An Update after Two Months on the Road in an RV

18 May 2015 · 8 comments

So far, so good.

Kim and I are now 52 days, 2500 miles, and $4000 into our planned year-long RV trip. We’ve made it to Page, Arizona, which sits just south of the Utah border. (Technically, our RV is currently parked a few feet into Utah, but we’re counting this as time in Arizona. Because it is.)

In many ways, this trip has gone better than expected. We both enjoy the nomadic lifestyle, spending a few days in one place before moving on to the next. We are learning so much about this country’s culture and geography. Already, books and movies are gaining “texture” that might otherwise have been missing. (Example: While listening to The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency yesterday, the description of the mine made more sense because we’d taken a mine tour in Bisbee, Arizona two week ago.)

Entering the Copper Queen mine
Entering the Copper Queen mine in Bisbee

The combination of our motorhome and Mini Cooper has worked well, and we’re making constant small improvements. We picked up a seven-dollar crockpot at a thrift store in Oceanside, California, for instance, so that we can bulk-prepare meals. And yesterday we bought a cast-iron skillet to replace the cheap piece of junk we’ve put up with for the past two months.

Through it all, our relationship seems to be getting stronger rather than weaker. We truly enjoy spending time together, especially when we’re exploring.

Having fun in gorgeous Antelope Canyon
Having fun in gorgeous Antelope Canyon

Not everything about the trip is awesome, of course. There are downsides of differing degrees. For instance:

  • For both of us, the scariest moments on the road have involved driving — especially in southern California. (I loathe SoCal traffic, from Sacramento on south. Drivers are often rude and reckless, which is not fun to be around in an RV.) We had a frightening few hours on narrow L.A. freeways as we made our way from Santa Barbara to Palm Springs, but the worst moment was when we inadvertently ended up on a narrow dike road outside Sacramento, with no shoulder, no turn-offs, and a gusting wind.
  • It sucks to be away from friends for so long. We miss our people in Portland, and wish there were some way to see them. We had a chance to meet up with our good friend Bret in Phoenix, but the timing didn’t work. Fortunately, we’ve spent much of the first seven weeks hanging out with Kim’s family. But now we’ve run out of Stevenses and Edwardses to socialize with.
Kim plays with her nephew, Porter, as a thunderstorm approaches
Kim plays with her nephew as a thunderstorm approaches the Sierra Nevadas

  • There’s so much to see! That’s a good thing, of course, but it also creates this artificial pressure to get out of the RV and explore our surroundings. It seems wrong to take a down day. That pressure goes so far as to make it tough to write — whether for here, for our travel blog, or four our families. Writing this particular is a luxury, and one I’m enjoying only because I woke early and left Kim to sleep a while longer.
  • Costs are higher than we’d hoped. Going into this trip, we didn’t have a true idea of what we’d be spending. We had budgeted $2000 per month (which is about $500 per week or $67 per day). Our actual spending has been about 25% higher than that, and that doesn’t include non-trip expenses such as novels, souvenirs (I’m buying lapel pins at major stops), or “date nights”. Those come out of a non-trip account. Fortunately, our spending has decreased over the past few weeks. We’ve learned how to dry camp on Forest Service land (free!), and we’re putting the afore-mentioned crockpot to good use. Plus, early RV and Mini expenses were one-time only. We hope…
  • Lastly, we’ve had occasional lapses in communication. When these occur, we get cranky with each other. Fortunately, we’re quick to resolve them and have come to recognize that we simply need to make our expectations and desires clear to each other.

Although we don’t have as much “work time” as we had expected — as you can tell by the fact that I haven’t had time to write here at Foldedspace! — we’re still taking steps to document the trip as it happens. Kim and I are both keeping journals. (Mine is very basic: where we were, what we did, what we spent.) We’re also taking tons of photographs — and a handful of videos. We post the best of these on Facebook and Instagram, and I’m trying to share highlights now and then at Far Away Places.

J.D. stopped to take MANY photos
We were lucky to tour Joshua Tree when it was cloudy and rainy.
The weather added texture to everything.

Lastly, I’ve been logging a variety of statistics in a spreadsheet. That’s how I know we’ve spent $3987.09 on this trip so far (again, not counting personal expenses); when we drive the motorhome, we’re getting an average of 7.7 miles per gallon and an average speed of 41.21 miles per hour; we’ve spent 64% of our nights in RV parks, 26% with family, 8% boondocking, and 2% (one night) in a hotel; and so on. Yes, I am a nerd.

In some ways, this trip is lasting longer than expected. We’ve been on the road for almost two months, and we’ve only been to California and Arizona! At this rate, it’ll take us four years to criss-cross the United States. On the other hand, the time also seems to be rushing by. There are so many places to see and so many people to meet.

Kim shows her grandfather photos of our trip.
Kim shows her grandfather photos of our trip.

Yesterday we took the short walk into Horseshoe Bend. While taking dozens of photos with the other tourists, I chatted with a man from Arkansas who’s out here with his family. “I’ve never been out of the U.S.,” he told me. “I always wanted to visit other countries, but this vacation has made me realize there’s so much to see here. I could spend a lifetime exploring my own country, let alone the world.”

Exactly. That’s probably the biggest realization Kim and I have had on this trip too. We knew the U.S. was vast — it’s something we always tell folks from other countries who talk about coming to New York and simply popping over to L.A. — but we never appreciated how vast.

Devil's Bridge behind Sedona
Devil’s Bridge behind Sedona (click for larger version)

We’re okay with the vastness. That means there’s more beauty for us to see, more people to meet, more places to sit and meditate and feel lucky to be alive. Now, however, it’s time to leave Page, Arizona and move on to Monument Valley. From there, we think we’ll swing north before crossing into Colorado. But who knows? Mostly, we’re making this up as we go along. And that’s half of the fun…

We're happy to have seen Arizona. Now it's on to other states!

1 Elaine May 18, 2015 at 22:44

I’m enjoying your adventure.

2 Brian May 19, 2015 at 03:33

Looks like an amazing trip! CA is one of the bigger states. :)

3 Jessie May 19, 2015 at 03:52

Great pictures! What did you use to take them?

4 olgav100 May 19, 2015 at 05:25

Finally! I had no idea you have another blog going. Great insights, and the trip and relationship look good on ya!

5 jlcollinsnh May 21, 2015 at 10:51

Great to read the update!

Sure is a big, beautiful country to wander about in. Hope to see you along the way!

6 Bryan June 12, 2015 at 16:05

I love the pictures from Devils bridge. We live in Sedona and do a lot of hiking in that area off of Dry Creek road.

There are some great BLM camping sites off of forest road 525 should you pass back through here again.

Hope you enjoy your journey!

7 Sam June 16, 2015 at 08:48

Hey JD,

Great post, 4 years ago I went to Australia with £2,000 and ended up traveling for almost 14 months! I originally intended to go for one month but the longer I stayed the more my eyes opened to how long term travel can be a possibility!

I’m a longtime fan of both GRS & JDRoth.com, I hope this email finds you well.

Next year I’m considering building a personal finance blog in the UK aimed at those in their 20-30’s.

Would you have any advice you could give me (both general and how to generate an audience)?

Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Sam

8 Joel June 29, 2015 at 10:33

That shot of Joshua Tree is very striking. But are you really giving a cheerful thumbs up while The Sublime rolls up behind you?

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