ICE! and Christmas at Jellystone

In September and October of 2016 we stayed at three different Jellystone campgrounds. We spent nearly two weeks at Jellystone west of Chicago, one week at Jellystone south of Memphis, and parked our fiver at Jellystone of Kansas City when we flew to Alaska.

The location in Chicago was outstanding and certainly raised the bar for RV parks that consider themself “family friendly.” Memphis’ Jellystone (actually located in Mississippi) didn’t have much going on to speak of, and they made no effort to make up for it, despite the closed-up inflatables section that had hours but never opened and the playground that was a clear hazard because the slide kept falling off, but it was a decent stay — far better than if we would have stayed in Memphis. We didn’t get much chance to enjoy Kansas City’s location, but what we experienced in the little time before we left for and after we returned from Alaska was excellent, and we would stay there if ever in the area again.

Fast forward to now.

We’ve spent a few Christmases camping, but we prefer to spend time with family, if and when able to. Out of the blue, however, Mama’s parents decided to go to Biloxi for the holidays, and we do usually spend Christmas with them, if any family. That suddenly presented to us an opportunity to go camping the last week of December.

However, our usually preferences — James Island County Park in South Carolina and Disney’s Fort Wilderness in Orando — were understandably booked.

No problem! That meant looking for a new location!

We’d heard there’s a Jellystone in northern Florida, so Mama called to inquire about a site and was surprised to learn they were nearly empty for the holidays because, according to the young lady on the phone, the office closes for Christmas and the staff is reduced.

Perfect! We weren’t really looking for anything to do, just someplace to camp, to get away from it all and the stress of getting the house ready for listing.

She booked it then and there.

The day before checking in to Jellystone we decided to treat the boys to ICE! at Gaylord Palms in Orlando. Mama and Papa have been to two before — once at Gaylord Palms and once at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville — but this would be the first for the boys.

If you’ve never been and have the opportunity to go one year, go! Especially if you can score a deal on Groupon, like we did. It’s a unique experience, and every year there’s a different theme. This year the display had to do with countries around the world. It was beautiful, fun, and — of course — cold!

The other times we’d attended ICE! it was just sculptures and Christmas village setup. It’d been more than a decade since we’d gone, and they sure have expanded since. Not only were the sculptures and village there, but there were also snowball-throwing games and two snow hills for tubing down.

It was a blast!

After spending much of the day there we left, found a Cracker Barrel outside of Gainesville that we could boondock at for the night, and continued to Jellystone the next morning.

And yes, it was nearly empty.

We got a beautiful site that looked out across the lake, and beyond our rig there were no other campers. We basically had an entire loop to ourselves…and it was so peaceful.

During the busier season — which doesn’t include Christmas, oddly enough — their on-site water park is open. Now, this isn’t a splash park. This is a small, full-fledged aquatic amusement center, with a large water slide, splash pad area, zero entry zone for the little ones, and a lazy river. The park is included for campers, but others can partake for a nominal admission fee.

Also at this campground were multiple playgrounds, two bounce houses, a large jumping pillow, a heated swimming pool, an arcade, golf cart rental, sports fields and courts, miniature golf course, gem mining area…and more than 10 miles of off-roading trails for dirtbikes, ATVs, and UTVs!

Sadly, the water park was not open. This Jellystone location gives most of its staff the days before and after (as well as the day of) Christmas time off. They only keep a couple of people on staff in the office, and even the office hours are severely abbreviated.

This would have been fine, and for us it was okay because we simply went to Jellystone to give us someplace new to go for Christmas, but a neighboring family a couple of sites behind us was from out of state and came down to this location due to the activities and events advertised on the website.

Come to find out, there were supposed to be several things going on, including a caroling tractor-pull ride throughout the park, campsite holiday-lights decorating contest, and more, including the water park that was supposed to be open.

We didn’t mind one way or the other, but if you’re deliberately escaping the frigid and snowy climate of one location to spend the holidays in a warmer area promising much to do, then that’s a probem.

Especially when kids are involved.

The father of this family was certainly vocal. He voiced his disappointment to the few office staff and even spoke with the owners of the park. He then ended up getting permission — and the keys — to drive the tractor for the tractor-pull ride one night and then was granted access to the water park. He and his oldest son spent hours cleaning and chlorinating the water park so his kids could enjoy it.

And when we saw it had been opened for them, we joined as well.

We also found out from him that the bounce houses and jumping pillow weren’t initially in use either. He had complained about that as well and then turned them on and cleaned them so his kids could play on them.

Sadly, they vacated three days before their planned checkout date. They were very disappointed and he was tired of working on what should have been his vacation, so his kids could do what they had planned to do.

At one point we went to the office (which we discovered was closed early) and noticed there was actually a bulletin by the entrance, listing and highlighting the park’s planned events during various holidays.

There was even a flier posted listing what was supposed to be going on the days we were there, the reason the other family had come down.

So not only was it online, but it was physically printed out and posted just outside the entrance of the office.

We were glad we had no expectations, but we certainly felt badly for the family that did. It was no wonder they were so upset.

Fortunately, we truly enjoyed ourselves.

Christmas morning we had our traditional breakfast of unhealthy sugary foods — the only time we ever eat this stuff for breakfast — and went about enjoying what Santa had brought for the boys and opening gifts.

We also started another tradition a few Christmases ago: the boys get one large gift (usually something combined), but to find it they get sent on a scavenger hunt.

And this Christmas was no different! Just because we’re on the road does not mean the final gift won’t take a little work.

The boys took turns reading clues as they ran around inside and outside June and even to other vacant sites.

All that work to find the final gift in the bed of Bertha!

The boys had a large box to unwrap, with another wrapped box inside, followed by the final wrapped gift.

A four-gun, vest-free laser tag gun set!

Batteries — a pack that happened to be at the clue just before they found the gift — were quickly installed and then it was game on.

The boys played that for hours, and we joined them for several rounds. Talk about a fun workout!

We had another surprise yet for the boys too. Mama’s parents had gone to Biloxi for Christmas, but they were leaving there Christmas morning. They had to pass right by Jellystone on their way home, so they stopped by for a few hours to celebrate Christmas with us and join us for dinner.

It was a great holiday.

Two days later, it was time to head home. We really had a great time, though. We rode our bikes around a lot, even venturing to the beginning of the off-roading trails and playing on the hills. We also rented a golf cart on the last day, and we played even more laser tag together.

Would we go back again, despite the disappointing experience the other family had? Absolutely. We had no expectations when we made our reservations and arrived, so we weren’t disappointed in any way whatsoever. That’s not to say we’re not disappointed in the campground for doing what they did. And we’re not sure if the other three families — yes, only three — that were also there were also disappointed.

Perhaps someone in the office dropped the ball and failed to inform this particular family that the park all but shut down for Christmas.

Maybe it was an oversight that this park’s website reflected the same schedule of holiday activities that other Jellystone locations also showed online.

And why on Earth there was physical proof of the so-called events that were never really planned posted just outside the office made no sense.

An error or negligence on the part of one or a few can ruin it for an entire establishment, but it does not necessarily reflect the intentions or standards of the owners, who actually stopped by the day after Christmas to see how our stay was and make sure we weren’t affected the same way as the other family. They even made it clear that they had no idea about the activities listed on the website or on the bulletin by the office. They didn’t know until we told them.

As for us, we plan to go back. Based on reviews and the steady flow of campers and trucks towing trailers with off-roading vehicles arriving as we were checking out, this is a very popular and family-friendly place to go.

Next time, though, we plan to bring our dirtbikes so we can venture onto the miles of wooded trails as well.

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A Year of June

A year ago we got our fifth wheel June and married her with our Ram 3500 truck Bertha.

And it’s been an amazing match!

In that time, she has been towed through 20 different states and has been camped in 17 different locations in 9 states. In all, she has been towed more than 9,000 miles already!

We have made a few small modifications to her during this time as well.

The first thing we did was upgrade the tires and rims! RV tires are poorly made, and RV rims barely support the GVWR of the RV they are put on to. On our last rig we experienced a blowout and another time the tread split but was caught before we got on any highways. Each were traditional trailer tires. Stay away from RV tires! Period! This time we went with truck tires, specifically Goodyear G614 RST. They are unisteel, regrooveable, American-made truck tires. And in all the miles we’ve traveled and all the temperature and terrain variations we’ve been through so far we’ve not had the first blowout, bulge, or tread issue whatsoever. We also upgraded from 13-inch trailer rims to 14-inch aluminum truck rims. Now we know our rims will be able to handle the weight of our rig and any rough roads we may encounter.

Inside, the first items changed were a couple of interior doors. We removed the solid doors that lead into the boys’ bunkhouse room and their half bathroom and replaced them with lightweight accordion doors. Doing this allows us to now utilize their bedroom and bathroom even when we are boondocked or the slideouts are in. It was a very inexpensive modification too, running less than $40 for both doors (purchased less expensive at a hardware store but also available online for convenience).

Then we added a chain hotel lock and alarm to the boys’ back door, which is on the opposing side of the rig and, despite that we love having two entrances/exits, we were concerned for the safety and security of our sons. Stock RV door locks are universal, meaning there are only a couple of handfuls of key-and-lock combinations for RV doors and locks and the chance that the neighbor in the campsite next to us could use their own key to unlock our RV door is very possible.

On that note, we also swapped out the lock and handle on the main entrance of June. We found a set of universal RV locks by RVLock that is keyed and has a numeric keypad. The deadbolt can be locked/unlocked with a key, personalized 4- to 8-digit code, or remote fob (choice of the user) and the handle can be locked/unlocked with the provided key. This is not a stock lock, so the likelihood that anyone in any campground being able to use their key to open our door is slim to none. This was not an inexpensive upgrade, but it’s more than worth the $250 we spent on it (and it’s gone down in price since then!).

Papa worked (and will work) out of the rig, but the builtin desktop in the master bedroom wasn’t large enough for what he needed. So we installed an Ikea wall-mounted drop-leaf tabletop/desktop on the wall across from the foot of the bed. When it is folded down it doesn’t obstruct the walking space in the bedroom at all. When it is propped up, Papa sits at a chair at the foot of the bed and is able to comfortably do his work in the quiet privacy of the master bedroom. This has worked out so well!

Possibly Mama’s favorite addition to our RVing lifestyle are the washer and dryer that we’ve purchased. This is our first RV with a space and hookup for a washing machine and/or dryer. However, full RV washers, dryers, and washer/dryer combos are extremely heavy and expensive. After a lot of research, we decided to save a lot of weight and money and go with the compact Manatee washing machine with pump and spin-dry, as well as the Tidalpool portable UV clothes dryer. This setup has saved us so much time and money!

The washing machine is very lightweight and works remarkably well. When we first started using it we set it up next to the kitchen sink in the galley, so there was a water source and a way to drain the water from the tubs, and only stored it in the closet intended for a washing machine when we were traveling. Then papa was able to set it up so the washer actually stays in the closet with the washing machine hookups, where there are cold and hot water spigots and a location for draining. Clothes — everything from delicates and shirts to linens and snow suits — are washed in the tub on the left. The water is then drained and the clothes are relocated to the spin-dry tub on the right. In this tub we rinse the clothes, spin it again with either liquid laundry detergent or distilled white vinegar, and then spin-rinse/dry again. The tub doesn’t dry completely, but it is so powerful that the clothes are barely damp and then dry quickly.

The dryer folds up and packs away into a duffel bag. When it’s assembled it stands tall and the clothes are hung on it to dry. When the clothes are hung up then a bag is placed around them and the unit is turned on to the desired length of drying time. A full load of clothes can dry in 1- to 1.5-hours, depending on the thickness of the material of the clothes, and the final half-hour of the drying cycle is when the UV lamp kicks on, which then sanitizes the clothes. We have used it set up in the galley, under a vent in the roof (to our surprise, it didn’t heat up the rig!), but we have also set it up outside, between the main entrance and the exterior wall of the boys’ bunkhouse slideout.

Could we simply use laundry rooms at campgrounds? Sure…if they’re provided or available. However, a full day can easily be used up that way too, and it’s not at all sanitary. You can’t just leave the clothes in the laundry room, so you would need to stick around and wait for the loads to be finished, so you are there when they’re finished and other people don’t walk off with anything. The dryers don’t heat up enough to kill off germs, so viral and fecal germs from the clothes of others can and will end up on  your own clothes! And let’s face it, laundromats — whether they’re elsewhere or at campgrounds — are pricey and it adds up quickly. With our setup, we can wash and dry in our own RV, without concern, and we save a ton of money: we paid less than $300 for both units, combined they weight less than 35 pounds, and convenience just goes without saying.

Another modification we made to June is the spare-tire location. By default the spare-tire carrier was located on the back bumper of the RV. However, we use the bumper for carrying our family’s bicycles. On our previous rig (the Coach) we had installed a spare-tire carrier that attaches to the frame of the rig and is located under the belly. A few months ago we finally installed this on June. Up until then, we kept the spare tire in the huge pass-through of June, but that took up so much space that could have otherwise been used for tools, camping supplies, and items for the boys. Now we have more space in our pass-through and the spare tire is conveniently located under the rig. We’ve also put our portable waste tank on the carrier as well.

Overall, the best interior modification we’ve made to the rig is extending the depth of the boys’ top bunk. Most bunk beds in RVs are narrower than twin beds. The bottom bunk is twin size, but the top bunk is narrower. The top is narrower than the bottom so the person on the bottom bunk doesn’t risk bumping his head on the top bunk. However, that was not a concern for us. Rather, we needed two twin-size bunks for the comfort of our boys. So Papa built an extension on the top bunk and then built a small ladder to the top bunk and a short railing along the edge. Now both boys have comfortable twin beds…and neither are stuck with a bed too narrow to sleep well.

Once we sell our house and move in to June, we know there will be other things we’ll do. However, June is and has been the perfect full-time fit for us. We can live, play, work, sleep, eat, and entertain very comfortably inside, but it’s not so big and comfortable that we don’t spend ample time outdoors. We now experience more quality family time as well.

And that’s the goal for us.

Certainly Beats the Classroom

This just never gets old.

Yesterday there was a teaser on TV regarding the NHL team St. Louis Blues, which is one of the teams in the 2017 NHL playoffs. (If you didn’t already know, we’re die-hard hockey fans.)

During the teaser, the boys saw the St. Louis Arch. They got so excited and started yelling: “That’s the St. Louis Arch! We saw that! We drove right by it!” Indeed, this past September we did drive right by it on the way to Mississippi from Illinois.

We can’t even tell you how often they’ve made comments like this, positively thrilled that they saw, experienced, and learned about things in person, not merely from books. We’re not saying they haven’t learned about things from books or the Internet, but what they remember, what they talk about, what gets them super excited, are the things they have actually seen, been to, and done.

Our boys can say they’ve been to the top of a lighthouse because they’ve climbed the 203 steps to the top of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Florida.

Our boys can say they’ve seen hundreds of huge windmills because we drove by and between them in states like Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, and more.

Our boys can say they’ve played in the snow while a young moose walked by only feet away and watched two bull moose fight in Alaska.

Our boys can say they’ve been to the top of the Space Needle and looked out over Seattle, with Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains as the backdrop, in Washington.

And yes, the boys saw the St. Louis Arch glistening in the setting sun in Missouri.

Already they’ve stayed at least a week in each Alaska, Washington, Colorado, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico, and D ‘Skiy has been to New Mexico, although he was only one year old at the time and doesn’t remember it except for the pictures.

(And then there’s our home state of Florida, of course.)

The boys have camped in the sweltering heat of the Florida Keys and the snow-covered hills of Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

They have been on steam engine and diesel engine trains, climbed many rock walls, rode on wave runners, took on several ropes courses, snorkeled crystal-clear waters, canoed and kayaked, fished in both salt and fresh water, walked dozens upon dozens of trails, and splashed in freezing mountain streams.

They’ve been to many gardens, zoos, museums, science centers, historical landmarks, and amusement parks throughout the country and the Caribbean.

The beauty of it is that they’re still so young, and they still get so excited whenever we go someplace new, enter a state we’ve never been to before, and pack for any adventure, whether we’ve done it ten times or this is the first.

That’s part of the beauty of homeschooling. The world is their classroom and everything is an open book.

And it never gets old when they can point to something on TV or in a book and say, “I’ve been there.”

Nearing the End of a Journey

We’re now Florida-bound, wrapping up our 12-week adventure. For the most part, the map above was our route. There may have been unexpected changes, such as moving across the state of Georgia due to Hurricane Matthew and flying to Alaska out of Kansas City instead of Denver, but the main idea is there…and a picture speaks a thousand words.

In that short time period we camped in 12 campgrounds in 9 different states, drove through 20 states (not including our home state of Florida), flew to and stayed a week in each Washington state and Alaska, and created countless new memories with our sons.

We wore bathing suits and shorts in Illinois and Georgia, and we donned multiple layers to protect us from below-freezing temperatures in Alaska and Virginia.

We admired the views from atop the Space Needle, hiked paths within miles from the peak of Mount Rainier, slowed waaaaay down for the horse-drawn Amish carriages in Ohio, rode in a horse-drawn carriage in Indiana, and explored the depths of the Luray Caverns.

We watched families of elk explore a Washington village, two bull moose spar for the affection of a female in Alaska, bald eagles soar the Alaskan sky, and antelop graze in Colorado prairies.

We were in Illinois for Labor Day and Grandparent’s Day, Ohio for Columbus Day, Colorado for Halloween, and Virginia for the history-making presidential election and Veteran’s Day.

We attended a Rennaisance Festival in Wisconsin, went to the theater of a childhood idol of the boys AND Mama ‘Skiy in Washington, partied alongside other goers at an American Red Cross street party in Indiana, and took the boys on an educational tour of Civil War points of interest in Virginia.

We even had to make an emergency drive back home to prepare and protect our house from the looming Hurricane Matthew…which turned away last-minute and just enough so our house and neighbors were safe.

We still have more than 1,000 miles before we’re back at our house, not including a couple of stops to visit the boys’ grandparents first, and we’ll still have two more states to add to the number that we’ve driven this trip. When all is said and done, we’ll have driven more than 8,000 miles towing our 5th wheel and 12,000 miles for our truck alone.

Wow. Those are some figures!

Given the opportunity, we’d do it all again.
Could we? Please?!

What’s In a Name?

We tend to pick names based on meaning.

Our oldest son’s name means “Lover of the Earth.” Our youngest son’s name means “Gift of the gods.”

Our cat’s name is Luna, which translates to “moon” in Russian. We adore the moon, and she happens to have a white crescent shape on her back.

Our truck’s name is Bertha, simply because she is big and reminded us of an old song about cave men and women, where one of the cave women was a big woman named Bertha, “one of the Butt sisters.”

So when it came time to name our new fifth wheel, we decided to go with something that had meaning to us.

Our fifth wheel’s name is June. Yes, after the month.

There are two years between our sons, but they were both born in June. Mama and Papa ‘Skiy were married in June of 2001. And we found Bertha in June.

Okay, so the former two are better reasons to go with the name “June,” but the latter is still relevant.

Our first rig’s name was Cubby and our second was The Coach, and each of these names were actually plays on the models of those travel trailers.

This time we went traditional and wanted meaning. June is a very special month for our family.

Let’s hope June and Bertha become good, lifelong friends.

Movin’ On Up

It’s both exciting and sad to make a change. Case in point, we tearfully said farewell to our beloved Coachmen Freedom Express travel trailer — aka The Coach — as we traded her in for our first fifth wheel today.

As you may recall, we’ve had ongoing A/C issues and had discovered a leak someplace at the front of the Coach, and we couldn’t figure out the source, although we’re fairly certain it was caused by the awning getting ripped off last year. The dealership that maintained her said it wasn’t a big deal, but we could already feel the front left nose cap softening and the odor in Mama ‘Skiy’s closet (from the leak and resulting dry rot) was getting stronger.

The fifth wheel we decided to get is actually one that we’d seen plans for online months ago and really, really liked. But finding this model at a dealership or show anyplace in the southeastern portion of the US seemed impossible. And there was no way we were purchasing an RV online or driving across the country just to “research” another rig.

Then a couple of weeks ago we were on the way to a dealership to take a look at a travel trailer model we’d found online. We were a mile from that lot when we passed another dealership…and saw the model that we’d only before seen on the computer.

We immediately stopped to take a look. She’s less than 36 feet long, mid-profile in height (almost 2 feet shorter than traditional or full-profile fifth wheels), has a desk in the master bedroom, room for a washing machine, no island or extended counter in the kitchen, a bunkhouse with two bunks, a huge master bathroom…and a half bath right off the bunkhouse, complete with wardrobe space for our sons!

In short, she was everything we’d hoped to find.

We left and still went to go look at the travel trailer at the other location, but this rig — this Wildcat — had stolen our hearts.

That night, the remainder of the weekend, and over the course of the week that followed we made phone calls, did more research, played with numbers, and measured to make sure we could park it next to our house. It didn’t have the extremely high cargo carrying capacity we’d hoped to get, but we figured RVing was about doing more with less and are considering upgrading the wheels and tires (up to 16 inches).

There was so much to do if we wanted to get this rig, though. We now had the horse — more than enough horse, actually — but we didn’t have the hitch to tow her. Papa ‘Skiy had already counted on getting a slide hitch if we went this route. Now it was a matter of finding the right one.

We decided to go with an auto-slide hitch as opposed to a manual-slide.

Days later, we made the tentative deal over the phone, but you know how we are: what’s meant to be will be…so to the dismay of our salesman, we didn’t put a downpayment on her.

Apparently, it was meant to be. We went back this morning — July 22nd — to have the hitch installed in the bed of Bertha, trade in our Coachmen (*sniff-sniff*), and pick up our new — and first — fifth wheel.

But guess what. Towing a fifth wheel is nothing like towing a travel trailer! No, Bertha had no problems pulling the rig. As a matter of fact, Papa commented how he couldn’t feel it behind him and never felt any shear or sway from the storm that decided to test us and the truckers that zipped by.

It will certainly take some time getting used to pulling, maneuvering, and backing up a fifth wheel, but we are convinced of one thing: there’s no way we could or would want to go with anything larger than this Wildcat!

At just under 36 feet and with the nose of her sitting over the bed of Bertha, the remainder of the rig hanging from behind the truck is no longer than that of our travel trailer. So length isn’t what we need to get used to. The fact she’s taller, heavier, and now hitched inside the truck’s bed are all challenges for us to overcome.

It’s worth it. It’ll all be worth it.

OMG! We now own a fifth wheel!

Yet Another Reason To RV: Part 2

As avid RVers, we read the blogs of other travelers. It’s fun to read their adventures, and educational to learn their mishaps and mistakes.

Our favorite types of posts are epiphanic.

We recently stumbled upon one of those. The father of this particular family is the primary blogger. He telecommutes from the family RV and often writes about what he does and where his work takes them.

In that post, however, he wore his emotions on his sleeve.

As he does every morning, he awoke before the rest of the family did so he could begin his work. He worked for a couple of hours and when the remainder of his family was up — his wife and their three young kids — they ate breakfast together, rode bikes, did some homeschool work… Essentially they just went about their day, accomplishing what they needed. It was a day like any other had become for them, and it was normal.

They were together.

He generally finishes up his work after the kids are in bed for the night, after they’ve eaten dinner together and read a story — or three — together.

That particular evening, though, something clicked with him, all because of a comment his youngest daughter made that day. She had commented that, when they were in a house, Mommy and Daddy spent more time with work and taking care of the house, and she was glad they wern’t in the house because Daddy is around more and there’s not as much housework to be done in an RV.

You can probably tell where this is going.

And it’s true.

When you have a domicile — whether it’s your dream house or a small apartment — it seems that what you live in owns you. There’s more housework, more upkeep, more yardwork… More bills, more appointments, more errands… Yet there’s also less quality time, less vacation time, less family time.

We “lived” in our 30-ft travel trailer for almost a month in late 2015. The most tedious chore was laundry. Everything else was completed in about an hour total per week. There was more time with our sons, going out and exploring, and just doing stuff together.

His little girl nailed it. The space is smaller, the “stuff” is fewer, and the responsbilies are less and take less time to complete, which means quality time is abundant.

He went on to say he noticed his kids got along better, the parental stress was far lower, and everybody just seemed happier…and he’d never stop to think about or appreciate it before then. The fact he telecommuted and they RVd so much had made them closer.

When we tell others about how much we love RVing and how we wished we could do it more, many people reply with the same or similar responses to homeschooling: “I could never be in such a small space with my family for such a long period of time — we’d kill each other/drive one another crazy”; “I could never imagine spending so much time with my kids — I need my time away from them”; “I couldn’t handle having my husband/wife around all day long — distance makes the heart grow fonder.”

That’s one thing about RVers that we’ve picked on that makes us so amazing: we value and crave family time. We just love it! We’re crazy about our spouse, we’re nuts about our kids, and we want as much time together as possible. Isn’t that what being a family is about…or at least used to be?

Our sons are growing so quickly. We love that we homeschool and they’re around all of the time. We love our time with them, and there are days we look back misty-eyed and miss their baby coos, when they were learning to walk, and the nursing days.

More is not always better. More can make you miss out on the meaningful. You get more out of life when you have less.

Yet Another Reason To RV: Part 1

(I’ve labeled this “Part 1” because I know I’ll blog more on this topic.)

We went camping with some friends this past weekend. Refraining from names, these friends are a couple who have each been divorced from their previous spouse, have a son from their first marriage, and were blessed to find one another six months ago.

In short, they’re an adorable couple who are completely compatible.

Although he had been camping before with his son, she and her son have never been camping. She loves to try things that are new to her — especially since her ex was a bump on the log that did nothing — so he bought a tent and made arrangements to co-camp with us at an amazing central-Florida park that has a wonderful swimming hole.

Overall, the experience was amazing for everyone. As first trips tend to go, a few things went wrong for them, but it was nothing we couldn’t take care of as a group…and with a few laughs.

She was absolutely fascinated in all of the different RVs in the park…and by our little 29-ft travel trailer, despite that it dwarfed next to the class A with a super slide situated two lots away from ours. She noted rigs set up on sites that clearly looked like “people live here” and how nice everyone we came upon was.

Then she noticed something we RVers with kids tend to take for granted: kids can be kids!

Right now we live in an S&B in a residential — not gated — neighborhood. Although it’s generally a quiet suburb, crazy people still drive like mad down the roads. There are two bus stops on our street — one directly across from our house — so school busses roar down the road multiple times daily. Let’s not forget the banging of the dump trucks at least once a week too.

Noisiness and speed demons aside, it’s challenging living in any neighborhood this day and age.

Once upon a time, parents could allow their kids to play outside and even ride their bikes around the neighborhood. Moms and dads were vigilant about teaching their kids about stranger danger and looking both ways at least twice before crossing any street, but otherwise kids could be kids.

Nowadays we have to worry more about people that have nothing better to do with their time but try to police parents and raise everybody’s children. In all seriousness, moms still have to worry about their kids playing outside, but now it’s because others will call law enforcement or Child Protective Services and claim the kids that are playing outside are endangered and the parents are negligent. Time and again, tearful children sit hopelessly aside as their mom — or sometimes dad — is handcuffed and loaded into the back of a police cruiser.

All because the kids were being kids.

Not that they were doing anything wrong or in any danger.

Shame on the parents for letting their kids outside, to ride bikes down the street or even just play in their own front — or back — yard.

And don’t even get me started about all the hell raised when kids are at a playground sans parent.

However, it’s different when you’re camping.

And our friends picked up on that after just a couple of hours.

Her son is six, his is twelve. Our sons are five and seven. The three youngest were up and down the road of the loop that our site was located on, riding scooters, and all four of them spent time running around, throwing a ball, collecting firewood, and taking turns on our two pogo sticks. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the tree on our site that the boys got a kick out of climbing again and again.

She was captivated by how she could just let her son run off and play…and not worry about him at all. The four of us could work on meals, hang towels to dry, stoke the fire, and just chat while the boys just did their thing.

Nobody drives around like lunatics, other kids run around and play, there was joyful noise and loud music all around…and everybody accepted and welcomed it.

It’s not like there wasn’t anybody around to make sure rules were being followed and nobody was getting out of hand. It is a campground, so there are rules to keep people safe and things orderly, and there are employees driving around in little sedans and golf carts to keep an eye on things and help out if necessary.

But…kids can be kids!

People constantly complain about kids on smart phones, sitting in the house in front of the TV or game system, or just doing nothing in general, especially if it’s not deemed educational or chore related. However, parents are then rediculed for allowing their kids outside, down the streets or around the neighborhood on their bikes, or at the playground.

In other words, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

When we’re camping, technology always takes a backseat to getting outdoors…and being kids.

Therefore, another reason for RVing — whether you’re full-time or part-time — is the ability for your kids to be kids and enjoy their youth and childhood.

…The way our generation and generations before us did.

The PT Struggle Is Real

We absolutely love this RV lifestyle. We never look forward to going home and getting back to the everyday hustle and bustle. When we go camping we disconnect from the outside and electronic worlds and reconnect with Nature and one another…and ourselves.

The worst part is packing for and unpacking from each and every trip…but not for the reasons one might think.

True, it’s repetitive and mundane to print out the same checklist over and over again. To make sure we packed the correct amount of food and beverages…because of the time we realized we left the hot dog buns at home on the counter only once when we needed them at the campground. To make sure no type of clothing was forgotten…because we did forget underwear one time. To make sure we remembered protective gear for bikes and scooters, fishing poles and bait, swimsuits and goggles…and so on.

True, it gets exhausting undressing and redressing the beds, unloading and reloading towels and dish cloths, emptying the hampers…essentially washing even more laundry than a typical week would involve.

True, it gets old to constantly move food from one fridge and pantry to another — from the house to the Coach — just to relocate everything again 2 or 3 days later.

Yes, this is all quite accurate. But this isn’t what makes recreational RVing rough.

It’s the fact it’s only temporary.

Oh, how we long for the day we pack our rig, head out for a destination, and when we get there know that we don’t need to return home in a couple or few days…because our home is with us, and we’re already home!

The packing and unpacking, loading and unloading, stocking and moving back into the S&B is entirely worth it for the experience and exposure we get as a family, every time we go anyplace, whether it’s for the first time or our 5th.

We just can’t wait until we have to do it one more time, for the last time.

One can dream, can’t they?