My friend Ed, who lives in The Villages near Ocala, Florida, sent me this article recently. It's from their home-town newspaper:
My head shook, at the naiveté of this headline.
As the old idiom says, "Freedom is never free". While this lifestyle does provide you with more choices and opportunities, it carries a cost.
As much as I LOVE my full-time travel life, there are times I give a longingly backwards glance to the comforts of the "community" I left behind. I miss my neighbors of twenty years. I miss my former beautiful home. I miss having family close by. I miss having consistent wifi. I miss my favorite auto mechanic, dentist, hair stylist, church, grocery store, restaurants etc.. My stationary life fit very, very well. On an average day, I could get my oil changed, run to the post office, buy groceries, hit the gym, stop at the Home Depot, and still have time to have friends over for dinner.
But when you're on the road it is totally different. We've stayed at over 250 different campgrounds. That's 250 different locations where we are faced with the same list of questions: Where do we go to shop? Where do we go to have work done on our truck or RV? Where do I go to get a haircut? Where do we go for medical care? What parts of town should be avoided? Where is the post office? Who do we trust? What could be done in a day, might now take a week or more.
While we have the freedom to travel, I would never say we are "free". The truth be told, there is a lot of work, planning and stress that goes into traveling. It is by no means a "worry free" endeavor.
As I sat down to address the fallacies in the above article, I expected it would only take a few days to write. But we've been plagued by an unusual number of emergencies recently and each one only adds to the length of this post and strengthens my conviction that RV travel is not for the weak of heart.
When I started writing this post a few weeks ago, we were camped in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho, 27 miles south of the Canadian border. In a week we were planning to cross to visit two of Canada's most famous and beautiful national parks: Banff and Jasper. Pretty exciting stuff, or so it would seem. But our excitement has been dampened by the constant stream of "travel-related" issues we are facing.
Right now, these are the worries we have on our plate...
#1, Entering Canada: the laws concerning what you can bring into Canada are vague, convoluted, and constantly changing. We have heard many horror stories that RVers have faced at "Checkpoint Charlie". One wrong answer can lead to this:
And this is an experience we don't want to have again! ;)
[Interesting tid-bit, at the border you have defacto surrendered many of your rights as an American citizen. Border agents have the right to detain you and do a warrantless search of your entire RV, your phones, and your laptops for no justifiable reason other than "you look funny". And given my looks, I find this completely unnerving.]
Fortunately, we had no issues at the border. Our agent was very nice and asked the amount of alcohol we were carrying, if we had any firearms, ammo or holsters, and if we had over $10,000 US.
#2, Canadian Wildfires! There are numerous wildfires burning out-of-control throughout Canada and one happens to be spreading just north of our first campground. The blue star on the map below, represents our campground, Cranbrook, KOA. The orange represents the areas being affected by the St. Mary's River Fire.
We made this reservation way back in February and because there are so few campgrounds in this remote area, we don't have the luxury to just pick-up and move to another. Most of this area is under an evacuation-watch and the thought of our campground (and our RV) being consumed by a rapidly moving wildfire has crossed my mind many times. We will need to be prepared to go at a moments notice. And on top of all this, there will probably be unscheduled road closures, air quality issues etc.. We have many challenges that wait for us.
But wait.. there's more!
#3) RV's Require Constant TLC: We must be vigilant in watching over all the moving parts of our RV. That's why we are planning on having certain components of our suspension system replaced/checked before they wear out (equalizers, leaf springs, wet bolts and bushings). I wish it was as easy as pulling into any auto repair facility and having the work done, but it's not and most RV repair facilities (if they have the right parts) are booked months out. We need a mobile RV tech. In the past we have used a company named Performance Trailer Braking and have been very pleased with their work. The issue now is coordinating/changing our route so we can meet up with one of their mobile techs while in route. After numerous texts, emails and phone calls, it looks like we are going to have the parts shipped to our campground near Rapid City, South Dakota where a mobile tech will meet up with us to do the install later this September. Does this really sound like freedom?
#4) There Will Be Unexpected Emergencies:
Tires: We had a scare a few days ago, when our tire-pressure-monitoring-system began screaming at us that one of our tires was losing air pressure. At first I thought the pressure sensor had gone bad because our driver side, rear RV tire looked fine. After watching the tire pressure for a day or two, I came to the realization that we had a slow leak (we were losing about 5 psi/day). So now, while on the road in Canada, we will have to find a tire store that has the facilities to either repair or replace an RV tire. (After calling around to half a dozen tire stores within driving distance, we found one with tires our size who could see us immediately. As it turns out there was a small nail embedded near the sidewall requiring a new tire). Not only did this chew up many hours of our time it also was very stress inducing.
But this was not as bad as what happened next! ...
Next Hurdle: With the breath of relief barely out of our lungs, we had another incident. Our RV refrigerator panel suddenly began flashing a puzzling warning code reading "LO-DC", accompanied by an annoying, squealy beep about every three seconds. What the frick!!
Fortunately, we are traveling through Canada with two friends of ours Connie and Vivian.
They are fellow Grand Design RV owners that we met a few years back in Indiana. We enjoy hanging out with them so much that we arrange for our paths to cross whenever possible. Thankfully, traveling with these two is like traveling with TV's super-agent Angus MacGyver. He could get himself out of most sticky situations with a piece of gum, duct tape, a paper-clip and a little cheviche (inside joke).
Thanks to their bull-dog tenacity and "if-there's-an-answer-out-there-we'll-find-it" attitude, we managed to trace the problem back to a six-year old faulty converter. It had allowed our deep-cycle battery to completely drain, and when this happens the manufacturer recommends replacing it. So now we are in a foreign country and dead in the water. We need a new battery and a new converter.
Are we having fun yet?
Unable to find an RV converter within 100 miles of us, we put our heads together and came up with a temporary solution. We will drive into Calgary (over an hour away), buy a new Deep-Cycle RV battery and keep it charged using a battery charger/maintainer (that we will run using shore power). This will solve our problem until we can get back to the states where we have a new converter waiting for us. MacGyver would be proud!
Thank you Connie and Vivian for being so helpful and caring in keeping us on the road! We couldn't have done this without you both.
#5) Other Considerations:
A. Travel overall, is stressful: Driving with an RV in tow is very stressful. There are many things that can go wrong with either the truck, the RV, the road surface, or the drivers around us. Like the proverbial "sword of Damocles", the threat of peril is all around us. My knuckles have taken on a permanent shade of white! Fun.. fun.. fun.
B. There probably will be medical emergencies: My wife broke her ankle in 2020 as we were hiking in Joshua Tree NP. We were about a mile from our truck and had no cell service. If not for the kindness of five passing twenty-somethings who helped stretcher her out, she would still be stuck in Joshua Tree NP (I certainly would miss her)! For lesser emergencies, like getting a Lyme test, we make liberal use of Urgent Cares.
Anything in that newspaper article about the possibility of facing heart-stopping medical emergencies? I didn't think so!
C)The darkside of RV life: Lastly, RVers need to remember that eventually, the outside will find its way inside your RV. We've had to deal with all sorts of strange looking bugs, spiders, mosquitoes, ticks, ants and mice in our rig. Not life-threatening of course, but all the more disturbing given our close quarters.
Don't get me wrong, we absolutely love our nomadic lifestyle. It has afforded us the opportunity to meet people and see places that have exceeded our wildest expectations. And if it's true that whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, we feel these trials have only added kindling to our fires of resiliency and resourcefulness.
To circle back to the question of whether RV travel brings freedom? I'll let you be the judge.
See you on down the road (maybe).