Posts tagged ‘Motorhome’

Dear Sparkles,

Our beloved motorhome, we owe you this long overdue thank you!

To the unobserving eye, you’re just another of the voluminous number of motorhomes across North America. You see them everywhere: transported to the same ol’ trailer park, driven south to escape the white stuff, or permanently residing in a backyard.

But not you Sparkles. You gave off a vibe that you were ready for adventure.

Were we destined to meet? Well, we searched motorhomes online for over a year to find you, at times very confused as to what would be the best motorhome for our trip. When we landed on the shores of Canada, you were on our short list. You stayed on the list through an RV show, and a couple of visits to RV traders.

It then came down to two. Although the 5th wheel was absolutely gorgeous, it didn’t make sense for our trip. We would be stopping often, we wouldn’t be in places very long, and the kids needed a table to play and do craft while we drove (rather than being stuck in the back of a truck).

You were the one. You were going to drive us 14,500 miles (21,000 kms) around North America. You were going to be our everything; our hotel, our restaurant, our playground, our transportation… our home.

I loved driving you from the minute I hoped in. You didn’t exactly hum. Perhaps I was fulfilling a sudden ‘trucker’ dream. You definitely had heart, and some impressive grunt. That’s why I wanted to call you Grizzly.

However, the name ‘Sparkles’ prevailed, as every time during the trip I said to the kids “Let’s get back to Grizzly”, I was instantly corrected with, ‘No Daddy, it’s Sparkles”.

We picked you up near Hamilton (outside of Toronto), and we both survived our trip home. It wasn’t a direct route as we were hoping to give you a new set of runners (read tires). I’d pre-ordered a beautiful set of 6 Cooper Discoverer tires. As we got closer to the gas station, which we had to go through to get to the garage, it dawned me how big you really were. It didn’t help that the gas station was minuscule, by far the smallest gas station I’d ever encountered.

Against my better judgment, I turned in and I felt like I was driving a monster truck through a kids miniature-land. Some tight manoeuvring found us alongside the garage. I jumped out and took a few steps towards the mechanic who had stepped out of the garage looking somewhat perplexed. “We can’t fit that in the garage, who did you speak to?” It’s ironic because it would not be the last time I would hear those words.

If I’d thought entering the gas station was difficult, the stakes were suddenly raised as we pulled out into Toronto traffic.

Now for most ordinary North American folk, you may scoff. But in Australia, we‘re still building 2 lane highways. So when I was faced with the goal of moving a 31ft vehicle across 4 lanes of Toronto traffic, from a standing start, with the maximum acceleration of a truck, and with my exit only a stone’s throw up the highway, you could say I wasn’t overly excited. Did I forget to mention that my read view mirrors had swung in without me noticing!

Over the next month or so we gave you a lot of lovin’, and finally a new set of tires. It was only fair that as we prepared ourselves for this adventure, we got you ready as well.

Ready to roll, goodbye snow.

What you gave back to us is something that we are forever indebted to you for. This is what you taught us…

1. Dream big, and have the balls to make it a reality

From Elvis’ house in Memphis, to waking up beside the Mississippi River, from watching a bison crossing in Yellowstone National Park, to overlooking the mountains in Whistler, you allowed us to wake up somewhere new almost every single day for 7 months.

We fell in love with country music in Nashville, Tennessee, and were blessed by beautiful little cities like Jefferson City, Missouri. We reached the werewolf ridden La Push beach, Washington, and explored remote towns like Moose Factory, Ontario. Of course, the trip wouldn’t have been complete without visiting Anne of Green Gables in Prince Edward Island, and touching the Atlantic Ocean at the Fortress of Louisbourg, Cape Breton.

We lived our dream.

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2. Be open to learning and change

Don’t get stuck in your ways. Be willing to try new things from which you may learn. Take a look at how you react and behave in different situations. Give yourself a chance to change!

3. Home can be anywhere

There is something very freeing about not knowing where you will sleep at night.

We tried Walmart parking lots, truck stops, little hideaways in National Parks and RV parks. You also managed to go ‘undetected’ for a few nights only a block or two off the main street of Banff, and saw us spending almost a week in Vancouver for $0.

It didn’t really matter where we went to sleep at night. You were our home. Once the blinds were drawn, we could have been anywhere and it didn’t matter.

You were the constant in our life, and you let our family be together in a way like many families couldn’t even imagine.

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4. Appreciate the little things

A big house and lots of space rarely contributes to happiness. It just gives you lots of stuff, clutter, hard work, and a bigger debt to spend all of your time working to pay off.

It was so lovely to go back to simpler times with fewer things, and instead be out appreciating all the beauty this amazing continent has to offer.

5. Throw away the schedule, and just live in the moment

We had no itinerary, instead we listened to people we met on the road and made on the fly decisions about which direction we would head next.

We cleared our schedule of all organised activities, and let ourselves roam. We gave the kids North America as their playground, and WOW, did they embrace it!

You enabled us to cook dinner alongside many children’s playgrounds, giving the kids something to do at that crazy hour of the day when kids just need to burn off energy! You let us park, and have lunch, at the end of the beautiful gardens alongside the Parliament in Regina. We even had an afternoon nap and then got ready for the Grand Ole Opry in the parking lot.

We learnt to go with the flow, and live in the moment.

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6. Be thankful

Each day we told each other what we were thankful for.

Looking back on the trip, we were thankful that you were with us everywhere! It was a convenience that we greatly appreciated. We could be out sightseeing and just drop in for lunch. If we forgot something, you were minutes away. If we went for a swim by the beach, we could come back and rinse off quickly in the shower. When I spilt my beer all over my daughter whilst out for dinner, I could whisk her away for a clean set of clothes and be back well before mains arrived… and just in time for a new cold one to be delivered to the table.

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7. What do we really need in our life.

We had a tiny kettle that boiled just enough water for 2 cups… all we needed. Marlea found a neat set of kitchen utensils that magnetised to each other, and took up no space at all.

The reality was, we couldn’t buy anything more than what we needed. We food shopped for a couple of days at a time. We had not the space inside, nor the storage underneath, to carry excess baggage. Everything we had on us for the trip was essential, almost daily.

8. Family and friends are everything, and new friends are everywhere

While we de-winterised you, we had the pleasure of staying with two very wonderful family friends. Our hosts were incredibly thoughtful to invite us into their home. It was hard to leave such an amazing home, that had the most peaceful outlook I’ve ever been privileged to see and experience first hand.

In Calgary, we caught up with cousins that Marlea had seen only for 10 minutes in 10 years. It was a wonderful week with a very beautiful family. The kids played amazingly well, I got a fishing lesson, and cousins reunited.

In August, we hit Quebec for an incredible family reunion. It remains one of the highlights of the trip, and it was wonderful to meet the extended family for the first time.

Of course, we will never forget the moments created on our trip thanks to wonderful people that came in to our lives.

Our first ever RV park in Myrtle Beach was the perfect start to our trip. Dora found an adorable little friend, and they sung Frozen together at a Karaoke night. It was such a lovely way to start our adventure, and really set the tone for how we interacted with people along the way.

Golden, Colordo was a place we intended to stay for only a night or two. But we connected with another family, and we spent a week there. We hardly saw Dora for the week, as she found a new bestie. Boots had a friend too, and so did mommy and daddy. Great times, lasting memories.

Again, in Yellowstone, we extended our stay in order to spend more time with new found friends. Nearly every night in an RV park, we spent the evening chatting with our new neighbours.

Another friend we still chat with, we met for 5 minutes in a parking lot while admiring her scooter covered in bumper stickers from her RV travels.

It really didn’t matter whether it was a Walmart parking lot, a tourist attraction, or an RV park, we continued to find and connect with people from all over North America.

We shared conversation, drinks, stories, travelling tips, and a general happiness for life. It’s very addictive.

9. Kindness goes a long way

You did not cause one road kill in your 21,000 km. Bugs – thousands. But animals – zero.

We experienced and offered up kindness. It was hard not to when you have travelled the miles and seen the things that we’d seen. People we’re incredibly friendly and kind to us, and welcomed us into their ‘homes’ and lives almost instantly; and we did the same. Where we could, we gave presents to families and people in need. All we can say is that the world is a truly a better place when kindness exists.

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Sparkles, we loved sharing this adventure with you, and you made us smile and the kids squeal every time we saw you. You were always easy to find in the parking lots. 🙂 You faced some tough driving situations, some long days, and cold nights, but you didn’t complain once.

You crossed the Rockies… twice. You kept us safe. You evaded tornadoes in Georgia, Colorado and Wyoming.

We honestly believe you enjoyed the trip as much as we did.

Thank you for being part of our family last year, and creating the most amazing memories.

❤ Roaming Days

 

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Driving a 31ft vehicle can be a challenge, especially when you drive it everywhere!

As we’ve hit 10,000 miles on our trip around North America, its time to take a look at the hurdles and challenges we’ve faced, and decide whether Sparkles* (our Motorhome) or North America can claim the title!

* Sparkles (our Motorhome) may not be the most fitting name for this heavyweight title fight. I preferred Grizzly, but when we’re out for the day and I say ‘let’s get back to Grizzly’, the kids always correct me and say “No… Sparkles!!” So Sparkles it is.

LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!

Round 1: Sparkles vs Really small streets

Early on in the trip Sparkles was touring through the ridiculously small downtown streets of Gettysburg. It was only my second day of driving (a rig), and as I pulled up to a set of traffic lights for a right hand turn, a car pulled up at the lights on the right, narrowing my turning circle.

As I took the corner, the back tire clipped the gutter and we heard ‘pfffffffff’.

Round 1 winner: Really small streets by blown tire.

Not the sight you want to see on Day 2!

Not the sight you want to see on Day 2!

Round 2: Sparkles vs Bugs

An unfair match-up really. The bugs don’t really stand a chance. High speed, truck sized window, and the final blow is an overhanging cab. So even if the bug hits the windscreen lightly, they get sucked up and find a permanent spot on the underside of the cab. Goodnight bugs.

Round 2 winner: Sparkles by instant knock, but there is always another bug so the fight continues

A bug line-up

A bug line-up

Round 3: Sparkles vs Parking tickets

An evenly matched round. Sparkles earned back-to-back parking tickets in Tennessee for taking two spots and only paying for one. The instructions weren’t clear, and both parking lots were almost empty. The ticket says the vehicle was registered is Oregan… and it is not.

Round 3 winner: Sparkles by default of the privacy law.

Sample parking tickets

Sample parking tickets

Round 4: Sparkles vs Roadwork

Roadwork really threw some nice punch combos.

The ‘RV unfriendly detour’ combo involved removing us from the comfort of a main road to a back street, where we faced a rapid fire series of parked cars, overhanging trees, gas guzzling stops and starts, pot holes, speed humps, and other RV shaking obstacles.

The ‘Do what we like highway roadwork’ combo was a never seen before combo, and the legality of the combo is still in question. There was no structure to how roadwork was carried out in the USA, and the conditions were as equally poor and dangerous for both driver and workers. However, a rather unfair fine of $10,000 was imposed for drivers hitting a workman. The workman on the other hand could inflict the most ridiculous driving conditions, including driving on the shoulder of the highway over ‘rumble strips’, and seriously narrow lanes caused by the placement of the road safety cones/barriers.

In an overview of the round, Sparkles shone! It ducked and weaved the roadwork punch combos. On one patch of road, where the cones were placed so far over in the driving lane, Sparkles clipped a couple, sending them hurtling over the empty highway.

Round 4 winner: Sparkles by 1 point, earned by sending a cone over 3 lanes of empty highway and into the ditch. No workman were hit or injured during this round.

We have to drive on the right… thanks!

We have to drive on the right… thanks!

Round 5: Sparkles vs Moves that are much easier in a car

This round will go down in history as a classic! Sparkles was faced with some seemingly impossible 3 point turns. Namely, on a two lane roadway outside of Seattle, Sparkles cleverly used a driveway (which disappeared at about a 45 degree downward slope toward a waterfront home) to navigate a 3 point turn without stopping traffic.

The biggest benefit of a Motorhome over a 5th wheel or a travel trailer, is that we can reverse more easily (especially because we’re not towing a car). But still, the sight lines are very different on a long vehicle, which has a 10ft overhang from the back tires. Directly behind the vehicle is a complete blackout zone, so you need to be very conscious of everything around you at all times. Thankfully, moving in reserve has been successful to date!

Driving forward is sometimes harder. For example, many places kindly offer RV parking. Surprisingly though, unless it is a large ‘bus zone’, they make one painful mistake. Despite making the space double long (compared to a car spot), they don’t make them an inch wider. It basically means that if there were 4 spaces, only 3 RV’s would fit. In downtown Banff, with my wife standing out front directing me, I drove the vehicle into a space that many would not dare to attempt. When parked, I had an inch on either side of the vehicle to spare (with the side mirrors folded in)!

It was equally as tight when I pulled Sparkles into a Mr Lube in Vancouver. We told the guy how big the Motorhome was, and he said ‘yeah it’ll fit’. I did not appreciate the look on his face when we drove it towards the entrance. He ushered the other mechanics around as they all helped me navigate Sparkles into the garage. I honestly don’t know how we squeezed in!

Round 5 winner: Sparkles by driver skill 😉

Round 6: Sparkles vs Winnipeg

This city gets so cold in Winter, the roads are just torn apart once the 1 month of summer rolls around. On most highways, any significant bump is accompanied by the following sign:

bumps

If Winnipeg employed the same criteria, the side of the street would be lined with these signs.

Online press supports these terrible conditions:
– Bad roads hurting patients: Paramedics (globalnews.ca)
– Winnipeg roads really are the worst (Winnipeg Sun)
– Manitoba roads ‘embarrassing’ (cbc.ca)

It was no surprise that the no.1 local business was windscreen repairs.

Round 6 winner: Winnipeg by the worst roads in Canada (this includes Moose Factory which has no paved roads, and driving is a bit like slalom skiing over potholes).

Round 7: Sparkles vs Shopping trolley

The weather system is the USA is frightening at times. The speed and ferocity in which a storm can hit is freaky. One particular evening, we pulled into a Walmart seconds before a storm hit. The wind picked up and it shook the camper violently. The rain pelted down. And as my wife put the kids to bed, and I packed up the Motorhome for the night, an object suddenly slammed into the camper. It hit so hard I had no idea what it could possibly be. I looked out the window to see a shopping cart now on its way across the car park at high-speed.

Thankfully the shopping cart caused no damage, but it was a scary experience.

Round 7 winner: Sparkles by deflecting a solid punch, and avoiding all other shopping trolleys (which are a common threat at Walmart).

Round 8: Sparkles vs Parking lot pay booth

Some days were meant to be cancelled, not proceeded with, shut down… you know, where you just go back to bed and forget about it.

This was one of those days.

After looping the city of Calgary to try and find a parking spot, we finally agreed on a paid parking lot. As we turned in, it became a no turning back situation. Behind us was a busy city street, and in front of us was the boom gate. I grabbed a ticket, the gate was raised, and we started moving through. As we turned to the right, I knew that the turning circle was tight. Really tight! As I turned Sparkles enough to miss the row of parked cars, I heard the first sound of crunching. I’d just smashed the rear left-side tail light. At this point I can do nothing but proceed forward. I managed to snap part of the boom gate off, but that was my last punch. The toll booth removed part of Sparkles and the momentum in this battle shifted.

Round 8 winner: Parking lot pay booth by physical scarring.

Oops!

Oops!

AFTER 8 ROUNDS: THE FIGHT IS EVENLY MATCHED, AND SPARKLES IS SLIGHTLY AHEAD AT 5-3

HOWEVER NORTH AMERICA HAS CONSIDERABLE MOMENTUM AFTER THE 8TH ROUND, AND THIS ONE IS GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE!

THE ALL IMPORTANT ROUND 9 MAY BE CRUCIAL IN DECIDING THIS BATTLE.

Round 9: Sparkles vs Fuel consumption

I’d heard bad things about the petrol/gas consumption of Motorhomes.

Sparkles took an upper hand when I heard from a 5th wheel owner that their mileage was similar to our Motorhome. We’d considered a 5th wheel thinking that the mileage would be a bit better, so that was nice to hear that this was not the case. Plus we’d overlooked the fact that the truck pulling the 5th wheel has a much smaller gas tank, so they need to stop twice as often to fill up.

However, the reality is that a 55 gallon tank is expensive to fill, and we get about 10 miles per gallon. This reality became even more shocking when we entered Canada, as the gas prices were remarkably higher than the USA.

Round 9 winner: Gas/petrol by emptying bank account

Round 10: Sparkles vs Rocks:

Sparkles may beat all bugs that touch the windscreen, but has been less successful against rocks. There’s been a few minor surface scrapes and one big crack which looks a bit ominous. For the distance travelled it has been an evenly matched battle. However, ongoing bumpy road conditions means that existing chips may have the last laugh.

Round 10 winner: Rocks by likelihood of replacement windscreen

Despite leading almost the entire fight, North America came back to tie this one at 5 rounds a piece. After the judging, Sparkles emerges as the victor as the challenges we’ve faced have truly made this an amazing adventure. Sparkles is a true champion!

Roaming Days team with Sparkles.

Roaming Days team with Sparkles.

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Compared to last year, my life is very different. I’ve gone from a corporate lifestyle to living on the road. Once the tidy, well presented fellow, the new look of freedom has people reacting differently to me; either the way they look at me or talk to me. It’s humbling to be truly human again. It’s like Undercover Boss, except this is not a disguise. This is me.

Compared to 1

Here are some of the comparison’s between last year and now…

Slept in a level bed.

Each night we sleep on a different angle. Head rushes, danger of rolling out of bed, it really depends on how level the motorhome is. However, I’m sure there’s some benefit to this; a better centre of gravity, improved core strength… hey there might be a new fitness craze out of this.

Woke up to an alarm at 5am to get ready for work.

I don’t use an alarm, the clock on the dashboard is wrong, I don’t have a watch, my computer still shows Australian time, so to be honest I never know what time it is. Does anyone know the time, seriously, I have no idea?

Opened the living room blinds and looked out at the same lovely and peaceful street every day.

After 14 weeks on the road and 8000 miles under our belt, we usually wake up in a new spot everyday. One day at a rest stop, we woke up next to a cattle truck. At truck stops, we listen to the sound of generators at night, and wake up surrounded by 50ft+ vehicles. At Walmart, it almost feels like home now since we’ve stayed at so many. We usually wake up next to fellow RV’ers who have stopped overnight, and others who are, well, lets just say semi-permanent. And finally, at RV parks we often find peace and quiet. Unless we’re near train tracks, and then we hear the freight trains rattle by in the early hours of the morning, and if we’re lucky they blow their horn as well.

Showered every morning.

Don’t even ask! While we’re dry camping (i.e. not hooked up to electricity, water, etc), the combined issue of amount of fresh water, the size of the grey water tank, and the small hot water tank does not permit regular, lengthy showers. When we hit an RV park, we used to fight for the first shower. Now we just try to remember to shower before we leave.

Shaved as required.

When we first moved to Canada, it was Man vs Winter so limited shaving was required. When the hockey season ended I considered neatening the edges, but I’ve since decided that I will just be more prepared for when the next winter roles around. Sadly that’s only a few months away!

Got dressed in a suit and tie.

First I put on my shorts, then I decide if I want to wear a shirt.

I drove fast(ish). The ‘ish’ is for my mother.

Take 3 ½ minutes to get from 0 – 60.

I caught the train to work everyday.

Have considerably lowered my risk of catching diseases, and significantly increased my happiness levels, by not catching a train.

Purchased 2 coffees a day at $3.50 per coffee.

Have gone through two jars of instant coffee (that I brought on a 2 for 1 sale). Have purchased a handful of very dodgy truck stop coffees. Total cost over 14 weeks is around $10.

Once a month I would go and have my hair cut.

Haven’t had a hair cut in 8 months (since leaving Australia). There becomes a point where you stop taking yourself seriously. The extra weight would be a disadvantage if I was required to outrun a bear, but it definitely increases my chances of getting a role in the next season of Game of Thrones.

Didn’t think too much about what I was spending.

Buy food and gas/petrol, everything else is a luxury, including paying for overnight accommodation. Walmart stays have definitely been aplenty.

Drove a maximum of 2000 kilometres all year; home to train station, train station to home.

Drove 1000 kilometres in one day across Kansas. It’s not that Kansas isn’t beautiful, I’m just terrified of tornadoes. I wouldn’t have rushed if I knew our destination of Colorado was just as prone to severe weather!

Drove a car that I filled up with gas/petrol once every 3 weeks.

Drive a beast that is thirstier than an Aussie at a BBQ, and it ain’t drinking VB.

Thought I was water conscious.

I’m water conscious.

Was not handy. Not even a little bit.

Have learnt how to use RV glue. Excessively.

Would buy designer t-shirts for $50+.

Spent $8 on a t-shirt from Walmart, and eyeing off a $5 one as well!

My phone was an extension of my arm.

Didn’t have a phone for the 10 weeks we travelled through the USA. Remarkably, the world still goes around.

I was connected 24/7.

We choose not to get an internet plan while on the road. We rely on internet at RV parks, Information Centres, and stores that we can park near enough to, to tap into their internet. More often than not, it’s so slow I expect to hear the sound of the internet dialling up… remember that! If you don’t you can hear it here.

So, instead of being online all day, I provide undivided attention to my kids… all…. day… long… and then I have a beer, or a wine, I’m not fussy 😉

Had a microwave.

Had a microwave, blew it up, and it’s surprising how much you really don’t need one! Note for prospective buyers, there was only a small flame, it was contained, and the microwave will be replaced before you buy the most amazing home on wheels 🙂

Used toilet paper abundantly.

A few squares are enough. Highly biodegradable RV tissue paper at $1 a roll helps with this! Possibly too much information, just be thankful I’m not telling you about my experiences in Nepal. There’s a reason they shake with their right hand.

Toilet paper was thick and plushy.

Toilet paper as mentioned above is highly biodegradable, which means it disintegrates on contact with wet things. Enough said.

Used a 2 metre counter top to prepare dinner.

Work with two 30 cm areas for food preparation, which also house our kettle, toaster and fruit bowl. And you haven’t seen the size of our fruit bowl!!

Would light up the room I was in. I’m talking about electricity and light switches… not me.

The RV contains a number of 12 volt lights throughout each room, so I only use the light for the part of the room I’m in. When dry camping, we’re living off a single 12 volt battery, so every minute of energy is precious.

I watched television occasionally.

The television in the living area bounces and shakes as we drive along, the cords hang to the ground, not connected to power or cable. At an RV park, the picture is generally the same except it doesn’t bounce around as much unless the kids are having a dance party.

The fridge was on constantly.

The fridge runs off propane when we are not plugged in at an RV park. So throughout the day, whenever we stop for longer than an hour, its propane on, then propane off again when we leave. The crutch is making sure we turn it on when we are settling in for the night at a Walmart or another ‘non-electrical’ providing location. Three months in, and we haven’t forgotten to do this. Now watch me forget in the next few days!

Had a enough cutlery and dishware for a large dinner party.

We have 4 cups, 4 mugs, 4 big plates, 4 side plates, 4 kids plates, 4 forks, 4 knives… you get it. Its simple, use, wash, reuse. No more dishes lying around. You don’t clean, you don’t eat.

The kids had a larger share of my house than I did; bedroom, full toy room, toy area’s in living room’s, outside play area, swing set, cubby house…

The kids each have a small toy box and a combined craft box. The toy box hardly comes out of the cupboard. Instead, they have a couple of favourite toys which stay out, and otherwise they’re busy doing crafts and playing outside.

I would get on the roof once a year to clean the gutters and put the Christmas lights up

I’m on the roof of the RV every two weeks for general maintenance/checks, and just to hang out really. Usually it’s a good view from up there.

We had lovely neighbours

We meet lovely people on the road, even the guy that was playing his makeshift drums to Ace of Base in the Walmart parking lot until 2am. We all have a story.

Attended meetings all day long, and saw my kids for about an hour each day

Play with the kids all day long, and see them 24/7… there’s pros and cons ☺ Mostly pros. Teaching my daughter to ride her bike, starting to play chess with her, and just watching her develop in so many aspects of her life. And my little guy is the light of the family, bringing laughter and cheekiness to our lives.

Thought about touring North America in a motorhome.

Am touring North America in a motorhome… live you dreams 🙂 Happy living!

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Our first 1000 miles of RV life have been exactly what they were meant to be. Full of adventure, laughter, challenges, and things we’ll truly never forget; a cyclone warning, torrential rain and wind, a blown tire, our first couple of nights in a Walmart parking lot, and so much more.

The wheels started turning on Monday morning as we headed south towards the USA border at Niagara Falls. We didn’t rush out early, as the whole point of this trip is to relax and take our time. We had no time constraints, and there was no-where we ‘had’ to be.

Ready to roll, goodbye snow.

Ready to roll, goodbye snow.

I’ve not had a smooth border crossing in to the US for some time, and the trend continued. Despite having a current ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), which is the new and ‘easier’ way to travel through the USA under the Visa Waiver Program, for land border crossings it doesn’t help at all. We pulled up to the window and straight away we were told we had to go inside.

The officer inside asked us the address of where we were staying, but Marlea had left the address in the RV. The officer says to us “I can check the white pages”. So we gave him the home owners name and town. He then says to us, “Is the home owner aged between 60-64?” Last I checked the white pages didn’t provide this information, but of course this was not a time to question the privacy of US citizens.

So officially we entered the USA, and we headed east through New York State. We stopped at Denny’s near Batavia, and it was at this point that the weather channel told us that there was a cyclone warning for North and South Carolina, which is where we were heading. The US news tends to over exaggerate things so I wasn’t sure whether this was a ‘blow your hat off’ or a ‘tie down your Motorhome’ type warning? Therefore, it was no surprise that as we started heading south in to Pennsylvania, we encountered some very heavy rain and winds. The Motorhome handled the conditions extremely well, and gave us a lot of confidence that the wind wouldn’t blow us over anytime soon.

It was after midnight by the time we pulled into a Walmart parking lot in Lewistown, for a well earned sleep.

Our first night at Walmart!

Our first night at Walmart!

Tuesday was a slow start. After going into to Walmart and both kids having a minor meltdown, we took some time in the Motorhome to ensure everyone was well fed and relaxed before starting off again. We had also experienced some issues with our RV 12V battery, which powers the radio and interior lights, and starts things like the generator. After buying a new one at Walmart and installing it, everything worked like new.

A few hours later we arrived in Gettysburg, and we were very excited! We drove through the downtown, and as we turned to head up towards the visitor centre, I had to take a tighter turn than I’d hoped as there was a car at the stoplights (and the streets were tiny). The back wheel clipped the gutter/curb and there was a sudden rush of air. We made it to the visitor centre before assessing the damage, as the RV still drove normally.

I won’t lie, I was furious. Firstly because I’d hit the gutter/curb, but more so because I knew the afternoon would involve sitting in the visitor centre car park rather than doing a driving tour of the battlefields. It was an unfortunate incident on the second day of RV life, but if I’m ever going to blow a tire, this is the way to do it. We weren’t travelling at high speeds, and the family was not put in any danger!

The kids having fun while the tire is being changed.

The kids having fun while the tire is being changed.

A blown tire… day 2… good start :)

A blown tire… day 2… good start 🙂

A local tire dealer popped out to put the spare tire on, and this was followed with a drive to a nearby gas station to pump up spare tire. It was at this point that I was ‘almost laughing’. The air valve was on the inside of the outer tire, making it almost impossible to attach the air pump! While the owner of the gas station tried to help me, Marlea had to be on look out for people entering the gas station… seriously!

It took me a while to find the calmness that I’d had up until this point, and nothing like peak hour traffic via Washington to get my attention back on the road. In all honesty, we had a beautiful run through peak hour and found a little mexican/indian taco joint for dinner, not too far passed the city.

We had a great night, and did books and bed time routine with the kids in the parking lot. Everyone was settled after another big day. We strapped the kids into their car seats and we were on the move again. Before we new it, the kids were asleep and the night was ours to chat and get some miles under our belt. We drove late in to the night, finally settling at 1am in another Walmart parking lot. This time we joined a number of fellow RV’ers, and we felt right at home.

Our 2nd night at a Walmart, with fellow RV'ers

Our 2nd night at a Walmart, with fellow RV’ers

Our 3rd and final day on the road to our first stop was the best so far. Our only obstacle was the sudden closure of a small country road. All the driveways on the street were narrow and to each side was a large dip for the water drainage. To add to the drama of performing a 10 point turn in a narrow driveway, the property owners dog had joined us and ran around and under the front of the RV. The owner stood and watched from the house, and eventually came down to drag the dog away.

We stopped for lunch at Greenville, North Carolina. Today we suggested the kids should go in to the food store and pick their own lunch. Dora was great, selecting a yogurt, the makings for a BBQ chicken sandwich, and a juice for herself. We opened up the RV and took an hour to just sit and watch the world go by. What’s fascinating to me is how relaxing a parking lot can be! We had parked in a shady spot near a patch of grass and it felt like our own little peace of paradise.

By mid afternoon we’d arrived at our first stop. We’d driven through Ontario, New York State, Pennsylvania, Virginia to arrive in New Bern, North Carolina. What an absolute gorgeous part of the world this is, y’all. We’ll show you around in our upcoming blogs.

Until then, happy living 🙂

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A magical hidden garden.

A magical hidden garden.

So we have the Motorhome. We were hoping to leave our ‘temporary’ home in South Western Ontario by mid to late March. I thought we would head east first. My wife thought west.

It appears though, we are waiting out an extended Canadian winter. Wiarton Willie told us we had another 6 weeks of winter, and those dreaded words ‘Polar Vortex’ have reappeared in the news headlines. So after little consideration we’ve agreed to head south.

It would come as no surprise that if we’re only just deciding on which direction we should head, we don’t have a set itinerary. It may be a little unconventional, but instead we want to have the flexibility to stop (and go) wherever we want, whenever we want. We want to give our kids the world as their backyard, or at least a Walmart parking lot (as we’ve heard you can overnight in their parking lots for free). If we find a place that we love, we can stay longer (hopefully not a Walmart parking lot).

That all being said, we would love to know of your favourite places in North America. It could be your favourite city or town, your favourite little eatery or tourist attraction, or anything else we just MUST MUST DO!

As we move across the continent, we will take into consideration any suggestions that we get so please send them through!!

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Over a year ago we had a vision, and that was to drive around Canada in a Motorhome. It could be said that this type of travel is reserved until retirement, but sometimes I think we live life backwards. So much of our ‘prime’ years are spent working. Plans to travel, do our bucket list, ‘live life’ is saved for a time when we may no longer be capable.

We decided that whilst we are fortunate enough to be in good health, we should do something big! And what’s bigger than sitting behind the wheel of a bus like contraption? So the big news is that we have our new home. We’ve picked up a 2004 31ft Coachman Freelander and I can confirm that overtaking/passing is now a thing of the past, and downhill skiers move quicker than us. I can also breakout my very old New Kids on the Block cassette tape to play in our vintage cassette player.

Check out the new addition to the family. We’ll be calling this home for the next little while…

Fit with a queen bed above the drivers cabin, king bed in the back, and a great slide to give some extra room in the living area.

Fit with a queen bed above the drivers cabin, king bed in the back, and a great slide to give some extra room in the living area.

Good storage underneath, an awning on the passenger side, and rooftop access. Plus 6 brand new tires for safe driving!

Good storage underneath, an awning on the passenger side, and rooftop access. Plus 6 brand new tires for safe driving!

Looking back from the drivers cabin, this is our living room and kitchen (excuse the spare tires)!!

Looking back from the drivers cabin, this is our living room and kitchen (excuse the spare tires)!!

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Blank Canvas-2A blank canvas is a simple, well-worn analogy. But with a little twist, we have found it to be quite powerful and it has become the premise for our trip and adventure that we’ll embark upon by the end of 2013. But to be honest, the adventure has already begun!

Blank canvas is not about starting a new life. Instead it’s a change of mindset. It’s about a new way of looking at each day. It encourages us to live life through practical learning, emotional experiences, and soul-searching adventure. It’s finding beauty in everyday life, and capturing that picture.

What an exciting time ahead for our family. Wow, in less than 12 months we will walk away from a life that we’ve grown very comfortable in … careers, a home, stability, and routine. We will land on the shores of Canada for an adventure, blended with family time and a road trip that we’ve only ever dared to dream about until now.

What I feel most passionate about is the change in lifestyle. No suit, no clock, no stuff (or at least less stuff). And it will be about freedom, fun and family. Why would anyone give me a strange look if I told them that!! 🙂

Making the decision

We’d spoken about a life in Canada, but a decision to uproot our family is not made lightly. We are happy in Australia. We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, we have a well-established life, and my family is here. Everything I know, everything I’ve grown up with, is here around me.

However, in my day to day life I felt as though I’d fallen into the trap of chasing an imaginary finish line. When you’re moving so quickly through life, it’s like flicking the TV channels; you get a bit of everything but you don’t relax and enjoy the show.

So I asked myself this question. Would I have any regrets in 30 years if I accepted my current life as all that it would be?

And the answer was yes. Whilst I have no complaints about my life, when I looked back at the things that have shaped me, travel stood strong. Walking the Grand Canyon as a young bloke, hiking in Nepal, family camping at a little place called Burrier, and experiencing rural China are just a handful of trips and experiences that have changed who I am. The more one lives life, rather than just exists, the more nutrition there is for the mind. And this is a philosophy I want to share with my kids.

I’m taking this time to be with my young family, to see the world, and to explore my passion of photography. If I end back in the same place, so be it. I have lost nothing, I have gained everything.

And so, the decision was made that we needed to let go, be fearless, and be open to whatever lies ahead for us.

Phrases such as ‘Sea Change’ or ‘Tree Change’ have been coined due to the growing trend of people leaving the hustle and bustle of the city. Our family will be making what we’ve coined as a ‘Season Change’. Moving from Australia to Canada, from the hot to the cold, from Kangaroos to Polar Bears, from roundabouts to 4-way stops, from 2 seasons to 4. We decided to trust our instincts and follow our hearts. We hope you can come along for the ride as we roam Canada!

By Ben Gray

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