later, she’s still a part of the family. She gets nervous about a lot of things, but of the four dogs, she’s the most loving. Her favorite place in the world is curled up in a lap (either mine, or my wife’s, doesn’t really matter to Nymeria as long as she’s in a lap), and she’s quick to jump up and claim her spot as soon as one of us sits down in our favorite chair. She’s as sweet as they come and has become a favorite of most of our friends. She doesn’t mind – she loves everybody!
Chip (aka “Chippy the Hippy”)
Chip is a special dog, with a special rescue story.
My wife and I personally rescued him, along with his Mom and his four litter-mates when he was 6 weeks old. They were living behind a run down mobile home, in a small fence on a cement pad. My wife and I raised the litter on our screened in porch, and fell in love with Chip. We worked to get all of his siblings (and mother) adopted through our charity work with a local dog rescue organization, but experienced “Foster Fail” with Chip and decided to keep him. He’s a free-spirited hippy who loves every minute of life. Unfortunately, he’s got a defective heart and is expected to live a shorter than average life, but he makes up for it by living every minute to the fullest.
Oh, if we could all enjoy life as much as Chippy The Hippy. He is one happy dog.
I’ve had a reader ask for some tips on camping with dogs, and hope to write a future post on some of the lessons we learn about Camping With Our Canines during the Great American Road Trip. Stay Tuned…
As we started planning for this trip, we had a decision to make. Should we book our campsites in advance, or should we “wing it” and plan as we go?
As we started researching spots in the Pacific Northwest that we wanted to visit, the answer became obvious. Since several of the State Parks on the coast of Oregon and Washington are booked solid ~6 months in advance, we had to book ahead in order to get reservations in the places we wanted to stay. To know the dates we needed for our coastal camping, we had to figure out when we were going to arrive on the coast of Oregon.
To determine that, we started building our Westbound trip in a spreadsheet, leaving some “Zero Days” (no driving) along the way. The result is below – our Westbound leg:
You’ll see a LOT of State Parks (Yellow Boxes) on that fancy map I created above. We’ve discovered through our experience that camping in State Parks is our preference with the dogs. State Parks tend to be “Dog-Friendly”, and typically have numerous hiking trails for us to explore with our canine kids. Also, they tend to be located at interesting “local” features and provide campground settings that we prefer vs. the “RV Park” environment.
For the observant among you, you’ll notice we’ll be breaching our 330 rule twice during the journey, with two days in excess of 330 miles. Call it a guideline instead of a rule, but the reality is there are some vast distances in the American West, and a few longer days were required to get to the places we wanted to see. Call in the RV police. Our adventure, our
Hint: For those of you staying in National Parks this summer, you may want to check out these cost-saving ideas from CouponChief. They were kind to send them to me, and I thought it appropriate to share this good resource.
The Highlight Of The Trip
On November 27, 2018, my wife and I became grandparents when our daughter gave birth to Octavia Rose. We were fortunate to be in Tacoma, WA on that special day (another benefit of retirement!):
It’s an unfortunate reality that many parents have children who live far away. We can relate.
In our case, our son-in-law’s military service requires them to be based at Fort Lewis, in Washington State. We’re happy for the three of them and have enjoyed watching our grandaughter’s first 6 months of life via video calls. It’s not the same as being there, however, so the primary purpose for The Great American Road Trip is to enjoy an extended visit with our daughter’s family. It will, without doubt, be the highlight of our trip.
We’re fortunate that we chose to retire early. We’re also fortunate that we’d planned to travel in retirement and built the purchase of “the toys” for RV travel into our plans. Having the freedom to spend our summer in the Pacific Northwest with Octavia and her parents is one of the biggest benefits of our early retirement.
I was honored to be on The Retirement Answer Man’s Podcast last week talking about our plans for The Great American Road Trip! If you’d like to hear Roger and I talking about our adventure, check it out here! (Thanks for having me on your show, Roger, it’s always fun chatting with you!).
The Great American Road Trip is about to begin. It will be the culmination of a long-time dream my wife and I have had to travel across the USA.
We have no idea what awaits us on this, the biggest adventure we’ve ever undertaken. That’s fine with us, we’ll go with the flow and enjoy the ride. Sometimes, you have to stretch yourself.
To Try New Adventures.
To Live Your Dreams.
Isn’t that what retirement is all about?
Experience Life. Develop some dream.
Then, Go Live Them.