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A Year In Review

Posted by on May 10, 2016

Guys! It’s been one year already!! Can you believe it? We thought it might be fun to look back at our year and talk about some of our favorites and share with you some of the things we’ve learned.

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This photo was taken the day we left my parents house in 2015.

We left on Mother’s Day 2015 (sorry mom). We were full of all kinds of emotions, questions, and worries as we drove off that day. Most people assume we already had our RV when we decided to switch to a full-time RV life and that we knew what we were doing. We didn’t. We jumped in with both feet and hoped for the best. Now, don’t get me wrong…we’d totally planned everything (I’m a planner), but it’s hard to really know what you’re going to be facing when you’ve never had any experience with something. By the time we reached Nebraska (our second state) we were pretty certain we’d made the right decision.

Let’s start with some of our favorites!

We all agree that Alaska is our favorite state.

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Waterfalls, glaciers, ice fields, and rainforests…. Alaska is pretty spectacular!

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Our favorite experience so far is the day cruise we took to explore the Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward, Alaska.

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And…it may be no big surprise that our favorite National Park is Denali National Park in Alaska. It was so fantastic…we’ve been trying to decide when we can go back since about the time we headed to our next spot.

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Our favorite State Park is Makoshika in Montana with the unforgettable gumbo incident. If you don’t know about it or want to read about it again, you can find our post on Makoshika here. We’re looking forward to a time when we can go back to Makoshika to finish a very cool hike we had to turn back on while we were there.

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What you’re looking at is our favorite burrito. Y’all know we’re foodies…we’ve got our favorites…and this, my friends, is the best burrito we’ve ever had. It was so good we drove 45 min. one way twice just to get it. This is the Green Mix Burro Enchilada Style from The Burger House in Miami, AZ. We will go back to Miami, AZ just to get this burrito. Yep, it’s really that good!

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Our favorite grocery store is still HEB. Here Everything really is Better. We’ve been to a lot of grocery stores and we’ve only found two other grocery store companies that even come close.

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I know y’all are wondering (since we talk about burgers all the time) what our favorite burger is. Tucker’s Onion Burger in Oklahoma City, OK is the best all around burger we’ve found so far! It has all of the elements a good burger should have!! Now, if we’re talking about a green chili burger…we would have to go with Rockin’ BZ Burgers in Alamogordo, NM!

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7th Ranch RV Park in Garryowen, MT is our favorite RV park for numerous reasons. We like it so much we did a post on it! You can find it here and read all about why it’s still in our number one spot!

We have quite a few favorites from over the past year, but these are the only ones all five of us agree on. If y’all are curious about any of our other favorites give us a shout and we’ll tell ya!!

We’ve learned a lot over this past year. Here’s a small list of some of some of the things we’ve learned:

1. Not all grocery stores are created equally. I’ll be the first to admit that we were super spoiled by our HEB in Texas, but we had no idea how spoiled we really were. It didn’t take long to come to the harsh realization that we were going to have to say goodbye to some of our favorite items and brands. We never really know what we’ll find in a grocery store when we walk in and it’s turned into one of my favorite things about moving around. It’s always interesting to see different brands and regional items and to even find a few new favorites. Sometimes tiny grocery store will have a great selection like the Cottonwood General Store in Terlingua, Tx and sometimes we struggle to find anything we would eat in a one of the well known grocery store chains (like the Piggly Wiggly). One of my favorite isles to peruse is the ice cream isle. Not only do brands carry different flavors per region, but some of the basic flavors have different names. I love trying all of the different ice cream brands and comparing them! It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it…right?

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2. Not all gas stations are big rig friendly even when they have an RV Island. Gas stations…we visit a lot of gas stations. Some are set up so poorly we just drive on by and pity the poor sucker who pulled in and can’t figure out how to get out. We can say that because we’ve been-there-done-that. When we were just starting out, gas stations were a source of anxiety for me… not that I was the one driving…I don’t drive the RV…it’s best for everyone. There have been times that we’ve had to back up, wait for other cars to move, and block the entrance/exit because we were at the RV Island getting gas. We were where we were supposed to be, but the gas station wasn’t laid out with any kind of forethought to the size and turning radius of a big rig. Jerl has become an expert at gas station navigation. I still get a little nervous sometimes, but he’s as cool as a cucumber now.

3. You can’t find good ethnic food everywhere. We were in Montana the first time we found a Mexican restaurant we wanted to try. It smelled good, but when they set the salsa down it had cabbage in it and looked like it was a soup. We should have just left then and there. Seriously. The meal just went downhill from that point. We left realizing that it was going to be a very long time before we would be able to find anything remotely like the kind of Mexican food we like. But it’s not just Mexican food… last summer (2015) while we were in Alaska, Mr. Man turned 15. We always let the boys pick out where they want to eat for their birthdays and Mr. Man chose the only Asian place in Valdez. I left with a mild strain of food poisoning. It would have been ok if the food had been worth it, but it really wasn’t. Live and learn. My favorite ethnic food is Indian food. So far, I haven’t even tried to get it anywhere but back home in Houston, TX.

4. When Google Maps says your destination is five hours away, it’s more like seven hours. We learned this the hard way while traveling though Canada to get to Alaska. We had some twelve and fourteen hour drive days. What The Googles doesn’t take in to consideration is that when you’re driving an RV you probably won’t be going the posted speed limit…at least not very often…and not if you don’t want to tear up your rig. We still compare all roads to the ALCAN (the road to Alaska). There were times when we were going ten miles per hour and that was still too fast. We’ve learned you have to slow down when driving an RV…and really, that’s kind of the point of driving an RV…to slow down and enjoy the journey. We have learned to add an hour for every three hours The Googles has predicted our travel time to be.

5. Sometimes the GPS looses its little electronic mind. It’s one thing when the GPS doesn’t know how to pronounce something. We all laugh and make jokes, but when the GPS takes it’s revenge and tells us to go down roads that are only meant for high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles….well, that’s not so funny.  The first time this happened we were driving down the Cassiar on our way back from Alaska. The GPS map for that region hadn’t been updated in a long time so it didn’t know that two parts of the Cassiar had been connected. Our GPS was trying to route us around in a way that added an entire day to our trip. Luckily, we had done our research and knew what way to go. The next time the GPS screwed up we were in Arizona heading to the Lost Dutchman State Park. We happily followed our trusty GPS as it told us to turn down a questionable dirt road where we almost got stuck. This road rivaled some of the worst parts of the ALCAN. We swerved around potholes the size of our car and big mounds of trash that someone had piled up in the road. We held our breath a few times, but we made it in once piece only to find out that there was a wonderfully smooth highway we could have taken to get to the Lost Dutchman State Park instead. The first time we thought it was just a mapping glich…an update that needed to happen…the second time we realized that our GPS has a tendency to loose it’s little electronic mind. That second time we learned to always trust our gut. If a road seems shady, find a different way. A different time, while we were driving near the old Route 66 our GPS decided to have us turn off of a perfectly fine highway and take us down the original 66 highway that hadn’t been maintained in way too long and was more like something you would expect to see a horse drawn wagon on. After our first incident we were on to the GPS’ ways and had more sense than to actually drive down it. We got back on the highway and let the GPS sort it’self out. We have a love hate relationship with our GPS.

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The road our GPS lead us down to get to the Lost Dutchman State Park

6. Always make sure you have the memory card in your camera. Funny story…One evening while we were in Valdez we were walking around down by the harbor and there was a sea otter eating and playing right by the docks. It was soooo close! And, of course, I had my trusty camera so I whipped it out and got some ah-maze-ing shots. Or at least I think they were amazing. I’d been editing pictures earlier that day and had forgotten to put my memory card back in the camera. I didn’t know this while I was snapping pictures. My camera just let me shoot away completely unaware that I wasn’t getting anything. I was crushed when I went to edit pics again the next day and all those wonderful pics I had taken were no where to be found. No where. I thought I’d lost my mind…I mean…I distinctly remembered standing there taking some once-in-a-lifetime shots. So…where the heck were they. I guess I was too distracted. I learned a valuable, but painful lesson that day. Always check your gear before you leave. Always.

7. Not all RV parks are created equally. It always amazes me when we pull into an RV park and it doesn’t look like the pictures on their website lead you to believe. Or, when we go to check in and all of a sudden there are tons of small hidden fees they didn’t tell us about beforehand. Or, when you walk into the park bathroom and you back out because you’re afraid to turn your back to the room for fear something will reach out of the dark corners and you’ll never be heard from again. There are some parks that we feel dirty just pulling into. We pulled into this place in Fox, Alaska and we kind of just looked at each other for a minute. To say this place was rundown would be putting it nicely. Weeds were everywhere, the path to the sites had potholes the size of a small car, and the owner told us not to hook the water up to the RV because it had a bit of rust in it. The water looked like chocolate milk and we later found out was filled with arsenic. And then there was the goat…it was the neighbors goat. The goat was in rut and the owner of the RV park was positive that the goat had gotten into it’s owners stash and was high. Well, for some reason the goat thought the boys were a threat and became very aggressive toward them. We almost had goat curry that night. On the flip-side…there are some absolutely awesome parks out there. We’ve learned to thoroughly research the parks we go to.

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The goat that was almost curry.

8. We didn’t really need 1/2 of the stuff we thought we would. We’d never been camping in our RV…we’d never been on a trip in it anywhere so, when I was trying to downsize our three bedroom house to fit in our 38′ RV…well, I didn’t have a clue what we would really need. I crammed everything that would fit in the RV into the various storage spaces. Just in case. We’ve spent this first year lightening our load as we’ve realized we don’t need ten pairs of pants each or fifteen different shirts. That it’s not necessary to have two complete sets of dishes. We’re learning how to live a minimalist lifestyle. It’s been difficult. We go to all of these amazing places and I see all of these souvenir-ish items that I would love to have…but we don’t have room. Can you imagine how cluttered the RV would be if we bought every cool item we found? We got rid of a bunch of stuff through the year then made a healthy deposit to our storage unit while we were back in Texas.

9. Gas station food isn’t really that bad.  I know, I know…I can hear y’all already…you feed your kids gas station food?!?! Well, yes. Yes we do. On move days we tend to get up and go so when we stop for gas we let the boys go in and pick out something for breakfast. They usually go for the donuts or fried pies or something along those lines. But, sometimes we come across a gas station that has breakfast sausages and sandwiches. Littlest had pizza the other day. Yep, pizza for breakfast. Let the hate comments begin. We don’t allow them to have these things all the time. These are their treat breakfasts. And then there are the times where we spend the entire day driving and when we pull in to fill up the tank we fill up the kid’s tanks too.  It’s a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Some gas stations have actual food. We’ve found some pretty good stuff.

10. Pay attention to the grey tank. This is probably one of the most important things we’ve learned this year. The grey tank is the tank all of the water we use when we do dishes, brush our teeth, shower, do laundry, and wash our hands goes into . It can fill up fast. This might be a good time to tell you we’ve got two full bathrooms. And cats. We have two cats. We keep the cat’s litter box in one of the showers so we don’t have to move it around all the time and it’s pretty contained. Well, guess where the grey tank water backs up to when it gets full. Yup. The shower. One day I noticed that Magnus (one of our cats) was walking around really wet and that he kept going back into the bathroom with his litter box. Now, this cat loves to play in water and can turn on the faucet so I thought he’d been playing in the sink again. But, when I went back to check on him…well, he was playing in water…the grey tank water that had backed up into the shower where the litter box is. It took me hours to clean and sanitize everything. Gross.

We’ve got one entire year under our belt and we’ve visited 18 states so far, but only 17 State Capitol Buildings (extra points for anyone who can tell me what State Capitol we missed) and we’ve stayed at 55 RV Parks. We’ve traveled a lot of miles…I don’t know the exact mile count…but it’s up there and we’re really just starting our adventure.

For our second year we’re hitting the eastern states. We’re working our way up to Maine and then we’ll make our way down to Florida before heading back to Texas to do all of our yearly stuff. I’ll be using the hashtag #easternloop2016 this year.

There’s a growing number of families who full-time RV, but we’re still in the minority. We’re usually the youngest people in the parks we stay in and as you can imagine…people are very curious about us. We get asked quite a few questions so I thought I would start a new series of posts called FAQs. I’ll answer all of the usual questions we get and if y’all have any questions you’d like to throw in the line up just let me know!

Well, that’s all for now!

See y’all down the road!

2 Responses to A Year In Review

  1. Wendy

    Really awesome summary of your year, Jennie! I laughed out loud about the RV parks….Allen & I have a few horror stories, too!

    • Jennie Simpson

      Wendy, Thank you! It’s really amazing what you can find out there! We have learned to research the parks in detail!

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