Somehow, this place keeps calling to us. We enjoyed the West, the awesome scenery, the endless desert views, all that. A great place to spend the winter.
But come spring, the Smoky Mountains is where it’s at for us. We’ve been here for about 5 weeks now. We spent a month at the KOA in Newport, a nice if somewhat boring place with a great monthly rate.
Brian and the Navy finally got on the same page in Morristown, Tennessee. MM1 Hatmaker is taking good care of him. Brian went to MEPS (forget what it stands for, but it’s where they go for the test and physical and all that) in Knoxville 2 weeks ago. Here he is taking the Oath of Enlistment, pledging to serve our country against all enemies. He got really lucky, the Navy just happened to need someone in Brian’s favored job the same day he showed up to claim it. So after boot camp, he will go to Quartermaster School, where he will learn to help the Navigator get the ship to the right places, work on the bridge, and even get’s to drive the ship. He leaves in January, and has to meet with his recruiter twice a month, so we are “anchored” here in the Smokies for the next 6 months. There are worse places to be.
Today is our last of 4 days at Panther Creek State Park in Morristown. We just love state parks, and this is a good one with a great campground. But while the $28 a day rate for a big beautiful full hookup site in the quiet woods is great for weekend campers, it’s double a good monthly rate. Also, typical of State Parks, it’s 2 weeks in, 1 week out here, no long term camping.
Another thing we did here is to finally get our Jeep a new passenger side wheel bearing. It’s been howling like mad for a long time, since we were at Organ Pipe some months ago. We were exploring this really cool road south of the National Park. It wound through a canyon down toward the Salton Sea, and we were stopping here and there to take pictures. I got it in my head to drive up this side canyon that turned out to be deep deep soft sand. And then I screwed up, and instead of flipping the dial back to 4 low, I flipped it forward to 2wd! Anyway, in my stupidity, I buried the poor thing to it’s axles. Finally discovering my mistake, I got it shifted into 4 low, and we hand shoveled the sand for a few feet ahead of all the wheels, and set some rocks in there. In 4 low she pulled herself right out, thank God. This place was so remote, no cell signal, and we were out of site of the road, which was deserted anyway. But we were moving again, I circled around and got the heck back on the pavement. Hmmm, I seem to be digressing here. But anyway, ever since then, car has been howling like mad. Anyway, thanks to a tip from a Facebook friend, Tuff Enuf 4WD Service got me in right away, and our poor lil Jeep is nice and quiet again!
Our next stop is Asheville North Carolina, for 4 days of rest and recreation (next blog post will detail why we need to rest…lol.) We’re going to Asheville for the Dog Park! Oddly, East Tennessee has no Dog Parks. And the “Kamp K9” in the Newport KOA turned out to be a chicken wire enclosure twenty feet by fifty. About 3 strides in wide open Huskie running. So into North Carolina to find a place the Huskies can play. I bet we find other cool things to do there, and we’ll get to stick another state on our door!
Today we’re driving the Jeep back toward Pigeon Forge to try to find a long term campground. Might not be an easy task. ALL of the campgrounds on Douglas and Cherokee Lake’s are “Seasonal only”, basically a place for locals to park their wheeled summer lake houses. No monthlies, and you can’t live there, you can just go out on the weekends. Anchor Down in Dandridge is wonderful, but pricey with a capitol P, and no longterm rates to keep the riffraff out.
So we’re going to try to find a long term home base in Pigeon Forge. Hopefully we score a nice campground with a reasonable monthly rate. A dog run would be a big plus. And close enough to everything so Brian can get a job while he’s waiting to leave for Great Lakes for boot camp.
Until next time!!
Nature – to most of us full-time RV travelers, it is the main reason we chose this lifestyle. We sold it all, left the rat race behind, and now spend our days hiking through forests, climbing mountains, and (finally) having a chance to smell the flowers along the way. We chose to make nature our backyard for ourselves and our families, mainly because we thought it would benefit us all in some way. But just how beneficial is nature to our well-being?
According to studies, most children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years spend an average of 1.5 hours a day with electronic media, and kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of 6.5 hours a day with electronic media. This is a total of more than 45 hours a week (more than a full-time job)!! Youth in this age group benefit the most from time spent outside in nature – particularly in their academic performance. A 2005 study showed that kids that participated in outdoor science classes improved their science test scores by up to 27%. Moreover, a study done by the University of Illinois showed that getting kids out into nature significantly improves symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, helps kids learn cooperation and teaches them conflict resolution skills.
Every day I see parents asking on Facebook about taking their kids on a full-time RV adventure and homeschooling them along the way. If you are in doubt, go back to the last paragraph and read it again. My husband and I chose to homeschool our high schooler through his junior and senior year, while full-time RV-ing, and I can attest to the fact that he learned more than he ever would have in the public school system. He is now an Eagle Scout, a high school graduate with a 3.2 GPA, and he will be joining the Navy within the next few months, with a plan to attend college afterwards.
Not only is getting out in nature great for our kids, but it’s very beneficial to us adult’s health as well. In a study done in the United Kingdom in 2007, it was found that adults with mental health disorders who took a walk in nature felt a reduction in depression (71%), it reduced their tension (50%) and increased their self-esteem (90%). Known as “green therapy” or “ecotheraphy”, this phenomenon is catching the attention of researchers more and more. It’s being found that this type of therapy produces more benefits than medication alone.
Health benefits aside, we are truly so blessed to be able to take our family on these adventures! I’m pretty sure my family (who go to work in the same cube every day and get 2 weeks of vacation each year) think we are insane, but I think they are! (Love you guys, but you’re insane!)
So hitch up that camper and get out in nature! Light a campfire and toast those marshmallows! Take that hike to a beautiful waterfall or to the beach! It’s good for you and good for your kids. And so much fun too!
I love to cook! There’s nothing like putting together a great meal that my family enjoys. However, I have a real love/hate relationship with my kitchen in my motorhome. It’s tiny – teeny tiny, itty bitty. Like, ZERO counter space tiny. I have no oven. I only have the microwave/convection oven and a 3-burner propane stove. And a barbeque grill that my husband might set up outside when the weather permits (which it hasn’t this week in Michigan!). Oh, and a crock pot. I love love love my crock pot!! On travel days I fill it up with all sorts of delicious ingredients, plug it in and travel on down the road, while we smell the deliciousness that will be dinner all day long. Yummmmmmmmmmm.
Anyways, I digress. This recipe for Chicken Linguine in all it’s creamy-sauce deliciousness was cooked completely on my tiny propane 3-burner stovetop, in my Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet (which I LOVE and highly recommend!). And it was absolutely DELISH!! My point here is that if I can do this, so can you!! So let’s get started!
You will need:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
12 oz. linguine
2 TBSP butter
1 zucchini, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeds removed and finely chopped
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1-1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
fresh parsley, minced
kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- If chicken pieces are really thick, cut in half lengthwise. Place in 9×13 baking dish and season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through and juices are clear.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguine according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Heat butter in large skillet (I use my Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet) over medium heat and add zucchini, bell pepper and onion. Reduce heat to medium-low and saute slowly, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables carmelize. Just minutes before vegetables are done, add in the chopped garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
- SLOWLY, stir heavy cream into the browned vegetables. Stir constantly until the cream thickens. Add chicken breasts to the sauce and cook for 5 more minutes until warmed through.
- To serve, pile some linguine onto a plate, place a piece of chicken on top, cover with cream sauce, add fresh parmesan and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!!
This past Sunday, we had our official Eagle Scout ceremony, where Brian received his official Eagle Pin (that’s the pin on his breast pocket in this photo). So we are back in Illinois right now, for this ceremony, and for his family graduation party which will be held this Saturday at my brother’s home (since we are “homeless” and all – LOL).
The times they are a’changin’. Very quickly. Perhaps too quickly for this Mama. Brian is my youngest, so this is all a little bit harder for me. Now that he is an Eagle Scout and graduated high school (through homeschool – yes, I made this diploma myself), he tells me he is ready to start the Navy and begin his new life. So, today we are going to talk to the Navy recruiter and hopefully get a date set (or at least the wheels in motion) for Brian to join the Navy. The nice part is since he is an Eagle Scout, he goes in TWO ranks higher than everybody else! How cool is that!! I guess it was totally worth hanging around Illinois long enough for him to finish his Eagle stuff last summer! I am so incredibly proud of him that I just might burst!
The Eagle Scout ceremony was totally great! It was a lot of work on our part but totally worth it in the end. The ceremony was emceed by Brian’s troop Scoutmaster, who has been fighting cancer for some time now (prayers appreciated – Jeff is a GREAT guy who gives so much to scouting!) Brian presented him with the Mentor Pin – a Scout tradition where the Eagle Scout presents a person who he feels has guided and mentored him throughout his journey to Eagle. And who better to receive this award than the Scoutmaster who has been there (even through chemo and radiation) almost every single meeting, not only for Brian but for all the other kids in the troop. Brian presented him with this pin, with a very well-written speech that honored Jeff in the best way. Another proud Mama moment!
The whole day was a great testament to homeschooling, as Brian had to also give a speech himself about what scouting has meant to him over the years. This speech was perfect – well-written and well-delivered. Not a single stutter – he sounded poised and grown up. When he was in public school, he would have struggled with giving a speech to a room full of people. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the change in him! I blame homeschooling – in a good way!
Not only is my baby joining the Navy and leaving me, my middle son (there are 3 of them) is moving to Wichita, Kansas on May 1. I guess we’ll be driving through Kansas often on our way to wherever we are going so I can visit with him! I’m gonna miss the big guy!!
So you’ve decided to sell it all and hit the road? Good for you!! But, you’ve realized that you still need to work while you travel. This is probably one of the most-often asked questions that I see on the Facebook pages and in forums about full-time RV living – “What do you do to make money on the road?” And similarly – “Where do you find these jobs?”
Well, there a couple of easy answers to this question, such as FlexJobs – a pay site that vets all job listings in order to make sure that none of them are scams and guarantees that all jobs are legitimate (worth the price of admission!), or WAHM – Work At Home Mom – a free site that has work-at-home job boards that you can browse. Another great choice is LinkUp – they only search company’s websites for jobs, so this is a great place to search to avoid scams. Use the keyword “telecommute” in your search. But what about if you’re looking for something a little different? Off the beaten path?
If you have a Pinterest account, you can follow my “Work While Traveling” board. I’ve been adding pins to this board for many months and have a pretty good selection of jobs or businesses that you can work while you travel. With over 250 pins, surely there is something to pique your interest. There’s everything there from transcription to running your own Etsy shop! Feel free to “follow” my board so you can see new pins as I add them!
If you have a specific skill, such as graphic arts or photography, you can put yourself out there on freelance sites, such as Fiverr, or Upwork. On these sites, you sign up as a seller and sell your tasks to buyers looking for your specific talent. The site keeps a small portion of your sale and you keep the rest. There are many people that make a full-time living off of these sites!
Just remember these safety rules:
*NEVER pay to land a job! They shouldn’t ask you for money for any reason! This is surely a sign of a scam company.
*Check out the company that you are applying to. A quick Google search of the company’s name will often uncover whether or not others have been scammed by this company.
*Beware of too-good-to-be-true claims of making a lot of money and/or easy work.
*Beware of companies that are vague about the job description.
*Never give out your credit card number or personal information until you are 100% certain the job is legit!
BE SAFE!! IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS!
As you can see, there are many many places to look to find location independent work. With a bit of research, you could land your dream job and be on your way in your RV!! Good luck! And PLEASE – let me know in the comments if you land a job, or if you currently have a job that you work while traveling that you found online, so we can help others who would like to do the same!
Here’s the story
Of a man named Brady…
Sorry, I had to do it LOL.
We are in Branson, Missouri this week – home of many small theater shows. When we first arrived in Branson, we got the show schedule and looked through it. I immediately knew that the 70’s Music Celebration starring Barry Williams was THE show that I NEEDED to see! After all, who didn’t love Barry in The Brady Bunch back in the day? While my first love was Bobby Sherman followed closely by Donny Osmond, I did (like every pre-teen girl of that time) have just a small crush on Greg as well. And I absolutely LOVED The Brady Bunch. It was my favorite show. To this day, if I find it on TV in syndication, I will watch it. I believe I have every episode of their 5 seasons memorized, and can name that Brady episode in the first 30 seconds of the show every time. I’m pretty sure I had a Brady Bunch lunchbox too. Yea – I was all Brady all the time. A huge fan. And then when I read the show description on their website and it said that Barry takes time after the show to meet people, sign autographs and get a photo – well that just sealed the deal that this was THE show to see!
Of course all the while Jim is pretty much just laughing at me – but I don’t care! Bless his heart, he got on the phone and reserved 3 tickets at The Americana Theater (yes, Brian – my 18-year-old son – actually wanted to go too, which works out to be a really great thing as you will soon see).
We went out to dinner (Mexican food OF COURSE – it was Jim’s turn to pick) at Pancho Villa Tex Mex, which actually turned out to be very delicious! Then it was time to go see the show!
We got in to the theater and took our seats, about 30 minutes before the show was scheduled to start. The emcee was a lot of fun, and he was doing a game where the audience had to sing the next line of the song that he played, and whoever sang it the best and loudest got a prize. Now mind you, Jim and I are the youngest old people there, and there is NOBODY in this entire theater that is even close to Brian’s age. Most of the audience was bused in on motor-coaches from senior centers in neighboring states. Their walkers were blocking the aisles and the place smelled like Ben-Gay.
So they do the first 2 songs of the contest and some really old people win the prize. And then we get to the third song in the contest.
And Brian brings it!
The song they played was “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas. It just so happens that Brian knows this song from playing Guitar Hero with my other son when he was a kid.
So there’s sweet, shy Brian singing his heart out for all the world, just so he could win a prize to give to his Mommy (awwwwww!). And every old person near us in the theater is pointing to him and telling the emcee to “Pick him! Pick him!”
And so he won. He won THIS awesome photo of Barry Williams in his youth, looking all studly. At the time, the photo was not signed. So we also won the opportunity to get the photo autographed by Barry and get our pictures taken with him. Look, there’s even a little heart that Barry drew on his arm – because he loves me. Thanks Brian – for making this Mommy’s dream come true!!!
All in all the show was a lot of fun, and I would recommend it to anyone that is in the Branson area. Of course the icing on the cake was getting to meet Barry – he was very nice and very real.
Barry, if you’re reading this – thanks for a great show! And thanks for the memories…
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Yesterday the timer on Carol’s iPhone went off, it was time to do the water filters. It had been 2 months this time. Last time, it had only been one month, and the sediment filter looked like brand new, so I had her set the timer to 2 months.
The time before, we weren’t using the timer, and it was “Do you remember when we changed em?” “Nope, sure don’t”
That time, the sediment filter (the only one we can actually see into) looked like a toxic waste dump.
Clean water is important. Lots of posts on Facebook, lots of people who, oddly, do not use their RV’s water system. Not sure what the point of that is – why have a self contained RV if you’re always gonna go outside for water, which is a big part of self containment. We use our water. We do drink bottled water, but my coffee, Carol’s tea, cooking water, dog water, and of course bathing and such, those all come from from campground water through our RV’s water system.
So we use 3 water filters.
On the hose, we use the standard “blue one”. You can get these everywhere. If they have any RV stuff, they will have the blue filters. These are a combo sediment and charcoal filter, and putting one on your fresh water hose is the start of clean safe water for your family. Buy them here
Our rig has a whole house filter installed in one of the bays. All the water coming into the system from either shore water or the pump, goes through this filter. This is a standard 10″ filter housing, filters that fit are in any home center store. I use a 10 micron sediment filter here. These are cheap.
Finally, our Dometic fridge has an icemaker with ice and water through the door, and the feed line has it’s own filter. This one I replaced with a Dupont 10″ housing some time ago, when even camping world didn’t have the original style PUR filter cartridges. I use a Good Dupont charcoal filter here.
So anyway, I shut off the water, cracked the low drains long enough to relieve the pressure, and spent maybe 10 minutes changing the 3 filters.
REMEMBER, the charcoal filters will run black until they are flushed out. Screw the hose filter onto the parks bib, and open the valve and run water on the ground till clear, then hook up your hose.
On the fridge, I just fill glasses of water until it runs clear. If your fridge has an icemaker but no water thru the door, it might be easiest to take the lower outside fridge vent off, find and unscrew the water supply line for the icemaker, and turn on the water until it sprays clear water.
So here’s the 3 filters I took out. These are 60 days old, fulltime use with 3 adults and 3 dogs. The blue one of course you can’t see inside. The one on the right is the charcoal filter for the icemaker, and you can’t see anything there either.
The middle one is the plain whole house sediment filter. It looks like toxic waste. Hard to imagine I drank coffee made from any liquid that even breathed the same air as that thing, much less passed through it!
The upside is our fridge water comes out really fast again.
Yesterday it just kinda dribbled out, took a good minute to fill a 5 cup coffee pot.
Life is good!
We love to meet new people. Just yesterday I had a most interesting hour-long chat with some guy in the laundry room all about buying and selling stocks – something that Jim and I have talked about learning how to do for quite some time. This guy (I didn’t even catch his name) had some very valuable information to pass along and I learned a lot while my jeans spun in the dryer.
But then, with my laundry done, it was time to say goodbye and get on with our lives. Even though I could have easily spent many more hours just chatting about anything and everything – not necessarily the stock market – with this guy. He was friendly and personable – the type of person I would have liked to have gotten a chance to know a little better. But alas, both of us were done with our chore, and we said our goodbyes and each went back to our respective campers, never to see each other again.
We have spent countless hours with new friends in campgrounds. A few days ago we left Sedona, Arizona, where we stayed for a whole month. During that month we met and became good friends with two couples – David and Rocky, and Roger and Carol. We had a blast hanging out with them! All six of us would have cocktail hour each night, where we would have appetizers and cocktails together, and we even spent a day together going to Jerome, Arizona to have lunch and see an (awesome) band play some music at the old Spirit Lounge. The six of us got to be fast friends and really enjoyed each other’s company.
And then it was time to say goodbye. And that’s the hardest part of all!! I’m not sure if our paths will cross again, although I sure hope they do! We gave them our business card, and even have David’s phone number. All four of them live in Michigan, so we are hoping to be able to get together in May when we head up that way for business. I sure hope we get to!
This “temporary friends” is one of the most difficult things about this lifestyle. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, and women tend to want to make friends and stay friends – have “Besties” who they can talk to and hang out with and get manicures and shop together. And that just doesn’t happen with this lifestyle. I’m trying to learn to find joy in the small moments that I get with the people that I meet, but I always feel sad when it’s time to see them go. I am grateful for the small part of this journey that I got to spend with them. But I understand that our paths must now go in different directions.
Thanks for the laughs guys! Thank you for celebrating this life with us! If you’re reading this, know how much Jim and I both really enjoyed our time together. We wish you well on your journey. ‘Til we meet again…
~ “Yesterday brought the beginning, tomorrow brings the end, though somewhere in the middle we became the best of friends.”
In the words of motivational speaker and author Brendan Burchard, we should end each day asking ourselves these three questions:
- Did I live fully today?
- Did I love today?
- Did I matter today?
In other words, did I live my life robustly and fully today, being present in each moment? Did I love to the best of my ability all of those around me, friends, family or strangers? And did I matter today – did I make a difference somehow in the world, to another person in some way that benefitted them?
Mr. Burchard goes on to say that when it is our turn to die, we will ask ourselves these same 3 questions about our whole life – Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter? Hopefully the answer is yes to all 3 of the questions.
You see, my mom died at the very young age of 46 of breast cancer, leaving behind 4 grown children and a lot of great memories. Yes, she lived. Yes, she loved. Yes, she very much mattered. What was really sad was that she passed away just 3 months before I married the love of my life, who is now my travel partner and best friend as well as my husband of 28 years. Since she died right before my wedding, she never got to meet her grandchildren, and that has always made me very sad, because they never got to know her either. She was a great person, a wonderful mom, an awesome sister, aunt and friend.
But now I look back all these years later, having lived (so far) to the age of 53, and I realize just how much of life my mom missed! And it makes me wonder – did she ever want to sell it all and take off in an RV and see the world? Did she love to travel as much as I do? Her and Dad went on vacations as often as they could so I think she did. But she never got a chance to make these memories with her children, or her grandchildren for that matter. She was busy fighting for her life from the time she was diagnosed at only 43 years old until she passed at 46.
All this to say, that it is all about making memories – now, while we still can. Because you never know what could happen tomorrow, or the next day. Life is so precious. I’m still so very sad that I never got to have a mom when I was becoming a mom myself, but I am so grateful for the lessons that it has taught me – that it’s never too late to start, it’s always good to dream, and the time is now to do. To love fiercely along the way and to always let those you love know how much you love them.
So when we first entertained the thought of selling it all and going full-time RV-ing, I seriously thought my husband was off his rocker. People don’t just give it all up and go gallivanting around the United States with their houses on their backs – that’s crazy!! Except it turns out it’s not so crazy after all. Me, Jim and our son Brian are having the time of our lives making these memories together as a family. This is time we will never get back. Brian is 18 and will be joining the Navy in a few months, and then my duties as a Mom will be done. I will have raised 3 boys to the best of my ability. In the meantime though, I’m hanging on to every second that I get with Brian before that final hug goodbye as he turns and heads off into boot camp – and adulthood.
So if you’re on the fence about whether or not this full-time RV-ing lifestyle is something you want to do, just go for it. Quit waiting for the kids to grow up, or the perfect job to happen, or to save up enough money, or whatever it is you’re waiting for. I know my Mom never planned on becoming ill and dying at such a young age, and I’m sure she felt like she didn’t finish everything she ever wanted to do. Heck, I’m 53 and I feel that way!! There is so much out there to see, and to do, and to accomplish.
Start making memories! You can always make more money. You can always make another house, or another car. You can always get another job, and you can always buy more stuff.
But you can’t ever get these years back once they are gone…
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It’s getting close to time to start not planning our Alaska trip this summer. We say “not plan our trip” because we STINK at planning. So we need your help! We’re in Sedona, AZ now. At the end of the month we head back to Chicago to visit our kids. And when we get tired of that, we’re off to Alaska!!!
I’m figuring from Chicago, we’ll go to Glacier National Park, cross the border there, and run up the Canadian Rockies to Dawson City, take the AlCan to Tok and be in Alaska. Coming back, we’ll go through British Columbia, possibly Vancouver Island, back in the States, and south through Washington, Oregon, and California, finishing in Las Vegas. We haven’t been to Nevada in the RV yet, so that will fill that hole in our states visited map. Yosemite is way up on our California list.
The couple or three months in between, we have no idea and no plans. So I’m looking for help, either here or on our Facebook page, as far as places we need to go and see, and especially, places we just ain’t gonna get into without an advance reservation. We are TERRIBLE at planning and reservations. Most of the time it’s not a problem, though often it’s not the cheapest way.
So, help us out. Have you been to Alaska in your RV? What are the “not to be missed” places? Do we need to make reservations months in advance for RV parks? How are the roads?
Now for step one, we need to buy our issue of
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