Sunday, June 24, 2018

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

It's been a small point of disappointment knowing my youngest children will have effectively no lasting memories from the journey of our first two years of RVing.  Even AJ, at age 4 and 5, will only cling to so much (hopefully the good stuff).  

With this in mind I worked hard to ask the children at the end of each day , "What was your favorite thing about today?"  And then I jotted the y down on our calendar for some context.  Hopefully it will offer the kids a way of "remembering" these past years.  

Here is what they had to say...

Quotes by AJ in red...   LJ in blue

                                     May 2017

-Driving to New Orleans-
The train at Lambert's Cafe
Crossing the "big bridge" in New Orleans
Playground at the campground
Playground at the campground

-Kayaking New Orleans Bayou-
Seeing airboat pass by the kayak

-Downtown New Orleans-
Playing on boats at the Children's Museum
Playing with trains at the Children's Museum

My favorite - 25 cent oysters and $1 drafts!

-Driving to Houston, TX-
Watching bonus features on Chuggington DVD
Playing outside

-Lake Conroe Campground-
Playing tetherball with Daddy

-Visiting friends in College Station, TX-
Playing with toy train and playing "green monster" with Madison
Playing soccer outside with Daddy's friends

-Day at the pool, Lake Conroe Campground-
Watching TV poolside in the cabana
Swimming and watching TV at pool
TV... Seriously?  *Sigh*

-Houston Zoo-
Playing outside after dark (tennis, tetherball, playground)
Unfortunately no pictures were taken of the intense tetherball battles!

-Lavon, TX campground-
Swim lessons
Swimming pool and going to Nana and Papa's

-Lake Tawakoni Campground-
Chick Fil A
"How To Train Your Dragon" movie
Nana and Papa visiting and all the fun activities
Swimming w/ cousins
Spaghetti dinner and bike ride around campground past playground
Quiet time during dinner listening to birds

 See more from this trip here.

                                           June 2017
-Lavon, TX-
Baseball game with Uncle Ben & ice cream
Ice cream sandwiches
Birthday part for AJ at bowling alley x2

                                             July 2017

-Independence Day, Golden CO-
Fireworks and soccer
Getting face painted

-Rocky Mountain National Park-

Bighorn sheep
Seeing a bear
Playing on Thomas the Train at library
Shark puppet at the library
Playing in creek and hiking to waterfall x2

-Bicycling Glenwood Canyon, CO-
Throwing little apples at each other next to the bike trail
Fast tunnels in the bike path

-Penny Hotsprings near Glenwood, CO-
Playing in hotsprings along the river
Finding orange rocks

-Hike to Hanging Lake, Glenwood, CO-
Seeing nocturnal animals - bugs, snake and mouse
Rock climbing the trail

-Moab, UT / Arches National Park-
Climbing to Pinnacle Arch
Arches National Park Junior Ranger badge

-Kayaking Colorado River, Moab, UT-
Swimming in the Colorado River from the kayak
Playing on an island in the Colorado River

-Canyonlands National Park-
All of Canyonlands

-Duchesne, UT / Starvation Lake State Park-
Running in the sprinklers
Giving Baby A kisses
Dinosaur National Monument

-Salt Lake City, UT-
Chick Fil-A
Dinosaur Museum
Great Salt Lake

                                         August 2017

-Grand Teton National Park-
Spending the day in Jackson and playing by String Lake in the park
Antlers in Jackson Square and playing cornhole outside brewery restaurant
Boat Ride
Seeing the wake from our boat crossing Jenny Lake to our hike to a waterfall

-Yellowstone National Park-
Old Faithful sprayed us
Seeing bison up close & the roiling water pits
Seeing the golden eagle at the Grizzly Bear Refuge
Hot chocolate by the fire
Bike ride through Yellowstone and the geyser and bubbling mud
Seeing the fox with new friends while climbing Mt. Washburn
Time with Mommy
Seeing Old Faithful
Ice cream by the Dine-In Bus in West Yellowstone
Seeing the osprey nest at Yellowstone Grand Canyon and drinking hot chocolate by the fire
Seeing bubbling mud pits at Fountain Paintpots
Seeing the fox
Eating chicken fingers from the cafe 

-Bear Tooth Highway, South Dakota / Montana-
Playing in the snow on the side of the highway
Playing in snow and throwing rocks in the waterfall 


Driving through thick clouds on Chief Joe Highway
First day of (virtual) kindergarten
Walk with Mommy at the RV park

-Black Hills, South Dakota (including Mt. Rushmore)-
Train ride through campground
Wind Cave National Park
Playing basketball at Pizza Ranch restaurant
Train ride, marshmallow roast, playing on playground at RV park
Wind Cave National Park
Running in puddles by the pool in the rain


I unfortunately failed to capture their memories on paper from this point forward.  Which is a shame, because we still had most of the country to cover before arriving in New York in the fall.  

But in the end, after seeing so many beautiful places of such variety, one thing stood out to me.  For a young child of three or five years old, these were the only things that really mattered:

1) Attention and love from his or her parents
2) Time to play outside
3) Way down in third place: new experiences

I suspect as the years pass, the visit to Mt. Rushmore will replace the time on the playground as a key favorite memory that day for the kids.  And for me, I'm just happy to have been there with them.  Granted, I still prefer the new experience type memories, such as playing on a snow covered mountain in August at 10,000 ft, compared to running around on the playground in the RV park.  But even the playground times have made some worthwhile memories for me.  I'm excited to see how the boys and little lady's interests change in the years to come!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

2016 RV / Camping Costs


I found this entry, written in January of 2017, sitting in the drafts box just waiting for proof reading and publishing.  Enjoy this trip back in time as we dig through the fun of RV finances!

I find it prudent to review our campground expenses for the previous year to have a realistic outlook for the year or years to come.  That way if I ever consider truly retiring, instead of the seasonal employment I enjoy now, it will be supported by strong financial data, rather than hopes and dreams .  But piecing together the costs is not as easy as it was when living in a house.  Before selling our Nebraska home we could add up our utilities, taxes, and insurance (and mortgage before we paid the house off), and that was how much "lodging" cost.  Each next year would be essentially the same, and very easy to plan for. 

     But now that we stay at places varying from in cost from free: through our membership or the kindness of friends; to beyond $50 a night at private campgrounds, you can see the annual cost could range greatly.  And while we have enjoyed staying with family and friends (driveways, side yards, farms and however else possible), I recognize that planning an annual budget around the generosity of others is foolish and actually kind of rude. 

     So let's break it down, night by night, on how last year's costs looked so we can have a plan for the years to come.  And perhaps some of you that have considered RV travel, full-time or otherwise, can get some perspective on what it might cost you too.

Our stays can be essentially broken down into three major categories: friends/family, Thousand Trails membership, and "pay as you go" campgrounds.  The last category includes reduced rate campgrounds through membership affiliates, military campgrounds available only to members of the services and retirees, as well as Corps of Engineer, County, State and National Parks, and even the rare KOA. 

Since we hit the road a few weeks after the new year, we stayed in the RV for 342 nights in 2016. 

85 nights - Military campgrounds
     Blue Angel Recreation Center (Pensacola, FL)
     Oak Grove RV Park (Pensacola, FL)
     MacDill AFB Famcamp (Tampa, FL)
     NAS Jacksonville Campground (Jacksonville, FL)
Military campground cost: $1763 ~ $21/night

        *A large portion of my stay in Pensacola was reimbursed by the Navy when I was put on military orders for work, reducing the effective cost per night considerably (to about $9/night).  Granted, I had to work to have those 50 or so nights at military campgrounds comp'd, so using the actual rate perhaps better reflects real expenses in a "retirement" scenario. 

112 nights - Friends and Family
     An unbelievable number when I look at it, but we were blessed with some awesome visits with many friends and family, some lengthier than others.  And their generosity cost us a total of $0.

9 nights - State Parks / Forests
     Kanawha State Forest (West Virginia)
     Sam Houston Jones State Park (Louisiana)
     Keystone State Park (Oklahoma)
     4 Mile Creek State Park (Niagara Falls, New York)
     Letchworth State Park (New York)

State Park / Forests cost: $225 = $25/night

27 nights - Corps of Engineers (COE)
     Lavonia (Texas) - Our close to "home" option

COE cost: $810 = $30/night

14 nights - Resort Parks International (RPI), A "Thousand Trails" partner giving us reduced priced camping.
     Yogi Jellystone Park (Louisiana) -
            1 night @ $10 (discounted cost) vs $65 (list price) = $10
     Royal Coachman (Nokomis, FL) -
            3 nights $30 (discounted cost) vs $52 (list price)   = $90
            5 nights $15 (discounted cost) vs $52 (list price)  = $75
     Skyline Ranch (Virginia)
            5 nights $15 (discounted cost) vs $70 (list price)   = $75

RPI resort cost: $250 = $18/night    RPI savings: $331
*RPI "membership" costs us $120 annually, net savings: $211

92 nights - Thousand Trails Campgrounds
    Our primary membership, allowing free stays at any of 80+ campgrounds (3 in Florida), with some limitations.

     Since we stayed at so many different Thousand Trails campgrounds, from Texas to Florida up to New York and back, I won't list them all.  But each shares the same cost: $0!

Annual Fee: $545
Total 2016 costs for Thousand Trails - $545

Cost per night ~ $6 (includes all water/sewer/electric costs)*

That leaves us with a couple of random stays at Casino parking lots, KOA's, and that sort of thing, which ranged from $20-$55 per night.

All in all, the 342 nights cost us a grand total of just near $3400, or just about $10/night or $300/month.  Not bad considering it covers water/sewer/garbage/electric bills.  And property taxes are a thing of the past.  Even insurance on our trailer is reasonable at $75 per month for great coverage, though with a relatively high $1,000 deductible. 

If we really wanted (or needed) to reduce expenses, we could bring our "housing" costs down to as low as $545 for the year ($1.50 per night or $45 per month) if we stayed exclusively at Thousand Trails year round.  But that would limit our ability to visit friends and family considerably.  It's nice to know we have this option should we face some sort of unexpected financial turmoil.

*The rate for Thousand Trails seems too good to be true... and it is.  In 2015 we paid an initial membership price of $3450 second hand.
This seems pretty steep, but it can be resold for at least $2,000 should we no longer find ourselves traveling.  When considering net membership costs of about $1,500, average costs for the first year were $22 per night.  Reasonable, if not cheap.  But every year we stay at Thousand Trails properties, average costs per night fall.  For example, if we stay only 58 nights at Thousand Trails campgrounds in 2017, our costs would average less than $10 per night in 2017.  And our two year average, including membership cost, would be brought down to $17 per night.  2018 would bring the average down even further, and we would soon be at a point where renting or owning a home would seem astronomically expensive by comparison.  

     So we've got a good bit to go to really benefit from Thousand Trails based strictly on cost/savings, but that's fine with us, because we foresee a long future of RV life.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

In the Meantime...

As you can probably see, our travels, as well as our blogging, has slowed to a screeching halt.  We are settled in Southern Maryland now, probably the only place I've ever lived that's not on the way to anywhere.  It's an unusual place with a lot of charm and, as they say, "DC prices without being DC". As you can see....not on the way to anywhere.

We have started setting down roots.  AJ was in a Classical Conversations Community this semester, both boys are playing soccer, we go to a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group every other week and we have found an amazing church home.  I love the short drive to DC and ability to visit good friends in Baltimore.  We even made a trip up to New York to visit our NY family last month.  

I get asked a lot how much I enjoy being in a traditional house. Well, let's just say, it has it's uses.  But, about a month after moving in we bought a fifth wheel to move into in September.  That's right.  I've lost my mind!  Not really, I just realized my american dream is vastly different than a lot of other people's american dream.  I like the simplicity of tiny living and the freedom to roam where we are lead.  

So what's in store for the Wandering Whitehursts in the future??  When we leave here in the fall we will be making our rounds to visit family.  Spring has so many options for us we have no idea where we may end up.  Possibly training for a new reserve job in Florida, skiing in Tahoe, or mission work in Colorado.  We really have no idea what God has planned for this nomadic family.  But we are excited about our newer, bigger house on wheels and the future adventures we are sure to have.  Check back for more summer fun!!