One local man, mid-50's, single, living by himself, when asked why he doesn't get out and travel, even said "Where would I go? I don't know anyone." Well duh! That's what travel is all about...getting to see places that you've never seen before, learning new things and making new friends that you will likely pass again on the trail someday! To use the excuse that you have no place to go and don't know anyone is the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand and hoping someone will finish the job over the rest of you! It is a recipe for insanity!
OK, so what are we going to do first? Well, our intent is to leave here and head up to Indiana to spend a week or so with Sharon's sister. From her place, we will likely roam around the area and visit friends we haven't seen for a long time. Hopefully, after we have already come that far, some of them will come to where we are to see us. If they don't, we guess it will be their loss!
At some point we have to start heading northwest, toward South Dakota. We may stop by and visit a blog reader in northeast Iowa along the way, and maybe do some fishing...or drowning worms...as the case may be. Anyway, as of right now, South Dakota is likely to be where our mail forwarding will go, and be our official new state of residence. We want to get in and out of there while it's still reasonably warm.
That doesn't mean we are going to "live" there! God, no! We'd freeze our tutus off up there in the winter! We moved out of snow country because we couldn't take the cold anymore. And even being here in north central Arkansas has been colder and icier than we like. But we also had an ulterior motive in heading south, besides the fact that we already had this place.
I had an aunt (Mom's youngest sister) who in her forties, fell and broke her hip. Granted it wasn't on ice, but on a rug in the slick tiled hallway of her home, but still...it happened. This was back around the mid to late 50's when it happened, and, of course, the technology did not exist that we have today. She was never very tall to start with, but the hip never healed properly and she ended up a crooked, broken person, with a limp and a hunched back no more than about 4 feet tall by the time she died. I always felt so sorry for her.
Sharon's balance is not all that good to begin with, and three times during her last year at Miles, she fell in the parking lot because they never could get all the ice off it. I didn't want her to go through what my aunt did. I also fell that year, too, right in our driveway. Both feet went out from under me, straight forward, and I landed flat on my back. It really knocked the wind out of me, but I could just as easily have hit the back of my head! As I have gotten older, and away from the ice skating and sledding stage of life, and into the "keeping the vehicles from rusting out" stage of life, I have come to hate ice and snow!
Anyway, we have to be physically present in order to obtain South Dakota driver's licenses. For everything else, the mail forwarding company can handle it all, including getting our vehicle tags and renewals. We may have to be there for two or three days on this first trip...probably no more.
That mail-forwarding company will also accept packages of any kind and repackage them if necessary to ship them by a different method to get them to us...wherever I tell them we are. You see, UPS and other carriers won't deliver to PO boxes, and sometimes when placing online orders we don't have a choice as to how they're shipped. And because we will be on the move often, we may not always be where we were when the order was placed, or even be able to accept deliveries anywhere else. By having it shipped to a regular street address (which the mail-forwarding company will provide for us), all the carriers can deliver mail or packages there, and the mail forwarding company will hold it until we tell them where to send it, and how. That will typically be to "General Delivery" in care of our names at whatever post office we are going to be close to. I will then go there and pick up our mail. Yes, it may cost a little more for additional shipping charges, but that is a small price to pay for freedom!
Why South Dakota? There are only four states that come up high on recommendations for full-time travelers, Oregon, Florida, Texas and South Dakota. Yeah, it's out of the way, but it's not like we have to travel there regularly. Once we get our driver's licenses, we may not have to go back for years, and when we do, it will be in the summertime! The other states are alright, and we had actually considered Texas (the Escapees mail program is also based there), but we have to look at other things, too, and if South Dakota doesn't work out, we can always change bases later.
One of the things we have to look at is whether we can use Amazon as Associates in those states. Even if they have no sales tax nexus law now, are they likely to in the future? Maybe by then, Amazon will wise up and do like every other affiliate company is doing...or maybe they will build a warehouse within one of those states and be forced to handle sales tax...or...any number of other changes can come along. We just have to stay flexible, and consider that nothing is ever written in stone.
Other things to consider are taxes of various types (SD has no personal income tax). Even the reputation and location of the mail forwarding company itself must be considered. Believe me, the company we are considering is very well established, and even has their own campground for customers passing through, and come highly recommended by a great many other full-time RV'ers.
So after we take care of business in South Dakota, our goal is to get down to our home resort at Blue Mesa Ranch in Gunnison. Colorado, before they close or even slow down for the season.
(Note and addendum: 11/13/15: Please see the blog post with today's date regarding this, as there have been some major changes happening here.)
We may spend a week there, depending on how much time we have. From there, we will likely head south toward Taos and Santa Fe, which we have never been to before. From there, we would like to head straight south again, around Albuquerque, and then follow the east side of the mountains down to Truth or Consequences, another place we have never been. From there, we will work our way around Las Cruces over to Deming and continue heading west. One of our Western Horizon membership resort parks is at St. David, near Benson, which we have been to a couple of times before. There are many others throughout Arizona and Southern California, so we could technically circulate all through those all winter.
We'll continue to work our way west, attempting to stay away from larger cities as much as possible, so that we end up over by Yuma for the winter. From there, I'm sure we will wander around the area, including into southern California. By spring...who knows where we will head? Probably north, into the mountains as it starts to warm up in the desert. We will likely head back to Gunnison, and from there, we have no idea.
We missed a trip to Glacier National Park due to an accident with the Dakota truck in 2004, so we may head all the way up through there to Alberta and Banf National Park, which was our intended destination.
That's the nice thing about traveling with no destination in mind, and no time to have to be there or get back from there. We can travel on a whim and enjoy ourselves. It's not the destination that counts...it's the journey. No matter where we go there will always be new things to see and learn along the way, and new friends to meet...friends who live the same lifestyle that we will be doing, and understand what it is all about.
So many people fly to everywhere they go...hurry to get there, and hurry to get back to whatever miserable excuse they have for a life. They miss all the beauty that can be found in little places along the way. They miss the people contact, and the immersion into that community to really get to know it. The Southwest has such beautiful scenery and yet half the people who have traveled from east to west or vice-versa have never seen it...except from 35,000 feet high. Such a waste.
I have already mentioned what started Sharon's travel bug. My parents seldom traveled. But they did make one big trip out to Albuquerque when I was just a year and half old. I don't remember much of it, but something about it must have started the wanderlust in me. Also, we used to have one of the old black circular Viewmaster machines, and with it were a bunch of travel disks. Some were from Red Rock country in Colorado, and others were from places like Glacier National Park, the Athabasca Icefields and glaciers, and Carlsbad Caverns. Oh, how I longed to escape the dull routine of farm life and head out to see those places someday! Some, I have already seen, and for the others, my time will be coming soon.
As far as our general rules about travel...
(1) Avoid the major cities as much as possible. If we want to go into the cities, we'll take a Gray Line tour bus.
(2) Avoid the Interstate highways as much as possible.
(3) Try to stay at least two days, unless we are just making an overnight sleep stop at a Walmart, for instance.
(4) Stay no more than two weeks, which is the normal maximum stay almost anywhere you go. We have no desire to stay anywhere for a month, and to do that would mean paying fees at a private campground which I refuse to do unless it's absolutely necessary.
(5) We will be using our charter membership at BoondockersWelcome.com quite often. That is a reciprocal use membership for private property owners. You don't have to own property to be a member, although the fee is slightly higher. The normal cost is $20 a year to be a member and the camping sites are free, possibly for more than one night. (It's between you and the homeowner, but don't overstay your welcome).
(6) We will use HarvestHosts.com once in a while. That is a reciprocal use program composed of commercial interests (farms, vineyards, fairgrounds, museums, etc.). This one costs $40 a year and the camping is free for one night only, but you may be expected to buy something while there.
(7) We will use our Western Horizon parks when available. We can stay for up to two weeks at a time at no cost. The yearly membership amounts to about 69 cents a day, prorated.
(8) We will use our AOR and Sunbelt resorts occasionally. They are $9 a night.
(9) Occasionally, we will use a Coast to Coast resort, which are always membership resorts, but in other owner systems. They are on a point system which amounts to $10 a day. The amenities are the same found in any other resort, but they may vary in quality, the same as any other camping spot. We may join Passport America, too, for 50% off at "some" campgrounds.
(10) Out west there are millions of acres of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) government owned land, which also has both organized campgrounds as well as dispersed camping. Most camping sites will not have utilities available, though, so this is where the need for solar or generators come in, and the ability to carry enough water, and start with empty holding tanks.
(11) Sometimes we will use state forests or state parks, either of which "may" have water and or electric available. With a senior pass, the camping fees are 50% off the normal rate in most (nearly all) cases, although it can make a difference whether you are a resident or non-resident of the state.
(12) We may use a National Forest or Park occasionally, but their prices have been going up lately. Still, the entry fees are either free or half off with the senior discount...not always the camping fees, from what I have read.
(13) We have many friends and relatives around the country, and will undoubtedly make more in our travels, and many of them have parking spaces for visitors.
(14) In the eastern states, where there isn't as much government land, there are COE (Corps of Engineers) parks, some of which charge minimal fees for some very nice camping spots, while others are free. Many are waterfront lots on rivers or reservoirs. Why pay the extra expense of owning a house on a lake, when we can have the view as often as we want...sometimes for free!
(15) We also have a list of various commercial businesses that allow overnight parking for short sleep stays between resorts and better accommodations. There are lot more out there than Walmart. And, of course, truck stops are almost always friendly to RV'ers.
(16) We are Internet equipped and we know how to use it! We have the sources for other tips on free camping spots. We have Google Earth to check them out by satellite as well as street views to see what they actually look like before we ever call for reservations, and can also check elevations to make sure they aren't in a flood area. We know how to use local search to locate vehicle services, and call them directly without relying on auto clubs with offices nowhere near where we are. We use several sources for weather and radar maps, to avoid bad weather situations, and we will have the time to drive around them. We will avoid the Midwest, and especially "tornado alley" during the tornado season, but will visit those areas in the fall.
(17) We "may" eventually succumb to buying a GPS that is especially designed for RVers. I won't settle for anything less than the best, such as the ones from Rand McNally. I'm very good at reading maps, and have always depended on them, but in an effort to get into the "paperless" age, I'm willing to give the GPS units a try. We may also get a portable unit for geocaching, as that hobby looks like it may be of interest to us. We may also get a good metal detector someday.
(18) We will still do our blogging as one of our hobbies, as well as maintain our "money-making" blogs and sites for business reasons.
The other hobby is our music, and I would like to get good enough on the keyboard to accompany Sharon on the piano. The jury is still out as to whether I will be able to toughen my fingers up enough to play the guitar again, but anything is possible with determination. We also have an electronic guitar, a Suzuki Q-Chord, that I would like to get better at playing without the cartridges, and maybe I'll even learn to control my breathing on the harmonica (we have several).
(19) For the first year, at least, and likely beyond, transferring stuff to digital format will be another of my hobbies. We have LP albums, slides, cassettes, home-recorded VHS tapes, and photos, all of which will have to be transferred to digital format in order to free up storage space. That process could take years.
(20) Our matched set of 18-speed mountain bikes will definitely go with us, and we will actively search out reasonably level trails to ride on. We have been off the bikes for way too long, and have to build up our stamina again.
(21) If we trade vehicles, we would like to stay with something small, like a Class B or B+ as a tow vehicle and keep the trailer. "However"...if it appears to be better for us in the long run to go back to a Class A again, for the storage space and comfort, it won't be over 32-feet in length. And the trailer would then have to be traded for a daily runner with good fuel economy...probably an SUV or minivan that can be towed on all four. I shudder to think of having to use a tow dolly. Only some time and experience will lead us to what will work best for us for the long haul.
(22) We'll follow the 3/300 rule for the most part. No more than 300 miles in a day, and be stopped by 3 PM. In reality, there may be many times we don't drive anywhere near 300 miles in a day. After all...what's the rush? We will have nowhere to be at any certain time, plenty of places at which to stop, and can finally stop and smell the roses whenever and wherever and for as long as we want.
(23) Rules are made to be revised or even broken if necessary. What we "think" will work based on past experience may no longer work next year. Everything changes given enough time, and so must we.
Going forward, our end goal is to see as much of this beautiful country as we can see for as long as we can see it. Generally, short stays are in order, but in some areas we may stay longer if there's enough to see before we move on. When the time comes that we can no longer drive an RV, we'll find something smaller, and hope to keep on going, even if only part-time.
Only we will know when the time is right to settle down again, and when that time comes, we'll hope to find some small place that can accommodate RV's so that our friends can come visit, and will be compact enough that it won't cost us an arm and a leg to maintain it. And if we can rent such a place, so much the better. We've lived in a resort park, and we don't really like the "politics" of most places, but we do like the amenities. Seems it's hard to have one without the other, but we'll know when it feels right.