By Terri Nighswonger
My RV journey began nearly a year and a half ago when my husband, Todd, and I were discussing some “next steps” in our weird life. To be honest, it didn’t look like we would ever retire. You know, the payout at the end of a long and storied career. The reality looked like we would be working until we keeled over.
We had just a few months until our lease ended. Buying a house and paying on it until we were dead didn’t look too good either. I’m not sure whose idea it was but the question was presented: Why don’t we, a few years down the road, save up and buy an RV that we can travel the country in? That’s great, we agreed. Let’s downsize our life, save some money, and in a few years, make that dream come true. Then came the math. Why not buy the RV now, live in it, and save even more money so we can escape sooner? Yes, we could do this. So, we did.
In September of 2018, we began to seriously research living in an RV full-time. We looked at floor plans and manufacturers to get an idea of what we wanted. Eventually, we knew we would have to work while we traveled so we chose a Grand Design Reflection BHTS312. The BH stands for bunkhouse, by the way, which we have since turned into an office and storage for musical equipment, office equipment, etc.
Step by trembling step
By October, we had made our purchase, which stayed at the dealer until we picked it up Dec. 1. Our lease on our house officially ran out Dec. 11. We called her Beauty! Step one: Done!
The next step was to buy a truck to haul her. My eyes were glazing over as Todd patiently explained to me all about gross weight and tongue weight and GBWFGS…whatever! There was this formula, see, and that would tell us exactly what we needed. OK, OK, whatever! We purchased a 2019 Ford F250 and promptly named it (him?) The Beast! By the way, I was the first to drive that beast safely through the McDonald’s drive-thru and I was not the first to put a scratch on it. I was, however, the envy of all the truck-driving guys at work…when I got to drive it.
We had to be out of our rental by mid-December and we had a lot of stuff to get rid of. I think that was the hardest part for me. I’m not sure why because in the end, it is just stuff. We had so much stuff that went to Goodwill that I joked I couldn’t shop there because I would just look and say, “That was mine! Oh, that too!” Or, I’d try to buy it all back (not really).
When move-in day finally arrived, it was exciting and scary. The first night in any new house you hear all the weird creaks and groans. It was home, though, and it didn’t take long getting used to a new way of living. Even with a four-season rig, we had to make sure we didn’t freeze any pipes. Our ultimate goal is to live where we never have to worry about having the heat on.
I almost forgot – we are three, including our very needy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newton. He is the cutest ball-obsessed, treat-grabbing, back-sleeping, snoring dog in any RV park. He loves people a lot. Everyone is his best friend, especially if they throw the ball for him. He is a therapy dog, but Todd calls him a “needs therapy dog.”
The day finally arrived. In August 2019, we took off from our stationary living in Arkansas with great plans. We quit our full-time jobs and hit the road. The plan was for Todd to work insurance claims for Hurricane Dorian. When there were no claims, we had to rethink things a bit. We spent six nights in Birmingham, Alabama, at Oak Mountain State Park, where he was deployed with State Farm. When he was released, we headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama, to enjoy the beach and figure out our next steps.
We ended up work camping in Knoxville, TN, for Christmas Décor of Knoxville the next several months with plans and jobs set to work camp in North Carolina and Maine to cover the spring and summer. Those plans were canceled when my husband took a full-time job with State Farm in Kansas City. It was hard to do but we felt like we needed to get some bills paid before we head out again. In hindsight, COVID-19 may have squashed our plans regardless. We feel very thankful that we had at least one full-time salary throughout the pandemic.
For the future, we are working toward paying those bills before we head out again. One thing we know is, while everything may not always go as planned, we have learned to just roll with it.