I could have posted this in my Travel Blog, but it really is more about our lifestyle than travel. We spend, on average, two weeks in each campground or resort we stay, meaning that about twice a month we have a travel day, moving our house to the next stop, sometimes taking three of four days to arrive (while boondocking at Walmarts or Cracker Barrels on those nights in between destinations). Often during these commutes, I have anxieties about our next stay. Here are some things I think about, in no particular order.
1. Availability and status of full hookup site
We belong to Thousand Trails so that we don't have out-of-pocket resort fees to worry about, but most of them are first-come, first-served, for full hookups, meaning that we may or may not find sewer or 50 amp electric hookups. This is important because without sewer, we can't shower more than once or use our toilet more than one week during our stay. It takes a couple hours to set up or break down camp, so even if there is a dump station on-site, it takes several hours and a lot of hassle to make use of it.
Last month we called ahead to confirm we could easily get a full-hookup site with at least some cell signal for Internet, which they assured us was the case. When we arrived, however, neither was available. We ended up passing up the resort and paying out of pocket for a private campground.
Often water pressure is an issue as well. We always keep our fresh water tank full in case there is little or no water from the park spigot.
2. Availability of cell coverage and Internet
Speaking of confirming Internet availability, both Nadyne and I work on the road, Nadyne remotely doing insurance agency accounting and me writing and marketing. Both of us require Internet and Nadyne must be able to speak to clients across the country, so early on we purchased a cell booster to give us a stronger cell signal and more reliable Internet, along with utilizing cell coverage from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Among the three service providers, we almost always have something we can use, but every once in a while, we don't. This was the case in the resort I mentioned earlier, where we only found two bars of coverage in one parking lot on one end of the park. You can't boost zero signal, so this was unacceptable and we had to move to another campground.
3. Parking difficulties
We don't have a massive RV, a 31' fifth wheel, but backing into some spaces requires time, energy and nerves of steel. Only once have I not been able to, eventually, get parked, but because of narrow sites, trees at the corners of the site entrance, narrow paths between rows of sites and close proximity to immovable park models, parking can be harrowing. In the case of the Palm Springs RV Resort, all four were problems. Add to that the situation where a truck or toad is partially blocking your path, whose owner can't be found, or the off-level nature of a site, There is a lot to dread about parking, even if we've been to a resort before.
4. Weather on the road
We are mobile and can move our fifth wheel when we know severe weather or flooding is imminent, but it's not always foreseeable. Since we are usually traveling hundreds of miles in any particular leg of a trip, forecasting isn't often reliable. My biggest concern is wind, which can greatly affect gas mileage at best and cause an accident at worst, not to mention risking expensive hail damage. We have been extremely fortunate to not have any serious weather issues in our first three years on the road, but it's something I actively worry about.
5. Satellite access
We are often in rural campgrounds without cable or over-the-air TV coverage so we invested in a Tailgater satellite dish and Dish TV service, along with a DVR. This has worked out great except that satellite dishes and trees don't play well together. The dish needs fairly unfettered access to the southern sky and the farther north you go, the more towards the true horizon it needs to see. In our current site in which we are parked beneath and among trees. I tried about fifteen locations around the rig until I found a spot in which the dish could see two out of the three satellites it normally uses. The only reason I was successful to that extent was because we're in Texas, where the dish must point in a fairly vertical direction in the sky. If we had been in Ohio, where it would point farther down for the signal, we wouldn't have any satellite TV at all.
6. Road hazards and clearances
We were in downtown Binghamton, NY, having no worries about our height and underpass clearance, since we utilize three different resources (including a trucker's guide) to check our route for low clearance bridges, etc., without any cautions. However, I turned left to enter an underpass and found myself face-to-face with a bright yellow sign warning of a 10' 11" bridge height. Our rig is 13' 4.5" tall, so that would have left a mark. Nadyne had to get out and stop traffic so that I could back out of the underpass entrance and turn around. We now have a brilliant yellow vest for her to wear in case that happens again.
I mentioned that we use three resources to check for clearance and my in-dash navigation system utilizes an app on my phone via Bluetooth to check for traffic and hazards, but no resource is foolproof, as we have found the hard way. East of the Mississippi, especially in New England, there are far more of these low bridges than out west, but really it's a national concern.
The road age and condition is itself a major concern, from coast to coast. The last time we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the long duration of significant bumps actually broke one of the springs on the fifth wheel. Any rough road is bad for an RV's interior and joints. Prolonged travel on such highways can be like riding out a continuous earthquake, but even a single big bump can rearrange our contents.
7. Breakdowns and blowouts
Logging over 20,000 miles so far in 2020 means that the odds are against us. Eventually we will have a major breakdown or tire blowout on the road. To help mitigate this we installed a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), which has saved us a major tire issue twice since we starting using it. The first time a tire went flat after picking up a screw while traveling 60 mph, allowing us to pull over before a blowout ensued, and the other a slow leak developed in a brand new tire on a dirt and gravel road and we were able to get it repaired before a serious issue occurred. In both cases a disaster may have resulted and I worry about that happening, even with a commitment to the technology.
8. Being pet friendly and having unfortunate park rules
We have seen some overly aggressive park rules against pets and other uses of a campsite. We installed a doggie door flap in our rig's screen door. By setting up a small fence around our steps and giving our dogs both shaded and sunny areas on a mat and on dirt or grass, they can come and go and potty as needed. We never leave them in the pen without us being home and are always diligent about their barking while outside. Despite this, some parks forbid outdoor pens and even having pets on leashes without the owner's full participation and attention. While I understand the purpose of such an edict, it makes our lives difficult, as does restricting clothes lines under our awning, restricting noise at 7 pm, a 3 mph speed limit and other rules that some bad apples have forced into park codes.
9. Access to grocery shopping and gas stations
Having a refrigerator only one-third the size of a house fridge means having to shop for groceries more often, at least once per week. Staying in the boonies doesn't make this an easy chore and we have camped up to 50 miles from the nearest Walmart. Small local supermarkets (with "super" being a bit facetious) often have a much smaller stock and higher prices than a big chain store. Sometimes the rural market has fresh, locally-grown or raised food or delicious baked items, but usually it's just missing several items we're looking for. Not having gas stations nearby can also be an issue and requires a more thoughtful plan to stay filled up.
We don't experience these difficulties often, but enough to cause us trepidation, No matter how much advance research we do, some things just cannot be known until you are present, and that is a cause for concern every time we begin our travel day. If you have other worries, please feel free to post them in comments below.
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