After almost four months on the road, we are deciding to shift our mode of living.
Going into this adventure, the only goal was to do it; to seize the opportunity to experience life on the road; to be vagabonds for a while. We did not set a timeline, we are not collecting spoons, we do not need to visit every state of the union. We wanted to be at this until it was not fun anymore or something else presented better. So why are we stopping? It's not one thing, but a bit of a laundry list.
This mode of living is grossly inefficient. I am talking about a variety of inefficiencies.
First, there is the inefficiency of pulling a small house everywhere you go. At 10 miles per gallon of diesel and thousands of miles, a lion's share of our budget goes toward feeding the truck. This really is not all about our budget either. At some point you cannot repress your conscience any longer and must admit that you are being a poor steward of planet Earth. We would like to be more efficient because it is better for our children's planet.
The next inefficiency is related to food. Everywhere we went was a new place for us. That, amongst other things, meant that grocery stores were often far away (more gas) or expensive or both. Further, because of the relatively small refrigerator and pantry, we could not really buy staples in bulk which further added to food costs. Eating out was rare for us and we always packed food on travel days. So we took care of the costs as best we could, but it is intrinsically inefficient to frequently travel varying distances to unknown supermarkets to buy small amounts of food.
As the cold set in, we really started to feel the price of propane. For the first month, September, it was summery and warm. Our two 30 gallon bottles of propane lasted the whole month -- even when cooking every day. For all intents and purposes propane was free. Then we started hitting cold weather. This required us to turn on the furnace. The furnace sucks propane like it is air. (Technically the furnace sucks both propane and air to achieve combustion.) Bernadette is many things, but airtight she is not. In cold weather, the monthly propane cost would make a homeowner blush.
As I wrote about previously, our time windows for going out into the world and experiencing these various places and landscapes are extremely narrow. Our children need sleep (schedule structure), healthy food, and room to grow. We have figured out how to achieve these things while living on the road, however the crucial compromise is that we we seem to only have superficial experiences with the places we visit. We often leave a place saying to ourselves "that would be nice to visit without the kids" or "the kids might really like that when they are older". Rarely do we find ourselves saying "wow, that place/activity was really dialed-in for 0-3 year old children!"
The other form of time inefficiency is the raw number of hours driving. We spend a lot of time in the truck. This includes both the "macro" time of driving between destinations and "micro" time of intra-destination driving. In net, it is a lot more time in a vehicle than I am either used to or comfortable with. And as uncomfortable I am with it, the kids are less comfortable. Being cooped up in the truck is clearly one of Tommy's least favorite things. In terms of time inefficiency, there is a zero-sum game at play: we can either be driving or doing other things, but not both. So there are some things we would like to be doing that often lose out. For example, exercise. Another example: any sort of hobbies.
RV parks are universally terrible with internet service. Most RV parks advertise "Wi-Fi", but rarely do they deliver in practice. Here is a list of issues RV parks typically have with delivering internet service:
- Poor signal strength
- Terribly low WAN bandwidth
- Time-limited service (e.g. 30 minutes per day)
- Paid internet service
- Paid metered internet service (I'm looking at you, Tengo Internet)
- Schizophrenic login pages
- Commodity D-Link router for 200 campsites
The thing is, the internet is a damn useful tool for travel. To be cut-off from it makes planning day to day activities very difficult. And, we would like to be connected to the rest of the world for things like email and posting to this blog. We spent a frustratingly large amount of energy fiddling with internet problems just so we could pull up a reasonable map.
Moving around every week does not foster community. We occasionally met people. They were invariably great. But then we left or they left and that was that. I have no doubt that we could have been more proactive, more outgoing, or more something, but it still would have been transient encounters.
Another issue is demographics. Young-ish families with small children are the overwhelming minority during the off-season at RV parks. More could be said about this, but what it boils down to is that full-time RV living is mostly an older, empty-nester's game.
The primary reason we felt we needed to leave Utah is because it is on the wrong end of the country relative to our relatives. Our travels brought us to the eastern end of the country and thereby close to both of our extended families. It was really nice having that access. Living in a fixed strategic location would give us more access.
So what is next? We have made it all the way to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Snow is afoot and we have found an excellent living situation. Bernadette is in storage and the truck is getting some rest. It is the polar opposite of RV living. Our next step is to take some deep breaths and get our bearings before making any big decisions.
This will probably the last regular freegraysons.net post. Thanks for reading!