Category Archives: RV Life

Final Cost of Our Trip of a Lifetime

[Note: Article updated to estimate costs without the RV accident.]

2012 was a magical year.  That’s when we explored the beautiful natural lands of the western United States, Canada, and Alaska.

We left our Kentucky home in January 2012.  We spent 292 days or 9-1/2 months on the road, and ended our trip in Florida in November 2012.  We hiked 836 miles and visited 94 parks along the way, including 29 national parks, 24 state parks, and 11 national monuments.  You can view a detailed analysis of our trip here.

So now that we have finally sold our RV, I am able to calculate all our expenses related to our trip.  Without the accident, the final cost of our trip was approximately:


This computes to approximately:

$5,900 per month
$185 per day
$11 per waking hour


Top 10 Favorite Dispersed Campsites

Dispersed camping is camping for free outside of established campgrounds on public land, typically on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, national forests or national monuments in the United States, or Crown Land in Canada.  We dispersed camp about 1/3 of the nights on our trip.  Not only did this save us thousands of dollars in campground fees, it greatly extended our nature experience.  Instead of being surrounded by people, buildings, lights and noise in a campground, with dispersed camping we got to enjoy wide open skies, sights and sounds of wildlife, remarkable natural features, privacy, peace and solitude.

Following are our top 10 favorite dispersed campsites.  It wasn’t difficult to choose our top favorites, but it was challenging to limit the list to only 10 places.  We judged dispersed campsites based the criteria stated in our article, Top 10 Reasons We Prefer Roadside Camping.


1. Yoho National Park

Wapta Falls Rec Site (3 nights)
Crown Land just outside Yoho National Park
British Columbia, Canada

View of Wapta Falls from our RV

Our campsite had a spectacular, unobstructed view of the wide Wapta Falls, which was only 1/3 mile away and roared loudly.  Behind the falls rose two 10,000+ foot glacier-covered mountains.

READ MORE >> for When RVs Have to Go

One of the less enjoyable aspects of RVing is emptying the waste water, also known as “dumping.”  In most RVs there are three tanks:

  • Fresh Water Tank – Holds the fresh water for drinking, cooking, showering and bathing
  • Grey Water Tank – Holds the waste water from the shower, kitchen sink and bathroom sink
  • Black Water Tank – Holds the waste water from the toilet

The size of these tanks vary, but typically the fresh water tank has about the same capacity as the grey and black water tanks combined.  In our RV, the fresh water tank can hold 50 gallons, grey water 28 gallons, and black water 25 gallons.

Black tank and dump connection underneath our RV


High Wind in the California Desert

YouTube Preview Image

We knew we were back in the California desert when high winds started rocking our RV.  The next morning, shaking out the rug was an easy task, as all we had to do was hold on to the rug, and the wind did the rest.  Actually, it was quite a challenge just to hold on to the rug in the sustained 40+ mph winds.  This was in Dove Springs Recreation Area in south-central California.

Final Trip Analysis

We left our home in Union, Kentucky on January 26, 2012.  We spent 292 days or 9-1/2 months on the road, and ended our trip in Wimauma, Florida on November 12, 2012. 

Being the geek that I am, I’ve meticulously logged various aspects of our trip in a spreadsheet.  You may also wish to review my 3-month and 6-month analyses.  This may be a little boring to read, but cross-country RV travellers may find this information to be very useful.

Shadow and Theresa at our campsite in Zion National Park


Our Little Travel Companions

Our dogs Darby and Shadow have become excellent travel companions.

Darby giving me the look that she wants to be petted

In the beginning of our trip, Darby was a nervous traveler and would get especially jittery whenever our RV would cross a cattle grate or rumble strip on the road.  But over time she settled down, and now she’s quite calm on travel days.  Darby always sits or lays down on the floor between the driver and passenger seats.  When Theresa is driving, Darby often looks up at me with her cute brown eyes, as if to say, “Please pet me!”


Travelling Across the Country? There’s an App for That!

Although our entire trip has been focused on getting back to nature, we’ve relied quite heavily on modern technology, including computers, smartphones, and the Internet.  Technology enables us to research parks, select our hikes, and find campgrounds, restaurants, and gas stations.  Previously I wrote an article about all the technological hardware we use.  This article is focused on the software.  Most of the apps listed below run on iOS, in other words, on our iPhones and iPad.  A few run on our Windows laptop.  Here are the apps we’ve used the most on our trip, in alphabetical order:



ACDSee by ACD Systems International Inc. ($49.99)

I’ve taken A LOT of digital photos on this trip, well over a hundred photos per day.  I’ve used successive versions of ACDSee on Windows for over a decade.  The program strikes a good balance between power and ease of use.  It helps me organize all these photos, plus it has most of the basic editing functions I need, such as cropping, rotating, enhancing, red-eye repair, etc.  The biggest downside is the price, but I usually skip a few versions before upgrading.


Best Marshmallows for Roasting

On our year-long trip we’ve roasted a lot of marshmallows over open campfires.  And since we’ve shopped at many different grocery stores across the USA and Canada, we’ve tried many different brands of marshmallows.  Normally we like the quality and taste of store-brand foods, but we found that the store-brand marshmallows had an odd “chemical taste” when roasted, and the roasted marshmallow’s top layer didn’t peal off nicely so we could make double-roasted mallows.  After much experimentation, we’ve decided that the very best marshmallows for roasting are Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.  The marshmallow bag says “America’s Favorite,” so apparently the rest of America agrees with us!

Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows

You Can’t Think of Everything

When we made the decision to go on a year long RV trip, we had zero experience RVing.  We bought the RV on faith that we would enjoy traveling and living in it.  To learn how to use it, we spent a total of 4 days camping at Big Bone Lick State Park which was literally across the street from our house. That was the extent of our experience living in an RV before departing on our year long trip.   We hoped we could think of everything we needed to bring and what we forgot, we’d buy along the way.

As it turns out, we did pretty well imagining living in an RV.  To equip the RV, we brought many household items such as dishes, pans, utensils, toaster, clothes, sheets, towels, tools, outside table/chairs, etc.  However, there are a few things we brought that we often say, “Wow, I’m sure glad we brought that!”

Darby models her extra blanket that keeps her warm on cold nights.

1. The Dogs – Almost a year ago I wrote about our consternation on whether we should bring the dogs or leave them with a friend.  It turns out, we’re very glad we brought them.  With some patience and consistent training, the dogs became very good RV dogs.  We also ended up spending more time in parks that allow dogs on trails than we originally thought we would.  In fact, to date, the dogs have hiked 480 miles.  We have hiked 800 miles so the dogs have hiked with us 60% of the time.  We’ve never had to board them as they do fine in the RV while we hike in national parks that do not allow dogs on the trails.  It’s been a joy having them with us.  They are an integral part of what has made this trip enjoyable and we’d miss them terribly if they were not with us.


Camping in BLM Land: Free. Silence, Isolation and Spectacular Sunsets: Priceless

We’ve mentioned before how much we love dispersed camping, also known as roadside camping, random camping, and free camping.  The reasons are many:

  • It’s free!
  • It’s quiet
  • We are isolated and alone
  • We can run the generator whenever we want
  • The dogs can run free off the leash
  • The views are usually spectacular
  • Did we mention it’s quiet?

Timm cooking out with Shadow and Darby hoping to test the ribs