4 Weeks Down, 48 to Go: Lessons Learned From Our First 28 Days on the Road

Well we did it. The adventure has officially begun.

On Saturday August 2nd, we officially moved out of our house, packed 2 – 10 X 10 storage units with some remaining belongings, hauled 2 trailer fulls of stuff to donate, gave a bunch more stuff away, had a house ‘cooling’ party and rolled out of West Michigan with stars in our eyes and big dreams as we drove off into a minimalist sunset.

The Boyds on Launch Day

The Boyds on Launch Day

I could tell you that its been all unicorns and butterflies. Or I could tell the truth. There has been a reason (several actually) why we have not been posting the daily play-by-play. Mostly because finding your ‘road legs’ takes time.

Its been fantastic and monumentally challenging at the same time. You are taking all that you consider familiar and comfortable and leaving it on the curb and seeing how your temperament handles it. You are burning the lifeboats. Thus far, I liken the experience to learning to swim by watching a few ‘How to Swim’ videos on YouTube and then getting shoved off a dock.

Rather than go into too much detail, here are some ‘highlights’ of what happened over the last 4 weeks:

  • Driving 200 + miles out of our way because it was discovered that there were 2 campgrounds in Minnesota with the same name – one in the boundary waters (our desired destination) one in some podunk (but charming) town
  • Our RV bedroom window blowing out while 2 hours into an all day driving trip (still have no idea how it happened)
  • An overnight canoe/camping trip in Voyagers National Park where we slept under the stars and had to get hauled out by motorboat the next morning due to the waves growing too large for us to make it safely back to base
Paddling to our campsite in Voyageurs National Park

Paddling to our campsite in Voyageurs National Park

  • Successfully avoiding getting t-boned by a clueless driver who missed ramming our RV by mere inches
  • Boondocking at a Walmart Supercenter where the locals drive big loud pickups and love to harass overnighters by flashing their lights at our windows and leaning on their horns
  • Closed 4 new clients for my consulting business - one while standing in the Mall of America (MN) food court
  • Watching my sons get badges from the MN Park Ranger for learning good backcountry camping habits and learning about the local wildlife
The boys get awards for learning about and respecting the local wildlife

The boys get awards for learning about and respecting the local wildlife

  • Had near emotional breakdowns when our 4.5 hour planned trip turned into 8.5 hours as we arrived at our Minnesota campground in 82 degree heat and high humidity (saved by whiskey and ginger ale)
  • Working in my truck into the night parked outside an RV campground office because it was the only place to get wifi
  • Had to get the thermostat replaced on the truck due to my newbie RV driving overeating it
  • Visiting the infamous ‘Wall Drug’ in Wall, South Dakota and enjoying home made donuts and apple pie

Hiking the Castle Trail in Badlands National Park

  • Hiking  the Badlands with the family and devouring some amazing local pizza
  • Visiting Mount Rushmore (‘nuf said)
  • And as always…meeting interesting people along the way

As far as driving goes, we’re used to 8 hour drives for vacations and road trips. No big deal for the Boyds. Give the kids a stack of movies and a cooler full of food and you wont hear from them for at least 4 hours before one of them has to pee. Traveling while towing a 30 foot personal storage unit called home is a very different experience. Dad is on the edge the whole time – wincing at every gust of wind and bump in the road that causes the beast in tow to fishtail or bounce around the road. Now I fully understand the need for frequent rest stops.

Regardless, we are figuring it out, and I would not trade it for anything. Here’s some somewhat practical lessons learned from the first few weeks: 

  1. Wifi and Cell Service is Top Priority for Road Working -  I invested in a good amount of wifi and cellular boosting equipment before the big send off because I need it to work. Regardless, you still need a campground that has a good connection or at least a way for you to get service on your own device. We opted for a few budget campgrounds that had poor wifi and cellular connections and I paid for it in having to drive to find locations with acceptable connections. Now when we book a place the first question we ask over the phone (not going by just the website) is how strong their wifi signal is.
  2. RV Park Owners Exaggerate – I have quickly come tot he conclusion that RV park owners look at their parks with rose-colored glasses. What is described on a website as a ‘playground’ is generally a ‘swingset’. One park we stayed at the sites were so close together that I would walk out our door, take 2 steps and I was standing on my neighbor’s sewage dump hole (for the dreaded ‘black tank’). Clean bathrooms are completely subjective. We have agreed that paying a little more for a more reputable park is totally worth it.
  3. Add 1.5 Hours to Your Driving Times – I have heard RVers say they don’t drive more than 4 hours per day and now I understand why. You are driving slower than the speed limit (55-60) most of the time. You are stopping for gas more of the time. You need a rest stop just to give your nerves a break and to get your anus to stop puckering – especially when you are dealing with windy days, lots of semis passing you and roads that need attention.
  4. Fulltime Travel Demands Ruthlessly Strategic Work Time – I have to remind my family weekly that this is technically not a vacation in the true sense of the word, but rather an ongoing working vacation. Nevertheless, it gets hard when I’m sitting there working and the kids wonder why I can’t talk or won’t do something with them. As much as I can, I go offsite to get focused time at Starbucks or public libraries. I divide my days where I get at least 6 hours of work and then a hike or activity with the kids. So far so good.
  5. The Purging of Stuff Doesn’t End – I confess I brought my circular saw and palm sander with me on the trip because I was not finished building some shelves in the RV. Now I want to ship them back to our storage unit just to gain some space. We have stuff to take to donate already that we thought we needed but really don’t. The more stuff you have, the more time of your life it takes to maintain it.
  6. Expect to See Some of the Worst in Yourself at Times – When you unapologetically throw yourself into completely un-normal situations as a lifestyle, you’d better expect to deal with the ugly sometimes. I have had to learn to chill the hell out, give myself a break, chuckle, and remind myself that I am in no rush to be anywhere, for anyone. I live in a trailer for god’s sake.

Our next destination is the Black Hills of South Dakota and then Yellowstone National Park. As a bonus, we have some very good friends driving 6 hours from Colorado just to meet us for the weekend for some hiking and hang out. The kids are adjusting better as mom and dad adjust better – funny how that happens.

Until next time, Stay Unruly.


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