The season that started a new adventure
Ben and I have been working seasonal jobs mostly in the hospitality industry since we met each other and even before that. Our ninth season on the road together is the season we decided to put our lives out on the internet and share some of the adventures and knowledge we have accumulated along our travels. It was a scary step to make ourselves vulnerable by sharing our lifestyle, opinions, and way of living with the world. However, we had become content with work camping and were looking for a new challenge. Ultimately, we decided to go for it and with a passion for our way of life and curiosity about what this next step could lead to, we started our YouTube channel.
The beginning of this season was spent in Utah where we had new challenges to overcome with the addition of the YouTube channel to our lives and a global pandemic that no one could have anticipated. We had already overcome challenges that come along with work camping and living in an RV full-time. Now we had to work on the YouTube channel while maintaining our full-time work camping job. And, we had to take our normal routines/ daily life and figure out how to add the camera to that. Not only that but we had to figure out how YouTube works from the creator’s standpoint, how were our videos going to be formatted, and what information was important for us to record? We had been working in remote locations with limited internet and cell service and were out of touch with the world of technology and social media. In fact, it was around this time that we found ourselves at an electronic store and I remember looking around in amazement at the tech gear that I didn’t know existed. It was going to be necessary to research and catch up with the advancements of technology and social media. We knew the technology and tools available to us in the RV and automotive world and now it was time to branch out and increase our knowledge base for a new adventure.
We began this season by discussing some of the most important things that make our lifestyle possible. The tools we use are vital in maintaining our home. We have often discussed which tools are necessary and if they are worth the weight they add to the truck. The short answer is that they are worth carrying. We do however go through the tool box periodically and reassess what we have. The tool box is ever changing. We shed tools when they break or we determine we will likely not need them again (an example is specialty tools purchased to make a repair or install).
There are specialty tools we have purchased and held onto that have come in handy at a later date or they are used to do their intended job and then discarded or given away because they aren’t worth carrying. In a previous season we had to rebuild the suspension on the front of the truck. We had to buy pickle forks and a pitman arm puller. We held onto these tools and this season during our time in California we discovered the steering gear box needed to be replaced (Video 12). This meant we needed those tools once again which reduced our cost of the repair as we only had to purchase the replacement gear box. Beyond the tools we carry is the routines we have put in place to live more efficiently and cost effectively.
While in Utah we were living roughly 230 miles (one way) from the nearest town with any big box stores. Over the years we have come up with ways of storing groceries to make the most out of our small refrigerator and cabinet space. Our shopping trips (Video 3) were a big deal this season. We were able to buy and store groceries for an entire MONTH!!
What we found was the combination of buying in bulk and repackaging food in zip lock bags was cheaper than buying smaller packages. We were also able to figuring out a core set of ingredients that we always buy (all of which can be used in many different recipes). This made writing a grocery list for the monthly shopping trip much simpler. It became a matter of restocking ingredients rather than creating a meal plan for the entire month. Overall, we found doing four weeks of shopping was much more cost effective than shopping weekly or bi-weekly. And, when the grocery store is as far away as it was this season we did not want to be making trips every week. Another huge factor in making this possible was our 12-volt refrigerator. The usable interior capacity is larger than the old 2-way and allowed us to store more.
Speaking of the 12-volt refrigerator, which draws its power directly from the batteries. We had discovered on our way to Utah that our battery bank was beginning to fail. Because the refrigerator does not have the capability of operating off of any other power source we began to weigh our options for replacement batteries with a sense of urgency. We did consider installing Lithium batteries but we were still leery of them because of the cold weather applications. In fact, we moved the battery bank into an interior cabinet in preparation for lithium and although we were aware of the technology for regulating the interior temperature of the lithium batteries that technology is still relatively new and we decided to go with at least one more set of lead acid batteries. When we remodeled the RV (Video 7.2) we upgraded our batteries from flooded golf cart batteries to sealed 12-volt AGM. During the remodel we settled on the less expensive VMAX Charge Tank battery for financial reasons but it also gave us the opportunity to do a comparison with the batteries we installed this season; the Interstate GC2-HD-AGM which is what we had wanted to install originally (Video 5).
Once the new battery bank was installed the RV was ready to hit the road again and so were we. Our contract was coming to an end and we were getting more and more restless. I’m not sure what it is that makes us want to move on so badly. It isn’t like we hate our jobs or the place we are living. It could be the excitement of freedom and uncertainty about what is in store for us next. Regardless, more often than not we find ourselves working our last shift of the season and getting on the road. It doesn’t matter that we don’t get very far, it’s more about getting started. So, this season was much like any other, we finished our last shift and got on the road headed for California, checking out a few new boondocking locations along the way.
We were excited to get to California as we were going to see friends and family that we had been away from for a while. We are fortunate enough to have friends and family that will let us moochdock in their driveways. And, while moochdocking we offer our help to our hosts. We are happy to help with yard work, trips to the dump, or any other project they might need an extra set of hands for. This trip we did help with a few chores for our hosts but we also had a number of chores on our own list. Between jobs we work on the maintenance, repairs and upgrades we are unable to do on the road or while work camping. Often times there are projects that are not possible to complete any other time because of time limitations while we are working or restrictions on what we are allowed to do to the truck and rig where we have it parked. We had quite a list this season (Video 11); from waxing the RV to an oil change on the truck and all the smaller projects in between.
What we have discovered is that when we start taking things apart to get into one project it either leads us down the road to another that we might as well take care of while things are apart or we discover something is broken and we end up with unexpected projects that can make our list grow as quickly as we cross things off. As discussed above the steering gear box replacement in the truck was the unexpected project this season (Video 12).
Even with the unexpected projects we were able to get all of the necessary items checked off of our list. Which meant it was time to move on and spend some time having fun on the road before we started the next job. The first stop was outside of Reno, Nevada to see Ben’s dad before we moved east again. The visit was accompanied by good food and some dirt bike riding (Video 13).
Lauren got to learn how to ride the motorcycle and Ben got to spend some time doing something he was very passionate about when he was younger. After this brief diversion it was time to get back on Interstate 80 eastbound.
Which led us to Wyoming where we broke down and had to be towed for the first time in our RVing history (Video 15). We had broken down several times before but had never had to be towed. We made the decision to be towed when we realized we were leaking coolant and we could not repair it from the road. The route we were traveling had spotty cell phone service and we were still an uneasy distance from the nearest town with an auto repair shop. For these reasons we pulled over in the nearest parking area which happened to have cell phone service and called for a tow. We realized quickly that there was going to be more involved than just calling for a tow truck. It was going to take some coordination. We had to find a repair shop that could fix the truck right away and a campground for the RV. They sent two tow trucks, one for the truck and one for the RV. Once we determined the tow company would drop the RV at the campground we made reservations.
Ben would go with the truck to the repair shop and Lauren would go with the RV to the campground. Everything fell into place beautifully as the repair shop was less than a mile from the campground and had a courtesy vehicle that we could utilize to get back and forth. We felt very lucky to have the truck being repaired and a safe place to stay. Everything had worked out better than we could have hoped for in the situation we found ourselves in. The repair shop was able to get the truck repaired and we were back on the road, ready for the last leg of our trip and the beginning of season 10.