A major shift in residency has taken place in this country over the last few years. Like ourselves, many couples have taken to the road full-time, and not just retirees. More and more families are selling their houses and moving into RV's to embrace the nomadic lifestyle. Along with an outdoors lifestyle, fishing is of great interest to a good portion of these people. One big difficulty is the non-resident status for fishing licenses, wherever we may be.
This isn't as much a cost issue as inconvenience. Cost is certainly high, with three-day freshwater licenses upwards of $20 in many states ($23 in Maine plus $2 seller's fee, $23.50 in Massachusetts, $15.59 in Illinois, etc.) and more than half that for a single day. But actually purchasing the license within the time frame desired can be extremely difficult when you're on the road.
Here in Maine, where I'm currently camping, I'm about 11 miles to the nearest fishing store (actually a Walmart). I knew I wanted to fish but didn't know when the weather was going to be good enough during my 2-week stay, so I waited. When the weather finally cleared, I didn't have the license and I had to wait. Sure enough, rain returned. I ended up not fishing at all during my stay here, even though the campground I'm in is on Patton Pond, a great fishing lake. In fact, I haven't actually fished anywhere since I left Colorado four months ago.
A national license would be of great help to me and my fellow nomadic fishermen (and fisherwomen). I would easily pay $200 per year to be able to fish wherever I am on the road, especially when I am often in rural areas where licenses aren't readily available.. Fees collected could be split between all 50 states, so all those governments would get their share.
What say you, BASS (Bass Anglers Sportman Society) or Professional Catfishing Association? Are you on board, Good Sam? How about you, Escapees or Xcapers? Heck, even AARP should help pave the way. How can we make this happen?
I have a nice Wen 2000W inverter generator and since we bought a portable A/C unit that will run on generator power (the main A/C won't), we've been using the generator almost every time we've boondocked this summer. It has been amazingly helpful to be able to cool off the rig instead of suffering in the heat and humidity on the eastern seaboard.
However, retrieving, setting up and re-storing the 40-pound machine has been more than a small headache. We recently sold our motorized bicycles and still had the bike rack installed on the rear bumper and thought we might be able to purchase a generator box that would fit on one of the rack supports, but could find nothing under $400 that would work. Undaunted, I located a steel storage cabinet for garages and patios that locks and decided to make it work. This project cost me $85 for the cabinet and another $75 in wood, water seal and hardware.
I had a lot of options for securing the cabinet and decided to build a shelf across the bike rack supports (pic A). I bought three 2x6x8 boards and cut them to 78" long, which is the distance from the left edge of the rig to just off the left edge of the ladder. I drilled holes in the board closest to the rig so that I could easily place it over the nuts and bolts holding the bike rack to the bumper.
I purchased some water seal and applied approximately five coats on the wood boards (pic B), then let them sit overnight. I wanted to attach the boards using 1/4" x 3" lag bolts but the hardened steel rack presented a little difficulty in lining up the bit to go through the wood and into the 1" steel rails. Instead, I drilled the holes in the rack first, the drilled upwards through the holes and into the wood from the bottom. That worked very well. Pics C and D show the first board placed and the 1/4" holes drilled for the second board.
To attach the second board, I used mechanical pencils as spacers (pic E) similar to building a picnic table, then clamped them to facilitate the drilling from beneath the rack (pic F). The second plank was bolted in (pic G) and the process was repeated for the third board (pic H). The bumper shelf was complete.
I selected the cabinet while considering several factors: price (under $100), steel construction, lockable, adequate inside space, modifiable for venting and height (I didn't want the top of the unit to block any portion of our rear picture window). The Homak SE Series (pic I) seemed to fit the bill at 27"x27"x12", however when I built it, the inside depth turned out to be only 10.75". The generator is 11" deep. But my solution of adding 1" spacers between the sides and the back (pic J) actually killed two birds with one stone -- making enough interior room for the generator to fit and providing airflow all around the generator so that it could run while locked in the cabinet.
I used four 5/16" x 4" lag bolts, washers and nuts to secure the cabinet floor to the shelf, then added some wood board to give a better support for the generator's base (pic K). I used a wide bit to drill out the spots on the wood base that cover the lag bolt heads so it would sit flat on the cabinet floor.
The final result was a storage cabinet that locks and allows the generator to be easily connected and run without dragging it out from basement storage. There is also more space on the bumper shelf for future storage (cooler?) or other use. Since the cabinet is not waterproof, my wife will be making a cover that can be tied down over it for the road.
A Thousand Trails Resort
Address: 310 Old Chatham Rd., South Dennis, MA 02660
Phone: (508) 385-3616
# of sites: 251
Full hookup price: From $80/night
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Warnings: mosquitos, no laundry services
The first and foremost benefit of this resort is its proximity to Cape Cod. We had only visited the Cape once before, a half-day visit several years ago, and we took advantage of our two weeks here this time around. This park is well-maintained and they have daily trash pickup (just set your trash bag out before 11am). The sites have some space between them and most are well-shaded by mature trees.
We explored the Cape in all directions, including driving all the way to the tip at Provincetown to the north and the southmost roads in Falmouth. Besides the Cape itself, So. Dennis is in proximity to ferries to both Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. After a short half-hour ride to the island, we did a 2.5-hour bus tour on the Vineyard and it was enlightening.
The sites are pretty tight to back into in this resort, and even though they say there are a lot of amenities here, we didn't really see that. There is a swimming pool but it was only open until 5 or 6 pm and did not have a hot tub or jacuzzi. It also shows that it has Wifi, but it was an extra charge and we passed on the service. There was only gravel in the campsites -- no grass.
As with other parks we stayed in this summer, mosquitos were vicious. Walking the dog was always an adventure, and we ended up not spending much time at the picnic table, nor did many other RV'ers there.
Like many other Thousand Trails resorts, this park had many seasonal or permanent residents. What was odd about this one was the sheer age of the mobile homes and park models people were living in here -- many were circa 1960's or older. They did have several new or nearly new park models as well, but most were very old. What we don't particularly care for in these resorts with semi-permanent residents is that they don't tend to socialize with us vagabonds that come and go. That's really unfortunate since the social aspect of camping was something we had been looking forward to.
We would definitely recommend Old Chatham as a clean, comfortable park with proximity to many sights and attractions. But if you don't care for sightseeing in Cape Cod, there are better options elsewhere.
Here is a video I shot this morning at Patten Pond. One corner of the campground is right on the shore of the Pond, with it's own beach, docks, fishing, etc. It was so peaceful this morning, I thought you would enjoy seeing it.
It's been three months since we ditched the stationary lifestyle and moved into our RV. There have been setbacks and a learning curve, to be sure, but neither of us would ever be satisfied sitting still in a house again. Wanderlust is a real thing and we've both always had it.
Since April we have stayed in 13 states: CO, NE, SD, WY, UT, KS, MO, IL, MI, OH, PA, NJ and MA. That's over 8,000 miles, 14 parks (4 of these were Thousand Trails resorts, 2 moochdocking visits (friends and family) and numerous boondocking stops, including Walmarts, city parks, a Cracker Barrel and a marvelous 3-night stay on the cliffs overlooking the Badlands.
I keep getting the question, "What has been your favorite place to camp?" By far, for sheer serenity and solitude, the Badlands has been our favorite stop. There's something about not only being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature but having such a panoramic view of the isolated region from your doorstep ... well, it was special.
Several of the items we purchased for full-timing have worked out well. Our generator has been extremely valuable, as has been the lower-power portable air conditioner (that runs off the generator). How the humidity on the eastern Midwest and the eastern seaboard itself affects the heat index cannot truly be appreciated until you live in it. In a couple of the parks we actually used both air conditioners to dry out the air in the 5th wheel as much as possible. We decided early on to purchase a washing machine that was a smaller version of a regular home-style washer and the Giantex machine is great, running in the shower and stored next to the dresser in the bedroom when not in use. I even made a Y connection in the shower so we didn't have to disconnect the shower head.
The air fryer has been a hit, unlike the disastrous purchase of the Instant Pot, as have the portable ice maker, the dual-burner induction stovetop, the ice cream maker and the manual K-cup press. The recent purchases of the MORryde steps and the additional awning screens have also worked out much better than expected.
Electronically, we've got a pretty nice set-up, with the new Wifi Ranger pulling double duty as our Wifi booster and our internal network router. Along with the WEboost and our unlimited Internet from our AT&T Mobley device, I can't imagine how we could have worked on the road as well as we have been. The omnidirectional TV signal booster from King Connect has been useful, but when we haven't had any signal to boost, our Amazon Fire devices have worked well to stream Sling, Netflix, CBS Full Access and YouTube. In addition, I installed two 12v Lithium Ion batteries to replace my lead acid pair and added a Victron battery monitor that is accessible on a cell phone via Bluetooth.
I also recently organized my basement to 1) increase my usable storage space and 2) make accessing my stored bins and items much easier. I not-so-simply added two shelves from door-to-door across the rig's primary basement, and time spent on set-up and put-away has been reduced greatly. I'm thinking now about installing a locking generator box on the back bumper of the 5th wheel to free up some space in the front basement compartment and to make it more convenient to use the generator when needed.
Last month our TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) sure came in handy. We installed a PressurePro PULSE and had it running when a bolt punctured a tire on the driver's side. The alarm allowed me to pull over before any further damage was done, and the tire itself was able to be repaired.
sWe have spent thousands of dollars on our rig getting it ready to full-time in, and there have been far too many important purchases to list them all in one post. You can find some of those reviewed in my Product Review section and several are listed on our Amazon Affiliates page, RV Products.
A Thousand Trails Resort
Address: 4085 Bear Cave Rd., Buchanan, MI 49107
Phone: (269) 695-3050
# of sites: 135
Full hookup price: From $54/night
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Warnings: mosquitos, first-come-first served
Sitting on the St. Joseph River, this campground is lush. There are several areas in this park to camp and the first section we stayed in had full hookups, including sewer. We actually left this park in the middle of our stay to travel to Mackinac Island for a few days, then returned to continue our stay. On the grounds is the only naturally-formed cave in Michigan. This cave has a lot of history, with its connection as a stop on the Underground Railroad and having the silent film, "The Great Train Robbery," shot here.
Michigan has many, many lakes and there were probably a hundred or so within 2 hours' drive. We were also a half-hour from Lake Michigan and several tourist stops and eateries on the shore.
If you are a motocross fan, this is a perfect RV park for you as the world off-road racing championships and other major races are held at the nearby Red Bud racing complex. They were getting ready for the championships while we were there.
This is one of the few "first-come-first served" campgrounds we've used, meaning that you can reserve space in their resort but no site is assigned. It was disappointing that there were no full-hookup spots our first night or during our stay after we returned from the U.P. We were able to find 50-amp sites (most have only 30-amp in these areas) but we did not have sewer hookups. When you spend all that money with Thousand Trails, it's upsetting that you aren't even guaranteed a full-hookup site when reserving months ahead.
Another con was the mosquito problem, something they face all over Michigan because of all the lakes and standing water in the region. I had 5 bites just walking the dog one evening, and that was after using Off!
The famous cave was closed due to flooding, so no opinions about that attraction, and the heavy rain caused there to be no swimming or fishing in the river as well.
Overall, this is a decent park and we really enjoyed our neighbor's fully-stocked bar one Saturday night. Evidently they own their space and have a permanent trailer set there and decked out for weekend use. This is basically a buyer-beware park. I would make sure to start any camping stay on Sunday afternoon to make sure premium spots are available and bring lots of DEET.
A Thousand Trails Resort
Address: 970 Green Wing Rd, Amboy, IL 61310
Phone: (815) 857-3860
# of sites: 636
Full hookup price: From $75/night
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Warnings: Rust in water, mosquitos
This is a very well-groomed resort with a lot of family activities. It's on a lake and the fireflies are abundant. The biggest advantages for us were the amount of space between sites, probably 20 feet on many, and the thick green grass throughout the campsites. Amenities include inexpensive laundry facilities, paddle boat and kayak rentals on the lake and plenty of green space.
The number 1 con was the amount of rust in the water. After just 2 days our hoses were brown (see photos) and there were stains in the bathroom toilet, shower and sink, as well as on clothing we washed in our own washing machine, and that was with a brand new water filter on the incoming line. Obviously we had to stop using the water for cooking, drinking, making ice and iced tea and for laundry.
We talked to other campers who said that they had rust damage during past campouts here. When we complained about the rust damage to the manager, he told us we couldn't prove our damage in the photos wasn't already there before we came to his resort. While that may be true, how many people take photos of everything while setting up camp in case there's damage? He refused to give us his insurance information and said that no one had ever complained before.
There are other cons as well. There are over 2,000 sites in this park, and all but 636 camping sites have permanent setups, either trailers and motorhomes set up with full-time hookups, decks, etc., or park model homes. There are as many residents here as the whole town of Amboy, which makes it feel you are camping in town.
This park is very much set up for families with kids. Noise like screaming kids or loud music isn't regulated or limited in hours, and kids were never told to leave the adults-only jacuzzis. Most of the activities were for families as well, not much for adults-only. In fact, there was nothing for adults to do on the grounds in the evening.
Bugs! There were many flies, mosquitoes, gnats and "no seeums" everywhere in the resort when it wasn't raining. We were bit up quite a bit, even by some of the flies and even though we were using Off. I finally started wearing sweat pants and sweaters even when it was hot when I walked the dog to help protect myself, but even then I got bit as they must have crawled up under the clothing. The rain did help, but it only rained a couple of days (though we did get 6 inches over that time).
This is also an expensive resort to stay in. If you aren't Thousand Trails members, the cost of a site with full hookups starts at $75 per night, but our site, with 50 amp electric in the section we were in, was $108/night.
I would highly recommend this park to families with small children (not so much teens) as long as you bring and use your own water. Adults without kids can skip this park unless you have a Thousand Trails membership and it's on the way somewhere else on your trip.
In my personal blog, I recently posted 9 reasons not to become an RV nomad. I received a few responses that left me thinking that perhaps they thought I wasn't enjoying my new nomadic lifestyle. Au contraire. Nadyne and I are very happy to be full-timers. I had wanted to dispel the notion that everything is wonderful on the road. It isn't all great, but most of it is.
So, here are my top 9 reasons to ditch the 9-to-5 and live in an RV on the road:
9. You can visit friends and family all over the country- When we were living in Denver, how many times do you think we visited my brother in Boston or my daughter in Seattle? Two weeks of vacation per year isn't enough time to fly across country to visit all of one's family, especially if that family is scattered from coast to coast like ours is. We left friends behind in Buffalo, NY, when we moved to Las Vegas that we haven't seen in many years, and that has happened after every move we've made. Seeing these folks in person is a priority to us in this new lifestyle.
8. There's a lot less to clean- We down-sized from almost 1700 square feet to just about 360. Yes, we have to clean more often, but it just doesn't take very long.
7. You can take as long as you want to explore nature or other areas of the country- Again, because of limited vacation time, we were forced to severely limit the distance and duration we traveled, and we put off our Yellowstone trip twice for that very reason. When we do make it there, we may stay a month (if we want to). Also, small towns go unexplored when you have a time limit. Some of those towns are well worth visiting, and now we have the time to do that, wherever we are.
6. Enjoy tourist attractions off-season or middle of the week- Another benefit of setting your own schedule is that you can plan to visit highly-popular parks and attractions when they will be less crowded. You can skip all the Spring Break venues in March and the National Parks in July and August. Being able to do tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is a huge advantage as well.
5. Lower your cost of living- Eliminating debt, as we did, helps a lot, but even eliminating mortgage or rent payments is a big help. Whenever you are strapped for cash, you can boondock (i.e. dry camp or camp without fees or hookups), which makes camping nearly free. Or, you can moochdock by parking your rig in your sister Patty's driveway!
4. You meet like-minded people- Few people understand what life is like on the road like fellow full-timers. In the RV community, life on the road is something travelers have in common, making conversation between random members easy. How many people do you know that can relate to a build-up in the sewer hose or smells of less-than-ideal black water venting? There is much you can learn as well, such as how to get the best drone footage, troubleshooting power outages or the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), or finding out what is needed to install a solar power system.
3. Find solitude often- Even in Colorado, solitude was fleeting. The Denver metro area is comprised of 2.8 million people, most of whom are in the Rocky Mountains on the weekends. I one got up at 4am to drive 2 hours to a trailhead in the Rockies and I arrived to find all the parking spaces were taken. If you are a city dweller, as the bulk of the population is, finding solitude can be next to impossible. Being on the road, however, is the opposite. Solitude, quiet, wide open spaces and the Milky Way are at your fingertips nearly everywhere you go.
2. Increase closeness in your relationship- Most couples who live together in an RV find that getting close is mandatory -- you either become intimate or your relationship fails. There is no such thing as holding onto anger or resentment. You have to work it out, since you'll be seeing a lot of each other. For most loving couples, kindness, empathy and cooperation become second nature. If you don't like your partner, don't move into a confined space together.
1. If you don't like where you live, you can move- There are many reasons you might not like where you park -- overcrowded campground or boondocking area, rowdy campers, excess Interstate noise, approaching severe weather, and more. If you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or irritated by your surroundings, you can move. After all, you're mobile!
Leave comments on any of these reasons, or if you have others to add. We've only been full-time for a couple of months, but we've been preparing for years.
I have to say, it's starting to sink in -- I don't have to go to work on Monday.
Sure, I should be writing far more by now, but the conversion to full-time RV living has been time consuming. The benefits, however, have been well worth it. Thus far we have boondocked in Nebraska, enduring severe wind-storms, visited South Dakota to become residents, and worked our way to Wyoming to visit friends. We are currently camping with our RV group in Moab, Utah.
Next we will be driving to the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde in Colorado, then staying for a few days in Pagosa Springs, dry camping our way to Missouri to attend the 2018 Escapade (Escapees' national rally), followed by a jaunt to Michigan to drop in on family for a couple weeks before heading east.
As predicted, things have gone wrong. Even before leaving for the road (but after moving into the 5th wheel), our water pump failed and had to be replaced. The pump was located behind a basement wall, which we didn't find until we thoroughly searched and eventually called the manufacturer.
Miles from anywhere in the Badlands our new 12v Lithium Ion batteries went dead. At 3am I got out the generator so the furnace and water pump could run. Do you know that at that time of night that far from city lights you can't see your hand in front of your face? After much investigation, it turned out that a non-LED bulb in the basement had accidentally been left on.
I had mistakenly decided to wait to bolt in my new truck bed tool box until I could consolidate my tools (from my house, the storage shed and the pickup). It was a mistake because the Nebraska wind lifted the empty stainless steel box and it was mangled under the 5th wheel kingpin and hitch on a turn. I have a friend straightening and re-welding it, so hopefully I can use it once we meet up in Missouri next week.
We also had an electrical circuit go dead because of a tripped GFI outlet that we didn't know we had. That took a while and a couple of phone calls to figure out. Then our Verizon data plan ran out -- three times. We've spent the last several days limping along on our unlimited AT&T Mobley device.
That we no longer have a home base has been the single biggest challenge. Forget going to Sam's Club. Need something from the garage? Well, I have a storage basement... I hope it's there, but more than likely it's in our storage unit hundreds of miles from here or has been sold or given away (or thrown out). Walmarts and Home Depots have become our secondary storage locations, unless we're boondocking in the Badlands or camping in the middle of Nowhere, Wyoming, or somewhere else miles from civilization.
Of course, space is always an issue. Things we use all the time are easily found. However, things we don't use consistently are usually located in the big black hole known simply as "Somewhere in the Rig." One of our biggest time consumers has been storage reorganization. As we get to know what we need and don't need, we are able to re-prioritize space, and we've been doing that on almost a daily basis. The good news is that we have been successfully paring down the boxes of "stuff we don't have room for" until it's just a couple of bins. Once I add shelving to my basement, hopefully these will also be taken care of and we will no longer feel like we're living in a storage locker.
Just three weeks in- not bad, really. By the time we're three months in, I think we'll feel normal again. There's always hope. At least I don't have to commute to work on Monday.
As any RV full-timer will tell you, making modifications to your rig is commonplace. That doesn't mean you can't feel really good about a small success from time to time.
In our first week of being full-time, I had a dilemma to solve. Our new washing machine fits in the shower stall (and nowhere else) and we had decided to run the machine there, since there is water, power and a drain in proximity. However, the water intake uses a common garden-size hose end -- not exactly stock in an RV shower.
My solution was to add a garden hose "Y" connector coming out of the shower outlet and splitting the shower-head hose and the washing machine hose to either side of the "Y". As with most shower hoses, the end is a 1/2" fitting, but a garden hose end is 3/4". Matching those with adapters took a couple of trips to Home Depot, but I got it done. For ease of removal (we remove the washer from the stall when we want to use the shower), I placed a quick connect on its input hose. Lots of plumber's tape helped keep leaking or dripping from connections.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 6 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.