month one: the good, the bad and the ugly

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Taylor Park Reservoir

Our longest stay was at Taylor Park Reservoir in Colorado.

The first month of our year-long road trip has come and gone, and boy, oh boy, it was a busy one. Our schedule was dictated by some events that were already on the calendar, including getting to watch our daughter compete in a volleyball tournament in Steamboat Springs, a vacation with family and friends, visits to both kids, business meetings and doctors’ appointments. In short, we packed a lot into our first few weeks on the road.

How did it go? We survived, we learned a lot and we had some fun! Here’s the good, the bad and ugly:

Chihuly Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Chihuly Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens

The Good

By including so many destinations, we were able to spend a lot of time with family and friends, which is one of our goals on this trip. We spent 19 days in one of our favorite spots, Taylor Park Reservoir, and proved to ourselves that we can boondock for that long if needed. That’s good to know, but I will confess that the first long, hot shower once we got to a site with hookups was mighty welcome.

Living in the RV is going very well for the humans. By and large, we are quite pleased with our Cyclone fifth-wheel both in terms of the layout and the quality. There are a couple of warranty items that we’re going to get fixed, but it’s a comfortable, livable space. We’ve definitely gotten better and faster at setting up and tearing down as we move from site to site.

Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie

Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie

Our campsites have varied immensely, along with the views and the temperatures. We’ve camped in three spots over 9,300 feet in elevation and two in the dessert, with a 60-degree swing. We woke up to chilly mountain mornings in the 30s and watched the temperature rise to 101 in Medford, Oregon. Our views have ranged from a glacial lake surrounded by Fourteeners to a gravel parking lot. We’ve fallen asleep to total silence, the soothing sounds of a river, quiet campground chatter, laughter around the campfire, trains roaring by and the constant buzz of traffic on I-80. And we’ve been able to visit some really neat places, including the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie and the Chihuly Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

We are learning lots of helpful things about full-timing. If you’re driving by a store without the camper in tow, stop. If you can’t remember whether you need beer or toilet paper, you do. If you’re at a truck stop, order the fried chicken. And if your bed is lumpy and uncomfortable, make sure one of tables isn’t stored underneath. (In our defense, this camper has two tables; the large one was already set up. And we were really, really tired. Both nights.)

Welcome to Wendover...

Welcome to Wendover…

The Bad

All of this moving around means that we’re spending a ton of time on the road, packing and unpacking. We’re covering a lot of ground right now before winter sets in, but I think we will try to start staying at least a week, and preferably longer, in each spot.

We’re learning that some businesses are more honest than others in their online descriptions. Shocking, I know.

Bordertown RV Resort in Reno, Nevada

Bordertown RV Resort in Reno, Nevada

We paid $50 a night to stay in a KOA in Wendover, Nevada. It was a gravel parking lot with hookups. Friendly folks, and well-maintained, but it’s a gravel parking lot. Not all KOAs are created equal. The best thing I can say about our “date night” at the Bordertown Casino is that Scott won enough money right off the bat to nearly pay for our dinner and drinks. It’s a truck stop with slot machines. (The RV park there is excellent, though. Nice, paved sites with patio tables and beautifully manicured landscaping. Good Sam reviews are very helpful.)

My knees are on the naughty list, that’s for sure. I haven’t had any cartilage in either for at least three years, but have been getting by pretty well with artificial cartilage shots. Until this year, that is. Looks like at least one knee replacement is in my near future. In the meantime, cortisone shots, ice packs and knee braces are helping out.

The Ugly

Luckily, this section is very brief. There are two low points so far. The first has been finding reliable wifi, which is pretty much a daily requirement with my job. If you want to watch a PR person twitch, just take away wifi. I used my phone as a hotspot very successfully until the first of 19 days at Taylor Park. That’s when I learned that not all AT&T coverage is the same. In some remote areas, AT&T is purchasing the service from other providers. It’s called “off-network coverage” and you are only allowed 24MB under your contract. I used that in the first two hours we were there.

After spending an hour on the phone with four different reps, each of whom promised me that they could solve the problem, I learned that there is no solution through AT&T. They don’t charge you for going over, but they cut you off of data coverage and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t buy more, you’re just out of luck until your next billing cycles begins. And, the kicker, you can’t tell from your phone whether it’s off-network service or not until you go over the limit. What’s up with that, AT&T? I ended up driving to and from Gunnison eight times during our stay, which was 16 hours and a lot of gas money that I’d like back.

The other ugly part of the trip is a tough one. Jackson, our needy rescue dog, has not adjusted to the new lifestyle just yet. He’d been abandoned, lived on the street and then in a shelter before we adopted him in 2009. It took us a couple of years to gain his trust enough to be able to leave him alone in our house or yard, but we did manage to do so. Now that we’re living in a new place every few days, his separation anxiety has returned. We’ve found doggie daycare in several of the places we’ve visited, which has allowed us to go out during the day for more than a couple of hours. Wish us luck with this one. He is making progress, so we’re hoping that he’ll be feeling more at home on the road soon.

All in all, it’s been success so far. We’re now exploring Oregon, so stay tuned for more Tales From the Empty Nest. Thanks for reading!

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