Posted in: Frequently Asked Questions

What Are We Doing With The RV?: Saying Goodbye to Betsie (Frequently Asked Questions)

Who the heck is Betsie?

Betsie was what we named the RV, as her coloring reminded me of a cow (the black and white ones). We went back and forth on the issue of keeping her or not. We had a bunch of mixed feelings on the whole issue. She was our home for a year and we had some attachment. We knew some of her quirks and were settled in the space. We still have places in the country we want to see and traveling in the RV made it easier in some ways to see the country. Our whole house moved with us, so we didn’t have to keep packing and unpacking clothes. It also gave us the option to make our own meals instead of eating out all of the time. It was nice to have our own space, a home base.

In the end, we decided to sell for several reasons.

  • Space. We are renting right now and do not have the space for the RV where we live. To keep it, we would have had to winterize and find a storage place.
  • Budget. With the kids back in non-public schools, our budget is tighter than when we were on the road. If we kept the RV, we would have had the monthly loan payments, the general upkeep of a RV, and the storage costs in addition to the house rent and utilities. The RV industry, including used RV’s, is still at a high demand, so it was a good time to sell.
  • Travel. We still want to travel and see more of the US, Canada, and other countries. However, with the kids back in school (in-person) and Covid flaring up again, we weren’t sure when that would be. We didn’t want to keep the RV in storage for a year or more without it being used.

So, in the end we did decide to sell the RV. We sold it to a nice couple just starting out who will be traveling for his job. There were mixed feelings as we sold it as well: relief that we didn’t have the debt for it anymore, and sadness that that part of our journey was over (at least for the moment). We’ve talked about getting a different RV when it will be just Ben and I traveling (when the kids are in college).

If you are curious as to how we sold our RV and more of the details, that post is coming soon!

Posted in: Frequently Asked Questions

Do We Miss It? (Frequently Asked Questions)

We have been asked by almost everyone if we miss being on the road. The answer is yes and no. Ben definitely has more of the wandering feet than I do, so I think he misses it the most. I am more of a homebody, so being able to stay in one place for a while is nice.

What I don’t miss:

  • Sharing 1 bathroom. Seriously, 3 boys and 1 girl sharing a bathroom. I’m not even that needy in the bathroom, but I can’t pee outside as easily as they can.
  • My house moving while I sleep. No, I did not sleep in the trailer on move days (which is illegal for tow behinds). Nick is very energetic: he bounces while he walks, and tosses and turns in his sleep. Since they were at the front and we were in the back, we felt every time he turned over.
  • Dealing with poop. I know there is the occasional clogged toilet that may happen in my future. However, I do not miss having to keep an eye on the black tank levels, having to empty the tank, and deal with the hoses on move day. I also enjoy not having to add water to the black tank and adding chemicals every time we emptied it. I will say that the height of the RV toilet was really nice. It was taller than a standard toilet, so the first time I went to sit down on a regular house toilet, I fell a bit.
  • Hearing our neighbors. I like our new location and when we first moved in, we only had neighbors on one side and they are really quiet. Some RV parks presented us with interesting neighbors. RV walls are not very thick; if I can hear people talking outside, then the chances are they can hear us inside, which I didn’t like.
  • Navy showers. The water heater and grey tank could only hold so much, so any showers were Navy style (get wet, water off, soap up, water on to rinse off). Our shower now is huge compared to the RV shower. We can turn all the way around and I can actually bend over to shave in the shower. The water pressure is also much better.
  • The bed. RV beds are not really known for being very comfortable for more than a weekend. We added a foam mattress topper which really helped. However, the normal RV beds are short queens. You can occasionally find normal sized queen or king beds, but when we were looking, it seemed like it was all short queens. A normal queen is 80×60″, a short queen is 75×60″. Those 5 inches make a big difference. (RV Listings will list it as a queen, so if it matters to you, ask if it is a real queen or measure it.)
  • Mom and Dad, don’t read this one! The expression “don’t come a knocking when the trailer is a rocking” is valid. No matter how stable we made it, certain things made it… um… bounce.
RV shower vs House shower

What I miss:

  • Seeing new things. We normally moved every 2 weeks, so we got to see new things pretty often. I am hoping that once we get more settled into our schedule, that we start adventuring near home. There is plenty of “tourist” stuff that we have never done, even though we’ve lived here forever! It was nice to have a different view out of our windows on a regular basis though.
  • Cooking with gas. Our new place has an electric stove/oven, but I really miss cooking with gas. Ever since we were married, we have had a house with natural gas and the RV had propane. I like how it heats up faster.
  • “Free” electric and water. Water was included in the campground fees, and unless you were staying a month or longer, so was electric. Now we have bills!
  • New neighbors. What?! Didn’t I just say I wouldn’t miss campground neighbors? I did, and I won’t really miss the rowdy ones. We had neighbors move into the empty apartment next to us, and they are not quite as quiet as the other side. For the most part they are ok, but when the parents are gone, the group of teenage boys get a little loud. Being in a stationary house means we can’t just move and get away from them.
  • The kids had no place to hide when trying to sneak video games. With only 3 rooms of living space, we could tell when they would sneak off to play video games. The house is great for having our own spaces, but with it being a 2 story, it is easier for them to sneak in more video game time.

Will we do it again? Maybe! We are thinking of possibly renting a RV and finishing up the west coast (Yosemite, Alcatraz, maybe Canada). Ben is still interested in continuing a nomad life after the kids are out of high school/go to college. However, we would be looking at a Class C or Class A with a toad (towed vehicle) when it’s just the two of us. It is certainly nice not to have to find suitcases and pack/unpack all your clothes to go on a trip when your whole house (and dressers) just moves with you!

Trying to Maintain Minimalism

One thing the RV forced us to do was to minimize the amount of things we had. We had a lot less clothes (partly because we planned the route to stay as close to 70 degrees as possible), a lot less toys and books, and a lot less cooking/baking-ware. There were pluses and negatives: we didn’t have huge puffy winter coats taking up room, but on the occasions where it got at/below freezing, we were a little cold. It was harder to cook and bake in the RV, partly due to size of oven and partly due to not having a bunch of pans. We made it work, but if it was longer than a year, we probably would have reevaluated a few things.

On the whole, we realized that we really don’t need as many things as the commercials tell us we do. We wanted to try to keep minimalism going as much as possible when we got back home. In a way, it was easier in the RV because we didn’t have space for much.

We have so much more space now that it is easy to get caught up in the “need” cycle. Of course, we don’t really need it; we existed perfectly fine without it before! However, any sort of minimalism can be hard to maintain, and I think it is harder for me and the boys.

For example, the boys shared a room in the RV and they each had a small shelf, a cubby, and a bin for toys/books/souvenirs. At home they each have a whole room to themselves! Will legit stored 2-3 boxes of books in the storage locker, so now his (large) bookcase is completely full. I would say 99% of them are books he has already read but doesn’t want to get rid of (like the Hardy Boys). The RV encouraged us to find Little Free Libraries (which we love) and to donate the books we had already read.

I’m still sorting through the storage locker. It had been such a rush to get it all done before we left, that towards the end we just threw stuff in the locker. Looking at it now, I have no idea why we kept some of it!

I would say Ben is more of a minimalist and I lean towards collector (but definitely not towards the hoarder end). We have a little more leeway with space now, but for non-essentials we are trying to keep to a “one in, one out” method.

Where do you guys fall on the scale?

RV Sticker Club

One of the neatest things we found along our journey was a sticker exchange club on Instagram called the RV Sticker Club. Campers/travelers of all kinds (RV, bus, van, car) can find people to trade stickers with. We love seeing all the different designs, sizes, and shapes these stickers come in.

It’s a fun way to “meet” different people. We used the logo my sister created for us and ordered stickers through Sticker Mule. Sticker Mule has a ton of different options! We played it pretty safe for our first design and got an oval with the logo on it.

So far, we have traded with a lot of people in the USA, some from Canada, Germany, and we even sent one to France!

click to enlarge

One of my latest projects has been to figure out how to store all the stickers. We have a binder with our travel postcards and our stack of National Park Service maps, but how are often are you going to take out a book or binder to look at it? The stickers are neat and colorful, so we thought about displaying them on the wall. We had a big blank spot over our couch that was perfect. I bought a large frame and started applying the stickers. I’m pretty happy with it so far and made sure to leave space for more trades!

Where To Live?

Before we left for our trip, we put our home up on the market. I went back and forth with renting it out for a year or selling it. However, I was worried about renting: having to deal with renters, any issues that would come up, and maintenance while we were so far away. We finally decided to sell.

Whoops! Hindsight and all that. The housing market had just started the up-swing when we placed ours for sale. However, while we were on the road, the market went nuts! About 2 months before we got back, we started looking at places to live. We ruled out buying another house right away, as everything was priced extremely high. We looked at renting, but the prices were higher there as well, plus we would have to deal with the yard work, etc. We found a few apartment/townhomes and we put our name on some waiting lists. We did have some limiting factors that narrowed down our options: we had a dog, we wanted 3 bedrooms (the kids behave better in separate rooms), and we wanted it within a reasonable distance from school and work.

One of the townhomes finally had an opening a couple of weeks after we returned home. We parked the RV at a campground, and mostly stayed at my in-laws for the two weeks until the apartment was ready to move in to.

It’s been nice so far. The house is about 1600 square feet, which is downright huge compared to the travel trailer. The boys each have their own bedroom and I don’t have to share a bathroom with them anymore! I have a full sized oven and I’ve already made a few dinner favorites and cookies. We even have our own washer and dryer.

We are still sorting out the storage locker and trying to figure out what we really need. We also had to quickly find another car (another market that went crazy while we were gone) for Ben to drive to work when needed. School popped up rather quickly (just about a month of summer left from the time we got back to when school started), so getting ready has kept us busy as well.

We’re starting to feel settled in and enjoying the room to spread out.

The Next Chapter

We came full circle last month and returned home to Ohio. It’s a little bittersweet that our year long adventure is over. It was an amazing way to see the country. As Ben frequently points out, we never had to pack up our clothes, they just traveled with us in our dressers. The pain in the butt thing about vacations (at least for me) is the packing and unpacking. Well, and having to do the laundry too. But having to wash our clothes doesn’t change no matter where we are.

We saw so many amazing things on this trip. It challenged us in a lot of ways and everyone learned something new.

“So, what is next?,” a lot of people are asking us. I think Ben would still be traveling, as he has more of the wander bug than I do. However, with Will starting high school, I wanted him to have a great education and to have an experience of going to high school and making new friends.

We will be in a “sticks and bricks” in Ohio until the kids are out of high school, and then Ben and I might get a Class C or a small A and travel. We’ve always liked to travel and see new things, but for now it will be out of a home base.

We still have a lot of posts that haven’t been written yet, lots of questions to answer, and tips to give, so more posts are coming! We’ve just been transitioning and I haven’t had a lot of time to post.

If you have any questions that you want to see answered, or would be interested is doing a guest post on your own travels, please send us a comment or shoot us an email at tepetravels@gmail.com.

Posted in: Campground Review, YouTube Video Link

Kampvilla RV Park

For our stay in Michigan, we stayed at Kampvilla RV Park in Bear Lake, Michigan. It is an independent campground. For our stay here, we had full hook-ups for most of our stay, but had to switch to electric-only for the last 3 days. We had made our plans a little too late (4 months before) with the 4th of July holiday to get full hook ups for our whole stay. When we checked in, they gave the boys a Kampvilla postcard, sticker, and temporary tattoo.

Click to enlarge

The campground had a heated pool, rec room with a washer and dryer, a patio with foosball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, sand volleyball, badminton, a playground, basketball hoops, and a pool. The equipment was left out (instead of having to go up to the office), so it made it very easy to play. There was another shed with a washer and dryer a little bit further into the park. It had a drive/path through the woods to tent sites, so it made a nice walking path.

There was ice ($3) and firewood ($5) were available for sale. You could pay at the office or in the drop box attached to the firewood shed.

Everyone was really nice at the campground. They had a lot of nice amenities and were pretty close to local attractions and grocery stores. It was about 30-33 minutes to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park Visitor Center. We would stay here again.

VIDEO: Campground Tour

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 3.5 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes (2 washers and 2 dryers)

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in (paved/grass/gravel)

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Yes

Amenities: picnic table/fire pit at site, playground, pool, games

Cabins: No

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook-ups: Yes

            Amps: 30 and 50 amp

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No

Camp Store: Yes

WiFi: Yes

Fishing: Yes

Posted in: Food, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

Frankfort, Michigan

Although we stayed in Bear Lake, we frequently went into Frankfort, Michigan. Frankfort was about 15 minutes away and was a cute town. There was a grocery store and gas stations near town. The main street had several restaurants, a bookstore, bakeries, and a neat beach area with a lighthouse. We found a Little Library and a Little Art Library.

There were several ice cream places in town as well, and the two we tried were both good. The bagels from L’Chayim were delicious, the ice cream cake from Kilwin’s was amazing (but expensive), and The Bookstore was fun to explore.

On Nick and Mom Day, we walked the jetty to the lighthouse. It was very foggy and you couldn’t see the lighthouse from the shore when we started. We spent some time on the beach at the swings. After telling Ben about the fun things at the beach, we all headed there the next clear day. The benches and swings all face the Lake! There were also a few sand volleyball nets. Restrooms were near the parking lot. It was a great place to relax. You could swim there, and some people were, but the water was too cold for us.

Frankfort was a nice walking town. If you are in the area, I would check it out!

Posted in: Hiking, National Park, National Parks

Sleeping Bear Dunes: Sleeping Bear Point Trail

We picked the Sleeping Bear Point Trail to hike in the park. It was listed as a moderate trail, but less strenuous than the Dune Hill Climb. It was a 2.8 mile trail loop. We did the trail clockwise, as the app stated that it was a little easier that way.

We started in a grassy forest type of area. I would wear long socks or stay in the middle of the trail, as there was poison ivy along most of that part of the trail.

We did see some great views of the water along the hike. One of the reasons we picked this trail was the “ghost forest”. The dunes shift and over time the trees that become covered in sand will die. There were a handful of trees, but not what I would think of a forest.

Hiking on sand is no joke! We were all pretty tired at the end, but the kids of course had a lot more energy. If you take this hike, bring water, a hat, and sunscreen. Once you leave the tree area, there is no shade.