Things I will enjoy most about our new RV

We thought it would be several more years before we owned a new RV, but ol’ Thistle just keep falling apart. Upon arriving in Red River, New Mexico, she practically gave up the ghost, so we began looking for new RV’s that could still be towed with our current truck.

We landed on a 2018 Crossroads Volante, made by Keystone. The rig is a 35’ fifth wheel, has two slide-outs, and extra room in the master bedroom. This wasn’t our dream rig, it was just one step down, but still gave us much more breathing room for our now family of five.

Thistle, though she provided us lots of great memories had LOTS of problems too. The new RV is night and day difference. Below are just a “few” things I love about our new home on wheels.

For faster reading I have italicized  my favorites.

  1. Window treatments – For the past two years we have been covering our bedroom windows with towels and/or foil bubble wrap. We finally have pull down blinds!
  2. A light above my bed – Simple, yet extremely satisfying. I will now be able to read in my bed without having to strain my eyes.  We were never able to get the light above our bed to work.
  3. A place to stand up and change clothes – in both our bedroom and the bathroom. The “Master Bedroom” has standing room to change, as well as the bathroom. This means more privacy for all!
  4. Not having to wake Kristy by clothing pulling bins down at 5:30am – In our old RV we stored most of our clothing in whicker baskets above the bed. If I forgot to get my running cloths ready the night before I would make a lot of noise early in the morning pulling down bins, but we now have dresser drawers across from the bed to store our clothes!
  5. Bluetooth stereo! – No more tiny bluetooth speaker. We now have speakers inside and outside the rig that pair directly to our phone an iPads!
  6. High ceilings – Simple, but you won’t believe how much more roomy it makes the RV feel.
  7. Kids will have more room – I mean a LOT more room. Ever since we got the rig they have been pretty much playing in their room that has a slide out. This gives us more privacy and keeps our shoeless kids from dirtying up our bed (this used to be where they played)
  8. Perfect sized fridge – Upgraded from six cubit feet to eight. It makes a huge difference, plus the outdoor kitchen has a mini fridge as well. No more playing Tetris to fit items into the fridge.
  9. Outdoor kitchen for cooking on warmer days – Summer’s in Texas are miserable. The last thing you want to do is heat up your oven and stove top on a 95 degree day. The outside kitchen will be a welcomed addition on hot days.
  10. No more leaks (at least we hope). It’s been raining every afternoon since we got back to Red River. And so for, no leaks.
  11. Power awning – This was even better than I thought. It will withstand up to 25mph winds, previous model started rattling your nerves with 12-14 MPH winds, and on top of that it has a DUMP feature that empties water that collects on top.
  12. Comfy couch and sleeping area for guests – The couch and seating in the dinette area are SUPER comfy. Ol’ thistle poked you in the rear with metal rods, even our 5 year old daughter preferred a pillow under her bottom when sitting. Even today she commented on how she didn’t have to use a pillow on the new seats.
  13. Drawers under seating – We now have drawer access to the storage under the dinette seating. It’s now the location we store pots and pans…rather than inside the oven.
  14. Cupboard storage – Not just the cupboard storage….it’s ALL the storage. We have so much more of it now. SO MUCH!!!
  15. Bathtub that doesn’t drain down the side – In ol’ Thistle water would just run down the front side of the tub straight down onto the floor. So far it seems that isn’t happening in the new RV.
  16. Shower sprayer – The new shower sprayer has a cut-off feature on it that allows you to soap up your dirty bod so you don’t use all your hot water.
  17. Solar ready! – We haven’t been much for boon docking yet, have only done it once, but with a solar ready unit we just might start. All we need to do is purchase a portable solar panel, plug it in, and our battery will stay charged.
  18. Ease the fear of “what will go wrong next” – Thistle, as much as we loved her, just kept having problem after problem. According to the dealer the roof was also falling apart and they were going to have to send it to auction. This makes us even more glad we made the decision to get a new rig.
  19. Doors that don’t slam open or shut – The new RV has friction hinges, so the doors stay right where you place them. Whether that is fully open or just half way open. So you don’t have to worry about the door hitting you on the back side as you walk into your home.
  20. No more super noisy vent hood – cooking is such a joy…except when the noise of the vent hood drowns out your loved ones voices (although this can be nice when the kids are unruly). The new vent hood is much quieter and you can still carry on a conversation while coking.
It’s amazing how just a few things can make life in a tiny space a bit brighter. Now, some of you may be asking…”how did you afford such a fancy home.” Well, we decided to finance the rig, seeing as how this is our full time home, and Thistle was good as dead. Look for a follow up post with more details about the difficult decision.
For those wanting to see what our floorpan and the inside looks like, check it out on the Cross Roads website.

Goodbye, Thistle

Sometimes saying goodby is hard, but here it goes…..

Goodbye, Thistle, our thirty-foot rolling home.You’ve served us well for two years,

Bringing comfort wherever we roam.
Together we’ve seen seven states,

And many a mountain peak.

Through blazing heat and pouring rain,

You never sprang a leak.
In your shelter our family grew,

From a foursome to a party of five.

You helped us stay close and save money,

When we weren’t sure we could survive.
You’ve had your share of troubles:

Blow-outs, rot and pests.

But we choose to remember the good times,

And to heck with all the rest.
Thank you for being our teacher,

Patiently enduring while we learn

The rules of towing, backing-up,

And not hitting trees when you turn.
We hope the next family who owns you

Will be kinder to you than we.

Know you will always hold a place in our hearts

And a mark on my step-father’s tree.
Goodbye, Thistle, old friend.

You’ve been a most helpful abode.

Maybe we’ll see you again,

Down that long and winding road,

___

Stay tuned for posts about our brand new fifth wheel and why we decided to spring for a brand new rig (and finance it).

The excitement of a new RV

Only a few more nights living in Thistle….then we move into our new RV!

We have now been living in our 30’ Four Winds RV for over two years. Thistle, as we like to call our home, was our first home on wheels, and we are about to get a HUGE upgrade.

We have been longing for a new RV ever since our first RV show in spring of 2016. But the $56k sticker prices made our dream seem impossible. Our dream RV has 4 slide outs, two bathrooms, and a residential sized bathtub (high on the “must have list” for Kristy).

The dream of upgraded RV status is about to become a reality though. After two frustrating years of constant repairs on Thistle, we decided to start looking at RV’s again just to see what was out there.

One of the most important search parameters we were basing off of, was that we needed something our current Ford F-250 Diesel could tow. The search turned up an awesome Fifth Wheel RV that is very similar to our “dream RV” but just a few steps down.

We figured that the step up in space, but not such a huge jump would be worth it for us. The new rig can be towed with our current truck, and is only 35’ long as compared to 40’ long, which makes maneuvering the rig around much easier, and has a sticker price of $35k. The rig is the Crossroads Volante!

The new rig only has two slides, it doesn’t have a residential tub, or an extra bathroom, but it does give us more room, extra storage, and fewer headaches when it comes to repairs (as this rig is brand new). We get a lot of the upgrades we wanted in our “dream RV” without paying an astronomical price…. and our family gains a bit of sanity from gaining a bit of extra living space.

Below is a list of our favorite upgrades we get with purchasing this new rig:

  • Enough space in the master bedroom area to standup and change clothes (this was a big must have in a new rig)
  • Lots of extra space in the kids room for them to have space to play
  • Roomier bathroom, now with enough space to change clothes
  • A stereo system with indoor and outdoor speakers, that is also Bluetooth capable…no more dinky portable speaker
  • An outside kitchen. This will get lots of use during the hot Texas summers (that is if we even stick around for them)
  • 8 cubic foot fridge (upgraded from 6) and we also have the outside fridge to use as well.
  • Remote control for the slide outs and awning. This wasn’t something I was ever even looking for, but it will be nice to be able to put the slides out while I watch them without having to get Kristy to do it for me.

And a few things we wanted, but didn’t get:

  • A washer and dryer
  • Residential bathtub
  • An extra slide in the kitchen
  • A kitchen island
  • Extra seating in the living area

We never anticipated purchasing a rig so soon, but when we factored in all the repairs we have made, we thought we would rather put that towards a payment on a new rig. We should be picking up the new RV later this week. I will be sure to post pics once we get it, and will do another post about modifications we made.

Adjusting to a slower pace

I must admit, upon deciding to spend half our summer in Red River, New Mexico, I had no idea what I was really getting into. I just assumed that, as with any town, I would be able to go work remotely from a coffee shop, that buying groceries would be a breeze, and that I would have good cell phone reception.

I was wrong about all of that. Yes there are coffee shops here, and yes they have WiFi…sometimes, but the hours are sporadic. Usually the coffee shops close by 2 or 3pm, and opening at all is questionable. Cell phone service here is also very spotty, and you are lucky if you get any data right outside of town…if you do it’s usually 3G and VERY slow.

I have to admit, though, I like this slower paced lifestyle. On most days I have woken up early for a run or to read before the kids wake up, and then I go work for a few hours before joining the family for lunch. I then return to the RV Park community room or go back to town to get some more work done. Town, by the way, is only a mile from our RV park, and just one mile long, so I usually ride my bike into town.

I’m less distracted with things going on in the office too, so I’m able to do more work in less time, which has freed me to end my days early and spend more time with the family. It has been quite nice.

The whole family has been more relaxed here in the mountains. Our kids are calmer, they are even sleeping better, and both Kristy and I are just far more relaxed overall.

I don’t know if it’s the mountain air, the change in routine, the lack of oppressive heat, or just having fewer obligations, but everybody is happy here! We are definitely going to return to the mountains again next year. It does our family a lot of good.

2016 and early this year was pretty rough for our family. So, to be here in the mountains, slowing down, is a welcomed reprieve. Lately we have felt like our RV is falling apart (because it pretty much is) but despite all of that we are still calm and relaxed. A new RV might be in our future too. We just have to figure out how to make it happen.

 

 

Cool Mountain Air – We Arrived in New Mexico

We made it to Red River, New Mexico and woke up this morning to a wonderful 50 degree day. So far, I am in love with this place. The air is crisp, cool and smells like a mixture of campfire and pine trees, which happen to be my favorite smells.

The kids are much happier here than they were in Austin, mainly because they are not sweaty and there is plenty of new places to explore. Signs everywhere tell of bears and Josh is determined to find one and “fight him with his sword.”

Nate woke up at 5:40 AM because the one-hour time difference threw him off, but the other two kiddos slept until their normal 7:00 AM wake-up time. I was thankful for that because I was beat after two LONG days of travel.

Getting here was a little crazy. We broke the trip into two days and had flat tires both days. Thankfully, Caleb is now an expert tire-changer and we were able to get back on the road fairly quickly. I told him he could work in a pit crew now with all his experience. He didn’t think it was that funny, but I’m really very proud of him.

Caleb is planning on working in town most days, though finding an open coffee shop has been a challenge in this tiny little ski town. The population here is around 450 people and apparently there is only one barista in town and she just had a baby.

We will be here for six weeks and I have a stack of good books I’m hoping to devour in my down time. I’m also hoping to catch up on some writing too. Mainly I am hoping this trip will give our family time to relax and enjoy one another after the long season of grief and stress we have recently endured.

May the mountain air refresh us, mind, body and soul!

We’re going wheels down….to New Mexico

Doing whatever it takes to stay cool in 97 (feels like 100+) degree heat. The truck pool was a hit with the kids, especially when driven around the RV park.

Before summer even started we began dreaming of traveling to Colorado for the summer again. We didn’t know how we could survive another summer in Austin…in an RV…with THREE kids.

There were several problems holding us back though: finances, my work, and the fact I’m running another 100 mile race in Virginia in early October. July isn’t even here yet and we have already have a couple days over 100 degrees. But even before the last 100-degree day we decided we HAD to get out of Texas (we have figured out the temperature threshold for keeping the inside of the RV cool is about 93 degrees…at best).

So, I started doing some research on where we might be able to go to escape the heat, but not have to travel 1,600 miles and pay outrageous fees for campsites. At first it seemed a trip to the mountains wasn’t in the cards for us…that is until I discovered Red River, New Mexico.

We got a decent price on a lot at a local RV park for 5 weeks, and we have one week booked in a State Park nearby as well (for family vacation time). The travel distance is only about 1,400 miles round trip – nearly half the distance to our favorite Colorado destination. And the best part is; the average HIGH temperature is 77 degrees in the dead of summer. Thats even cooler than the Colorado front range.

Needless to say, we are excited to go wheels down in just two weeks. But before we roll out we have several things we have to take care of, such as repacking the bearings on the RV, rotating tires on the truck, and calling our bank to let them know we are traveling and to not freeze our debit cards (we have had this happen in the past at the worst possible time).

As with our past travels I will be able to work on the road….and some of my past concerns with being away from the office have subsided. I also came back with new vigor and rejuvenation after the last extended period of time away from the office.

On top of getting away from the heat, and getting some much needed rest for the family I will get to train for my next 100-mile race in the mountains! Which will put me at a good advantage going into the race in early October. Prior to knowing we would travel again I selected Grindstone 100 in Virginia as my 100 mile race of choice because I wasn’t going to get to the mountains, but now I will get to run a race at lower elevation after spending a good 6 weeks at higher elevations.

We are super excited to travel again and get the RV on the road. This was what we had hoped we would do from the very start of this journey…travel a lot. Life had more in store for us though…mostly our third child, but now that he is almost one we hope to be traveling a lot more.

Also, I plan on blogging a lot more here. I would love to know what full time RV related topics you might want to hear about.

Where have we been?

Thistle, parked at Midtown RV Park in Austin. We love this location.

For anybody that had been following our site, you may remember our last post was about expecting our third child. Well, a LOT has happned since then.

Baby Nathan is now eight months old, and surgical measures have been taken to ensure our family stays a family of five! Life has been pretty crazy since the birth of Nathan. Obviously…we haven’t posted here at all in nearly a year.

Things are finally starting to get back into a decent routine. Even though Nathan isn’t sleeping through the night yet, we are getting longer stretches, which makes life much easier.  Life is much harder when you lack sleep, and have no motivation to start your mornings early because you are up two or three times a night.

We even have plans to travel again this summer. It won’t be a long 3-4 month trip like we started this adventure with, but we are sure to get away for 4-6 weeks. I have signed up for my second-ever 100-mile Ultramarathon. This one is in Virginia. I have never been to the east coast before, so I’m looking forward to experiencing mountains east of the Rockies.

The race is the Grindstone 100, and is in early October. Idealy I wanted to run a September race in Colorado, but my work schedule dictated a need for something later in the year. The only major down side to this is I will have to do most of my training in the Texas heat, but that will also better prepare me for the humid conditions of the eastern mountains.

We are still snugly tucked into our lot in East Austin. I keep giving Kristy a hard time because she insists on creating a sense of permanency here by purchasing large plants that grace our patio. The best part of living here in East Austin though is the proximity to Downtown, and recreational spots like Town Lake, The Greenbelt, and Secret Beach.

Dad, hiking with baby Nathan on The Greenbelt (this of course was towards the end of the hike)

The simplicity (though cluttered and frustrating at times) that RV living brings is something we have grown to love. I honestly get stressed and overwhelmed when visiting friends with large houses. My mind races with how hard upkeep would be; mowing lawns, cleaning garages, and sweeping expansive floors, just to name a few time consuming tasks I would have to deal with if I owned a home. That is not to say we will never own a home, but we really do love this lifestyle.

Though we might not travel as much as some full time RV families, we look forward to the day my business provides more freedom to travel more. But for the time being we will enjoy the couple months out of the year we do get to travel, and the few weekend trips we take for my trail running adventures (such as our Guadalupe Mountains trip last year).

 

 

Waiting for Baby Number Three

Well, I haven’t made good on my promise to write every week. I’m sorry. To tell you the truth, I have been doing other things. Namely cooking up a baby and preparing our home to receive that baby in as much comfort as possible. I knew you would understand.

People who know we live in an RV often ask me lots of questions about where we will put the baby. This makes me smile inside because newborn babies are so tiny, you can really put them anywhere. I used to say (only part jokingly) that baby would be sleeping in the laundry basket. I didn’t think it was such a terrible idea, but it definitely got me some weird looks.

You may be relieved to know that baby does have a bassinet and that everything has come together quite nicely for his or her arrival. I’m amazed at how little we have needed this time around. I don’t know if it’s because this baby is our third or the fact that five people will be sharing 280 square feet of living space, but I just don’t feel the need to fill our home with baby stuff. About half of our small renovations have been for the big kids, to help them be more independent.

It’s been really freeing to keep it simple and only bring in the baby items that will truly add value to our lives. So, for those of you who are curious about how in the world we are making room for baby #3, here are some pictures of what we’ve done. It’s not much, but it makes life comfortable for us and that’s really all we need.

My mom handcrafted these beautiful ladders so we could move our two big kids up to the top bunk and give them more independence. They love being up top together and having the freedom to come down when they need a drink or potty in the night. You can also see we adjusted their bookshelf down a few inches so both kiddos can easily reach it. It’s amazing how a small adjustment like that makes my world so much better. No more crouching down to fetch books or put them away!

bunkladders

bottombunk

The bottom bunk will be baby’s when he or she gets old enough. For now, we will use it for changing diapers and storing stuff. I got each kid a set of three plastic bins that house their folded clothes: undies, pj’s, shorts. This has also given the big kids more responsibility for picking out and putting on their own clothes.

rv_baby_cosleeper

My friend Chelsea gave me this tiny co-sleeper that fits PERFECTLY between my bed and the window. Baby will sleep here for the first few months. My mom built a shelf that goes all the way down my side of the bed for the bassinet to rest upon.

rv-storage-hooks
On the back side of my bedroom door, I have employed an arsenal or command hooks to hold various baby necessities out of the way: diaper bag, Ergo carrier and nursing pillow. The beaver bag holds diapers, wipes and burp cloths.
I hope you enjoyed this little “tour” of our home. Now all we need is baby!

Cooling Down Kiddos

It’s summertime in Texas! And that means the heat is ramping up. My little hooligans have become sissified, though and are out-right refusing to go outside. What the heck!?!? It’s only 90 degrees… And it’s only getting hotter. I blame Colorado. 
We spent all of last summer in the crisp, cool shadow of the Rocky Mountains. It was glorious. And it made my kids think that summer is a breeze, unlike the pit-of-hell we Texans are accustomed to. Oh, well. This summer we are staying put, so they better get used to it. 
We have gotten creative with some cooling-down strategies for outside play. Here are some ideas we are trying this summer:
– Water guns

– Water sidewalk chalk – Wetting the patio first makes the colors more vibrant and the patio cooler. 

– Sprinkler play

– Bucket o’ water – I know, it sounds stupid but they never tire of pouring, splashing and dunking their toys. 
– Water balloons
– “Surprise! Mama’s got the hose!” – I like to sneak attack them when they are fussing about the heat. It cools both mind and body. And gives us a good laugh. 


You got any good ideas? I’d love to hear them!

One year living in an RV with two toddlers

Full Time RV Family

Our whole family thought we were crazy. Our friends all said it was cool, but inside they probably thought we had lost our mind. What parent in their right mind would live in 250 square-feet of space with two toddlers? Our minds had been made up though, and nothing was going to change it.

Almost one year ago today my wife and I had just finished paying off our debt. We celebrated by visiting Dave Ramsey in Nashville Tennessee and did our “Debt Free Scream” on his nationally syndicated radio program. Just prior to making the trip I had sold my 2009 Subaru Outback and paid cash for a used RV.

The RV was our new home. In just a few short weeks our lease was going to be up on our apartment in South Austin. We would then kick off our new tiny home lifestyle with a trip to Colorado and Utah to promote Bearded Brothers (our family business) in a new region of Whole Foods. I was also going to use the time in the mountains to help train for the Wasatch 100, which I completed in September in a time of 36 hours and 20 minutes.

We spent several weeks leading up to the big move repairing our RV, that we affectionally named, Thistle, for reasons I can’t go into detail on. But we finished the repairs just in time, and actually managed to move out of our apartment, into our tiny home on wheels, three days early.

After one month of living in various RV parks around Austin, we hit the road for our Summer tour. Thankfully at that point our kids had pretty much already grown accustomed to living in the RV. They didn’t mind it one bit. There wasn’t a single dose of complaining about the tiny space. That’s the beautiful thing about toddlers, it’s easier to make big life changes like this because they just roll with the punches. To them it was just life…it was their normal.

Throughout the summer we rolled around from RV park to RV park, including some family vacation time in Estes Park. The entire time our kids, Abigail and Joshua, just rolled with the punches. To them it was just one huge adventure. They actually loved not having structured days, and loved having LOTS of time outside in nature.

Estes Park KOA RV Park

Estes Park KOA. We parked here for a week to enjoy a family vacation.

We were usually parked next to a river or right under the mountains. One of my favorite spots, and one of the most breathtaking was Leadville, although the wife despised it because of the altitude. The kids loved it too, and the RV park actually brought back fond memories of being in the mountains as a child, and it had turned out I had stayed in that exact same park when I was nine. We even recreated an old photo of my sister and I with my own kids in a play fort they had at the playground.

The trip wasn’t all fun and games though. Most of the days we lived a normal life. I worked most days, usually doing product demos at Whole Foods to promote our energy bars that had just landed on their shelves. But our kids never complained about being away from “home” because to them, “home is where you park it.”

The apex of the trip was late September in Utah when I ran the Wasatch 100. It was my dream race, and I conquered it — but by then my wife and I were missing Austin more than our kids were, and our journey wasn’t quite over. We still had to stop in Arkansas for the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, a 24 Hour Climbing Competition that Bearded Brothers was sponsoring.

The journey of this part of the trip was pretty epic. It included tire blow outs, run-ins with the local rednecks, declined credit cards, and not having use of the RV bathroom for the last week of the trip. And who do you think struggled the most with this? Was it our kids? Nope…it was the adults.

We made it though, and we couldn’t have been happier to cross the state line into Texas. Even then we still had several hours before we arrived in Austin, which is where our tiny home on wheels remains parked.

Since the big summer expedition we have taken Thistle on two other journeys. One of them being to the Guadalupe Mountains to summit Texas’ highest mountain, Guadalupe Peak. We have the most fun when we travel, that is for sure, but for the next year or so Thistle will remain parked, as we are expecting our third child in September (we are not looking forward to the Texas summer in an RV)!

Guadalupe Mountains RV

Thistle, parked in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Of course our family and friends are now asking us, “Are you going to move back into an apartment now, or find a house?” And our answer is simply, NO. We love tiny living, and our kids do too. I’d venture to say that many people use their kids as cover up for their own fears. Our kids have never raised an objection to how life is, they just roll with the punches, and they have taught us to do the same.