What I learned...
I made it home in time for Valentine's Day! What a perfect day to be back with my family!
What a trip! At times I thought it would never be over. And then it started going so fast. I learned a lot on this trip -- about RVing, traveling, and about myself!
So for those of you that think you may want to go on multi-week, multi-stop RV vacations -- read on. For those of you who just want to read about me almost losing my mind -- read on. For those of you who want inspiration -- and courage -- in knowing that you can live a life you love -- read on.
Now that I've made it home, and my family isn't worrying about me, I'll be honest. The first several days were AWFUL. My anxiety was THROUGH THE ROOF. No amount of breathing, meditating, or essential oils would help. I couldn't sleep. My stomach was a complete mess. And I did not enjoy it at all.
Let's start with the towing. Something was just not right with the truck and camper connection. Every time a large truck would pass me (which was constantly on I-95) the camper was swaying like crazy. If you are a camper, then you know how quickly a small sway can turn into a major accident on a highway. So I was constantly having to slow down to about 35 mph to stop the sway. Not only did this make for an extremely nerve wracking, exhausting travel day -- it also made it go very, very slowly.
However, I had done my due diligence before the trip. I knew I had done all I could do to ensure smooth, safe travels. So I knew the solution had to be in the way I had packed either the truck or camper. Since they were both new there was a learning curve. I just needed to figure it out.
Once I made it to the campground I just kept waiting for something to break/not work. Now, if you don't have a camper, then you may think this is a very negative attitude. If you have a camper then you know that you very rarely have NOTHING go wrong in a new camper. It's not like a car, it's not like a house. Things are always going wrong with RV's. It's just the way it is. And the thought of a problem in the first days, knowing I had weeks ahead of me, had me very worried. Fortunately, the only issue was the microwave, which was easily fixed by a quick trip to a Walmart for a small, inexpensive microwave, to heat up my pre-cooked meals. It really wasn't a big deal removing the old microwave, but I was ridiculously proud of myself for figuring it out and finding a Walmart. Like I said, my anxiety was pretty crazy at this point!
The trip continued on with terrible sway issues. By the time I got to Bluffton, SC I was a complete wreck and cursing every single person that had told me how much easier and better towing would be with a truck. Fortunately, I was in Bluffton for several days for the first of 2 holistic festivals. I was quite content to stay in Bluffton forever at that point -- I even extended my stay by one day!
Adding to my anxiety was that I was giving a workshop in Bluffton. Public speaking is not my favorite. I knew that once I started talking I would be fine, but at this point I was worrying about everything and anything. Also, my next stop was a back-in site (or so I thought). I had not yet backed in the new camper in a campground. And I was not all that successful in an empty parking lot. So I was losing sleep over this, too.
Here are some pictures from the Bluffton festival. Bella was such a good puppy. She sat in that stroller from 10-2, then we went for a walk, and she continued to sit there until 5pm.
Oh, and adding to my anxiety is how crazy the roadways are in Bluffton, SC!! They don't believe in traffic lights. And they think nothing of having you turn left across 6 lanes of traffic traveling 60mph!! Oddest thing, ever!
At the festival was when people started warning me about being careful with Bella because of the apparent alligator problem. True or not, I was told that starting at dusk the alligators migrate through the neighborhoods from one lagoon to another. Needless to say, poor Bella didn't get to go out after sunset.
We finally had to leave Bluffton and head for Savannah. Savannah was not far -- not even an hour's drive at my towing speed. I had re-arranged some of my gear and was hopeful that the swaying would be less dramatic. If nothing else, the traffic on I-95 is not nearly as crazy in the south so I was expecting a bit of a better drive. I had changed my campsite at Skidaway Island State Park to be a pull-through. (Turns out the site I had was a pull-through, just marked improperly on the website) Savannah was all about relaxing and sightseeing so I was hopeful that things would stop causing me so much stress! And there was no lake near my campsite, so hopefully no alligators!!
I made it to Savannah in one piece, with less sway, but it was still scary. At this point I made the decision that before I got on the road again I would be going to an RV dealer to ask them to look at my hitch, weigh distribution and sway set up, and my tires. I also reached out to the incredible RPod Facebook group. I could go on and on for paragraphs about the amazing people in the RPod Owners group. They go above and beyond to try and help. They will write paragraphs to help you understand. I've even had offers of Skyping to show me things. They are the reason I chose to buy another RPod -- because I never feel like I am traveling alone when I know I can ask all 15,000 of them for help!! If you want to do what I am doing, but you are nervous that you don't know enough, buy an RPod.
Savannah was amazing!! And for the first time in a week I was finally starting to feel like myself. I was in nature, enjoying the outdoors (it had pretty much rained the entire trip so far), it was 75 degrees, and I was getting to do camping stuff! I loved Skidaway Island State Park and highly recommend it! And I have never seen so many different kinds of campers before!! I took pictures and plan to do a blog all about what I saw! Bella and I went on a dog-friendly hop on/hop off bus tour of Savannah. I loved hearing all about the history and seeing the amazingly beautiful oak trees. Even the tornado warning the last night wasn't all that awful -- I was right across from the bathhouse so I had a plan. I was more worried about having to tow the camper again the next day!!
On the advice of the RPod Facebook group, I added A LOT of weight to the front of the camper. There is this very large storage compartment that goes all the way across the front. I barely had anything in there -- pretty much exactly what was in my old camper's tiny little compartment. I added probably about 75lbs. to the front -- mostly by putting the Clam (outdoor shelter) in there and some hoses, etc. But just to be safe I was going to stop at the Camping World I was going to pass and ask them to check things out.
Oddly enough, I had woken up on this travel day with ZERO anxiety. The tornado warnings had just been warnings, I had camped in worse winds, and the new camper has a rubber roof which is amazing! The old one was aluminum just like the rest of the camper -- so very noisy. And I think I felt pretty confident that the swaying had to be due to a lack of weight in the front. I mean really, what else could it be?? Savannah had clearly been good for my well-being and was the turning point of this trip.
So Bella and I set off -- in sustained winds of 25mp, gusting to 40mph with one gust reported of 70mph in Charleston -- to Charleston, SC by way of the Camping World in Savannah. Camping World was very helpful -- two people confirmed that they saw nothing wrong with my set up or my leveling. And despite the winds, it was the best drive we had had so far!
I camped at James Island County Park -- which was amazing. I have never seen anything like it before -- not at a private campground or a state park -- and this was a COUNTY park! So much to do and see -- it deserves its very own blog post! I will be going back -- I'm already working on it! After a non-stress drive, I had to back in to my site. Fortunately, upon check in, I was told it was a "bit difficult" to back into this particular site. And they hadn't even seen me try yet!! A very nice gentleman was sent to help me back in. At one point this man said to me "Do you see that tree?" Ummmm, no!! "Well you don't want to hit it." Yup, he actually said that! He was just telling it the way it was.
I loved James Island and I loved Charleston. I met up with a relative I hadn't seen in a very, very long time and it was like I had my own private tour guide! There was so much to see and do that I can't wait to go back and see more. Here are some of my most favorite pictures.
Oh yes, in case you are curious -- I did teach my VIPKid classes every day except for one. Here is what that looks like inside the camper. Bella would lay on the bed and patiently wait until 8:15am each day. Such a good puppy!!
After James Island we started our trek home. Originally I had planned to drive between 350-400 miles per day. This equates to about 8 hours of drive time. However, I did not find that to be enjoyable and it added to my stress (what didn't, right??). My goal is to get to the next campground before dark, which currently means before 6pm. It's hard to get on the road before 9am when I teach, so 8 hours doesn't leave much room for traffic, rest area breaks, etc. So I changed my course for the way home and only drove between 250-300 miles and this worked much better for me. Not only did I not have to worry about getting there before dark, I also got there with time to check out the campground in the daylight. Of course it rained like crazy so I didn't actually get to spend any time outside, but it was a good theory!
So, for those of you looking to learn from my experience, here is what I learned:
1) Most problems could be fixed. I wasted a lot of energy being stressed. If things had gone wrong I would have fixed it -- or found someone to fix it for me. There are ads for mobile RV repair companies at most campgrounds. I needed to have more confidence in my own abilities to problem solve.
2). If something isn't working, don't keep doing it the same thing!! I should have done a major overhaul of how I had the truck and camper packed at the very first stop. Instead I just kept rearranging a little here and there and not getting the problem solved. Again, this came from self-doubt. I kept thinking I was imagining the swaying, or being overly dramatic. I wasn't. It was bad. And it was fixed.
3). Remember that this is supposed to be fun. If it's not fun -- do it differently!! This is why I stayed longer at James Island and why I drove less miles at the end of the trip. RVing isn't meant to be a race. The traveling is meant to be part of the overall experience.
4). Remind yourself constantly that YOU CAN DO THIS. I didn't, and I'm sure you wouldn't, set off on a trip like this without preparing for it. When you left you already knew what you needed to know -- or you had access to the resources to help you out. Have confidence in yourself and believe in yourself. If others are out there doing it -- so can you!!!
So don't let fear or self-doubt keep you from living the life you want!! Get out there and do it while you can. Jim sent me a text during the trip that I screen shot and will save forever. He said how proud he was of me -- that not that many people actually get out there and do what they talk about wanting to do. So get out there and do it -- I know you can!!
P.S. -- I've had a lot of people ask me about different equipment that I used on my trip. I am in the process of adding them to the Kim's Picks section of this website so check back in a few days and anything that was asked about should be posted!