We’ve been on the road, living full time in our RV, for two weeks. It feels like it’s been A LOT longer. There’s been a lot of excitement packed into a short amount of time, some good and some not so good.
Day one was busy. We worked up until the last minute getting the rig packed and ready for full time life on the road. In addition to getting the rig packed, we had to get our old place cleared out. We’ll be checking back in there every 3-4 months over the next year, but we couldn’t just pick up and leave. We got everything we wouldn’t be taking with us stored away and got the whole place as clean and presentable as we could. It’s impossible to ever feel like we were 100% ready to go, but at some point you just have to make the leap. We said a tearful goodbye to Kelsey’s Grandpa, took a deep breath, started up the rig and started driving. Our first destination was a really cool looking Harvest Hosts site in Oklahoma; an Alpaca farm that could accommodate us and our pets. We didn’t quite make it though…
We were on the road for about an hour when we heard a sort of ‘pop’ sound. It sounded like it came from inside the RV. Kelsey looked around but we couldn’t figure out what fell. We know that for the first few weeks or months of our trip, we’ll be changing things up quite a bit as we learn how to live on the road. Where and how should we store things? How will we go about simple everyday tasks that were much simpler when we lived in a normal house? We figured we just hadn’t secured something in one of our closets well enough and that we would figure it out when we got parked for the night. A few minutes later, another driver flagged us down and let us know that we’d lost one of our solar panels. That was the source of the ‘pop’ sound.
Right when we found out we’d lost our solar panel a lot of scary thoughts went through our head. What if it hit another car? The person who told us what happened let us know that we had lost it about a mile and a half back. Before we could go back and find it though, we had to be sure the other two panels wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Parked on the side of a busy highway, I scrambled up to the roof of the RV to assess the damage. I checked out the other two panels, tightened everything down as well as I could so that we could slowly, and nervously, backtrack to find our lost solar panel. We managed to find it. We were incredibly grateful to discover that when it flew off the RV, it flew off to the side into a ditch and not straight behind us where it could have really hurt someone. We grabbed the rogue panel and headed straight for the closest parking lot, a grocery store that also happened to have an auto-parts store next to it. Our two remaining panels didn’t seem like they would fly off like the first one did, but we definitely weren’t confident enough in that to continue on to our planned stop. The alpacas would have to wait.
In the grocery store parking lot, I started the process of completely removing and then reinstalling our other 2 solar panels (the panel we’d lost wouldn’t be going back on the roof, it was a goner) in the most OVERKILL way I possibly could. I walked to the auto parts store to find the strongest loctite they sold and upgraded the lock washers I’d originally used to install the panels to much stronger and more reliable lock washers (note to self: don’t trust the hardware that comes with solar panels, always buy new stuff). I applied industrial strength adhesive, quite liberally, anywhere I possibly could and installed eye-bolts on the roof so that I can run ratchet straps across the panels in case anything ever fails again. It’s ugly and I’ve never seen any other RVs or boats using cargo straps as a safety net for rogue solar panels, but I’m guessing not many people have had the displeasure of losing a solar panel while traveling 60mph.
After this whole ordeal, we were really shaken up. We wouldn’t be seeing any alpacas that night. The only bit of good luck we had that day was that we lost the solar panel right in front of a different Harvest Hosts site; the Louisburg Cider Mill. We called them up, explained that we were having some troubles and they were kind enough to let us stay there that night on short notice (usually Harvest Hosts sites require at least one days notice).
That first night, we weren’t feeling great. We felt like failures. It was day one, of what is supposed to be a year long trip, and we’d barely made it out of town. After some reassuring words from our parents, and some RVing friends on Instagram who have experienced plenty of troubles of their own during their travels (turns our we weren’t as alone as we thought in the self-ejecting-solar-panels department), we managed to pull ourselves together and get on the road the next morning and point ourselves towards the alpacas. Then we ran out of gas. F*ck… But it turns out we didn’t run out of gas. Our RV has two tanks, but at some point over the last 42 years some wires got crossed and the gas gauge doesn’t show you the level of the tank you’re using, it shows the amount of gas in the tank you’re not using. Super helpful. We put this together after a visit from a representative of our roadside assistance membership. Definitely money well spent. (pro amatuer tip: get full time RVer insurance if you’re full-timing, don’t try to save money by getting regular insurance).
On day two, we actually made it to the alpaca farm! It felt like quite an accomplishment. We actually made it out of Kansas! Not super far, I admit. But we did what we set out to do and that was cause for celebration. We had a great time at the alpaca farm, our hosts were super kind and gave us an amazing tour of their farm. Hand feeding an alpaca is something I highly recommend people do at least once in their lives. If you can get your hands on a scarf made from alpaca, do that too.
For the next few days we slowly made our way to see some friends in Oklahoma City. We stopped and camped in a Camping World parking lot in Tulsa for a few days so we could dump our gray tank, fill our propane and fresh-water tanks, fix some leaky windows, change out our old/faded headlights and pick-up a few random tools. After Tulsa, we stayed at Prague City Lake for a night and paid a whopping $6 dollars to camp. So far, that’s the only time we have had to pay for a place to stay.
The first 2 weeks of this trip have been a growing experience. We’re learning a lot about our RV and life on the road and we’re learning even more about ourselves. There have been times that we haven’t felt like we’re up to the challenges of full time RV life. But here we are. There’s more to learn, more challenges to tackle, and even more fun to be had. Bring it on.