Simpson family update and future travel plans

Recent family photo on the top of Mount Bonnell after the Easter sunrise service our Church had.

Wow, 2018 is FLYING by at lightning speed. It seriously seems like Christmas of 2017 was just yesterday! Spring has now arrived, and we are no longer running the heater in our RV on a daily basis, although the past two days have been an exception. Summer is fast approaching as well, and we are pondering what our next big adventure might be. We don’t know for certain yet, but there are a few possibilities, including moving to a new RV park as our permanent home base, as well as traveling the US as part of work for Bearded Brothers.

The one thing we know for certain is that Midtown RV Park is closing down at the end of the year. Although they have not even given residents official notice, management is letting new tenants in on the information, and the rumors have spread all around the park. I did confirm by looking at the City CAD property search, that an investment group has purchased the property.

We are currently looking at moving into La Hacienda RV Resort in Lakeway. It will be a huge adjustment for us, as all our close friends live in Austin proper. We also won’t be minutes from downtown anymore, and we won’t be biking distance to awesome coffee shops either.

The up sides to this RV park are pretty substantial though. It’s a large community, it’s safe, they have a huge laundry facility on-site, propane on-site, daily trash pick-up, a pool, workout facility, playground for the kids, and a nature trail around a small lake. I’m sure it will be a place we enjoy living, the only downsides I see are being further away from Austin proper, but being in Lakeway we will likely find new hangouts, and go-to restaurants for those days we just don’t want to cook.

As for traveling during the Summer, it’s looking like that is not going to happen. At least not anything long term. We will more than likely get away for at least a couple of weeks. There are family commitments already on the schedule, and it’s looking like my business (Bearded Brothers) is going to need my undivided attention this entire year. But…with some of the potential growth we will experience through the business we might end up traveling a bit more throughout the year to visit trade shows and open new store accounts. It’s not a certainty yet, but there is a good likelihood it will happen.

Our kids are growing up fast too. Abby is now 5, and turns 6 in September. Josh is turning 4 in May, and Nathan will be 2 in September. Before you know it, homeschooling / roadschooling will be in full force! It’s been amazing watching our kids just learn on their own though. The things they pick up never cease to amaze. Abby is already learning to read, all be it at a slow pace, but pretty much self-initiated. All three of them are little sponges and just soak up any information they receive. The amount these guys can remember is astounding.

Even though we can sometimes fear change, even now, we look forward to the new adventures this year will bring. There are many unknowns, especially in regards to where exactly we will live, and the amount of travel we will be doing, but we look forward to taking them on, one adventure at a time.

Adventure Note: We do know for sure that in just a couple weeks we will be heading to Big Bend National Park for a family vacation. We have only traveled once since last October, so we are really looking forward to being on the road again. We have no agenda set, we just know the dates we will be traveling and look forward to exploring Big Bend, it will be the first visit for everybody in the family.

Spring cleaning: swept off the roof and patched some potential leaky spots with dicor.

We have also been doing a lot of spring cleaning in preparation for our trip. We try to do this a couple times a year. So far, I have cleaned the roof and patched a couple problems spots. We have purged both the inside and outside of the RV of things that are not being used. I’m pretty sure our rig is at least 100 lbs lighter. We’re ready for an adventure!

Our favorite devices that help making living minimal easier

Living in an RV full time is right on par with your normal tiny home living lifestyle. It requires downsizing your life and being as minimal as possible in many areas of your life. Read on to find out what our favorite minimalist devices are that we use in the RV on a regular basis.

(note:  each headline is our amazon affiliate link to purchase the product)

 

Stainless Steel French Press

Move over glass French Press. Living in a tiny space means things get knocked around a lot. After breaking three glass French presses we finally discovered they make stainless steel models.

We are also HUGE fans of cold brew coffee, and we use our 24oz mason jars to brew our coffee. We have broken our fair share of these jars as well though!

 

10 Stage Water Filter

We have always been advocates for filtering tap water, even when we lived in an apartment. But when living in an RV it’s even more important. While moving around you never know what the water source will be like. Our 10 Stage Filter sits on the counter next to our bathroom sink (it used to be in the kitchen, bur the fixture in our new RV does not work with the filter).

We opted for the 10 stage filter for two reasons. One, we already owned it, and two, the Berkey filters are just too bulky and take up a lot of room.

 

HP Desk Jet 3755

This is the smallest most functional printer we could find. Sure, you could find one smaller if you want to manually feed paper one sheet at a time. We feel this printer is the perfect size that also has function. It sits on the vanity in the front bedroom area with plenty of room to use it as a desk.

 

Stick vacuum & WISPsystem Broom

Dirt accumulates like wild fire inside the RV, especially with 3 kids romping around. Our Stick vacuum as well as our WISP broom are essential floor cleaning tools. We often times even use the vacuum on our bed after our children have mischievously eaten food in it without asking. The nice thing about these tools is the fit easily into the small RV closets.

 

Command Hooks & Command Strips

Simple and cheap. This little hooks are great for many things: hanging the welcome sign outside our RV, hanging measuring spoons inside our cabinet, putting up Christmas decorations during the holiday season, hanging hats, bags, etc. The list goes on. They help get things up off the floor and out of the way. Kristy also used them for organizing jewelry on the inside of her closet door. We use the command strips to hang the WISPsystem Broom inside a closet door.

 

Puck Lights

This small LED disc lights are great for the inside of our cabinets that don’t get much ambient light from the RV. They are cheap, easily to install, and take rechargeable AAA batteries. I even discovered some on Amazon with remote on-off switches!

 

Temperature and Humidity Gauge

We have found that our air conditioner/furnace thermostat is very inaccurate. So, this helps us accurately set our indoor temperature. The humidity gauge is also nice as well because it helps us know how proactive we need to be about controlling the humidity levels.


This are just a few of our favorite things. I’m sure there are probably a dozen other awesome gadgets we don’t even know about, but these are the ones we feel make our life more simple and enjoyable in our tiny home on wheels.

What are some of your favorite tiny living gadgets. Let us know in the comments.

 

 

What does solar ready mean?


If you have recently started shopping for a new RV you have probably seen the dealer point out a fancy looking outlet on the outside of the RV that is labeled “solar ready.” They say little more than, “here is a port you can plug a solar panel into.” Which leaves you instantly thinking and pondering the off grid adventures you can have with a single solar panel. Well it isn’t quite that easy.

The reality of the matter is, that little plug is completely worthless. Well, not completely, but you will more than likely never use it, even if you get a solar setup on your RV. It’s nothing more than a sales gimmick. There are a couple companies out there that make a solar panel that can plug into that port and you can even purchase an after-market plug that you can wire up yourself to the solar panel brand of your choice…but it’s really not even needed.

If you go with the ground deploy method, like we did in our simple RV solar setup, you will need nothing more than a set of alligator clips to attach to the batteries… And that is something I almost forgot: The dealer won’t tell you that you need to upgrade your RV battery to fully take advantage of having a solar setup. A true off-grid experience requires you have two 6-volt deep cycle batteries (at minimum, some systems use 4 or more). The standard marine battery the RV comes with won’t even get you through one night of camping without shore power.

So don’t believe the hype. The solar ready RV’s are not truly solar ready. It’s just a sales tactic. A true solar setup is going to require a lot more than just plugging in an overpriced panel to that factory installed port. Oh, and that is another thing. The ports don’t even attach to the battery. You are left having to wire up the battery yourself in order for the solar panels to even charge the battery.

So, keep that in mind when RV shopping. Simply put, there are two types of solar setups you can go with: One is the easiest, the ground deploy method, and the second is panels installed on your roof. Both involve running wire from the solar panel to a set of deep cycle batteries, which replace the standard 12 volt marine battery your RV comes with.

The method you chose to go with is going to depend on your needs. But both systems will also allow you to install an inverter to power your electrical outlets inside the RV, but you will almost never be able to power things like air conditioners. They just require too much power for a few batteries and an inverter to run constantly.

If you want a simple solar setup, check out my blog post where I talk about ours.

You can also check out this Facebook group, and start reading up on the posts there, but be sure to read and search posts first before asking questions. More than likely your question has been asked before.

Even though most RV’s are not truly solar ready, simple solar setups are easy to install. Ours cost us about $500 and can easily get us through several nights without shore power, just as long as we have sunshine for most of those days.

Full time RV doesn’t mean 24-7 vacation

When a lot of people hear about somebody traveling and living in their RV full time, they often think, “wow you most have a lot of money!” Especially when they see young people doing it, which is becoming more and more common.

Well, I’m here to tell you I have yet to run into anybody our age our younger that is, “retired.” Every single person we know personally, or through the internet works from the road. They all have different jobs: some work remotely for a corporation, others run online businesses, and some even jump around from place to place finding work in each town.

We are different than a lot of full time RV families though. Since we own and run a packaged food company, Bearded Brothers, we have to spend a lot of our time in our home-base, Austin, TX. We end up travelling mostly in the summer months, when TX is hot and unbearable.

I would say we spend about 75-80% of your time parked here in Austin. While on one hand we have this huge desire to travel more, we have all the benefits of having a strong community of friends and family close by at all times.

When we do travel though, we LOVE it. There is less stress about being in the office at a certain time. The pressure of having to be certain places and please certain people is lifted. Life slows down a bit. When we are on the road we get a lot more quality time together, more time outdoors doing things we love, experiencing new things, and resting.

This doesn’t mean that the whole trip is a vacation. I’m still putting in normal work hours running the business. Work doesn’t stop just because we are on the road. We usually do plan “vacation weeks” during our extended times away from Austin. They are treated just like any other vacation. It’s known to my work team that I’m on vacation, and only reachable for emergencies, aside from the occasions we are so remote we don’t have cell reception…those are truly remarkable vacations!

So, if you have ever thought, I would like to RV full time, but there is no way I could do that: just know that YOU CAN. Most towns have RV parks somewhere nearby, some even have them right in town. You could always ease into your journey by living in the RV full time – stationary. Which is pretty much what we do aside from a few months of travel a year (on a good year). Having your home on wheels will give you the freedom to travel more and take impromptu weekend trips just for the heck of it. For your two weeks of vacation a year, you can just hook up your home and go wherever you want. Packing is much easier this way! 🙂

This option is great for somebody that might be chained to the desk and can’t work remote, and if this lifestyle truly fits you, you can always look for work that allows a more remote lifestyle. Or even start your own business that gives you the freedom you desire.

Bottom line is, you don’t have to be rich to live the full time RV life, and it doesn’t mean you have to be on the road constantly either. The life is what you make it. For us it was more about minimizing our consumption, and valuing experiences over possessions. The why might look different for you, but all you have to do is make the leap.

If going full time is something you are interested, you might want to check out the following articles and books on this blog.

All about living in an RV full time

E-Book: The Newbies Guide to RV Life : 13 Things I Wish I Knew Before Hitting the Road

What to Expect When Towing an RV for the First Time

RVing with little ones is easier than you think

Where do your kids sleep in the RV

One of the questions we get asked most by other families is, “where do your kids sleep?” Well, as most kids do, they sleep in their room! Yup, that’s right, they have their own room. A lot of RV floor plans have what is called a bunkhouse. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a room in the back of the RV with bunk beds.

Our first RV did not have a slide out in the room so it was just two beds on each side of the room. However, we removed one of the beds to create more floor space for the kids to play, and when our newest son was little, it is where we put his Pack N Play. Removing the bunk bed was pretty easy, and putting up faux wood paneling over the external storage compartment was also a cinch.

Kids bunk room with bottom bunk removed to allow for room to play. This was the setup in our older RV, Thistle.

Now that Nathan is a little bit older, he sleeps on the top bunk in a PeaPod Tent. (Amazon Affiliate Link) All of our kids slept in one of these when they were younger. This method of sleeping our children actually started with our oldest, Abigail, when we still lived in an apartment. She would always get out of her bed at night, even after receiving discipline numerous times. Ever since then, all the kids have had a season of tent sleeping in the bed.

Our new RV has a slide out in the bunk room with four sleeping positions, but one of them we converted to extra storage, which you can see in the pic below. Below the storage bins is a hideaway bed that slides out. Josh, our middle child, sometimes sleeps here, but mostly (due to being rowdy and keeping the other kids awake) he will sleep in the living room on the couch.

The bunk room in our new RV has plenty of storage and places for the kids to sleep. Underneath the cubbies is a slide out bed.

Abby sleeps in the left top bunk that has ladder access, and Nathan sleeps in the other top bunk inside his Pea Pod Tent with a side rail protecting him from falling out. These portable side rails can be purchased on Amazon (Affiliate Link).

The kids are pretty well adapted to things going on around them too. We were a bit worried about how they would handle it when we first started living in the RV full time, but they adapted quickly and the sounds of us doing our nightly cleaning never bothered them. Because of the close quarters in our old RV, we spent a lot of our time outside once nightly clean-up was done. However, in the new RV we have more space in our bedroom area, so we do our wind-down time with some privacy and a closed door (not that paper thin RV doors do much for blocking sound).

The sleeping arrangements were only somewhat of a concern when we first started this journey, but now that we have been doing this for a few years we realize it’s not a big deal at all. Kids are very adaptable, as are we!

All about living in an RV full time and how it can work for you

Our original travel trailer RV in the Guadalupe Mountains

Boondocking in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This was our first time ever boondocking and it was a real learning experience. It was well worth it though!

Becoming a full time RV dweller is easier than you might think, and it doesn’t require you traveling the countryside. There are a good number of full time RV dwellers that have a semi-permanent home base. That is the case with us. We live in Austin, TX about 75% of the year. We only hook up and travel during the Summer, aside from short week long and weekend trips throughout the year.

Your first thought might be, wow I could never afford that. Truthfully, if you aren’t traveling full time it’s WAY cheaper than living in an apartment or home. Especially if you live in an expensive market like Austin. Even being full time on the road is often cheaper than living in a stick and bricks home.

Our all-in monthly “rent” expense is never more than $950. And that covers our RV site, utilities, and RV payment. Try finding a one bedroom apartment for that price! During the winter and spring months we are only spending around $850. I will go more into expenses later in the post.

The biggest barrier to going full time in an RV is YOURSELF! You just have to decide to do it. Once you decide you are going to make the leap, your first step is to start downsizing. Craigslist is going to be your best friend here. We got rid of almost all our worldly possessions just through Craigslist and Facebook. And the best part is, we made enough money to pay cash for our first RV and truck.

We purchased a used Ford F-250 for about $8,000 and our RV was $7,000. Looking back on it I was pretty blown away we came up with that kind of money, but we sold our paid off Subaru Outback for $9,000 and our road bikes for about $2,750. So that was a good chunk of the change we needed to buy our home on wheels and the truck to tow it with. I have to be honest, selling the bikes was rough one me, but it was a sacrifice we were willing to make to live the full time RV life.

Once we sold all our stuff, bought our RV and truck all that as left was moving in, and donating whatever we didn’t sell to Goodwill. We did move a small amount of stuff into storage at my office, things like keepsakes and family heirlooms. Then we hit the road! To get started we stayed two weeks in an RV park near Bee Caves, which was closer to my office, but further from town. After those two weeks were up we found a more permanent spot before hitting the road for three months. And upon returning we found the RV Park we are still currently living in.

We have loved the opportunities living in an RV have provided. We have spent two entire summers in the mountains, had mini family vacations just because we could. We love living minimally and having very little possession, and it’s great having a home that can be cleaned from top to bottom in an about an hour tops.

Choosing an RV or Motorhome

RV’s also known as travel trailers or fifth wheels, are towable vehicles that require a truck with a tow capacity rating that fits with whatever rig you purchased. The advantage of an towable RV is lower cost, and if your engine on the vehicle has issues your home doesn’t have to go into the shop. Repairs on the RV are also easily done on-site in most cases, and you can usually find a mobile repair person to come to your home on wheels. The main downside to a travel trailer is the learning curve involved with towing, and backing up a long vehicle.

A motorhome will likely be easier to learn to drive, but downsides are higher cost, and engine repairs mean leaving your home in the shop for an extended period of time. You also have to take your home to the shop for oil changes and simple repairs, unless you are handy (which I am not). Plus sides are you can tow your drivable vehicle behind you, and are often roomier than travel trailers. But, another downside for people with kids is floor layouts are usually for empty nesters. I have yet to see a layout with a bunk room for kids that wasn’t right next to the main bedroom.

New Fifth Wheel RV

Our first RV, Thistle, was a travel trailer, but our new RV is a Fifth Wheel. The fifth wheel, while heavier is easier to tow.

Traveling vs Full Time RV Spots

If you are wanting to “ease into the full time RV life” then finding an RV park in your current home town and staying there full time is going to be your best option. Usually you can rent a spot in parks for $500-$800 per month. This allows you to experience the joys of minimalist living while still being in your hometown. This might be a great option for somebody with a full-time desk job that hasn’t made the leap into location independent work.

When traveling full time you are best staying in spots for at least a week at a time because there is usually a price break involved. Even better, book a full month and pay half the normal nightly rate. Not all RV parks have a monthly option, but most of them usually reserve a few spots for long term stays.

We prefer staying in one spot for longer periods of time so we can experience the culture. We have recently purchased a solar setup that allows us to camp off grid. We haven’t used it a lot yet, but in the near future we will be spending a lot of time in public lands, which a lot of the times are completely free.

Another secret of the full time RVer is Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop and WalMart Parking lots. Most Cabela’s have actual designated spots for RV’s, the other two are hit or miss on whether or not they allow overnight stays for RV’s. It’s always best to call ahead and be sure. The Cabela’s lots usually have dump stations as well, so you can empty your black and gray tank. Most charge you $5 to do this.

So, aside from the extra gas money, you can actually make your monthly “rent” expense very similar or cheaper than what it would cost to live in an apartment or home.

Insurance

I won’t pretend to know everything about this, but I do know the basics. A good starting point is Good Sam, and they have insurance brokers that help full-time RVers find insurance. Most traditional insurance companies won’t understand the needs of a full time RV dweller.

We have two policies. One covers repairs on the RV such as the fridge going out, leaks, plumbing issues, etc. The other policy covers us if we get into an accident, and also provides a few nights of hotel stay in the event we can’t stay in the RV.

In addition to the insurance I recommend purchasing a Good Sam Roadside Assistance program. This has saved our neck already. We had locked our keys in the truck while it was running and within an hour we had somebody come out and unlock the door. It’s also great for changing tires and other roadside issues.

Our RV and truck policy are bundled and run us about $130 per month. The policy that covers things going run with the RV itself runs about $130 per quarter, and the roadside assistance runs $150 per year.

What to Expect. Setting Up and Packing Up

I grew up going camping an in RV with my family, so none of this was really that new to me. It had been YEARS since I had camped in an RV, and I was so young I was never really that involved in the set up and pack up process. But having some knowledge certainly helped.

There are YouTube videos galore on these topics! Not sure about how to connect your black tank hose and drain it? Confused about how to hook up your RV and connect the sway controller? Want to know what things you need to secure inside your RV? YouTube it!!!  YouTube and blog articles were how we refreshed on all these topics, especially how to back in an RV.

My best advice though would be have patience. Take it slow, especially during your first few trips. Also, if you are purchasing the RV from a dealer they will take you through all the steps of what you need to do when setting up and taking down to travel. If you happen to be buying the rig used from an individual, ask them to give you a walk through and let them know you are new to RV life.

emptying the RV black tank

Emptying the black tank. It’s a dirty job, but I’ve got to do it! 🙂

The Financial Details

Below is a basic breakdown of our monthly expenses on the road, vs when staying parked.

Basic Budget Items (monthly basis)

RV Lot – $500
RV Payment – $300
RV & Truck Insurance – $130
RV Only Insurance (repairs) – $43
Roadside Assistance – $13
Repairs (budget for these) – $150
Total: $1,136

Monthly Expenses When Traveling

RV Parks – $1,000 (this cost can be much lower if you boondock in public lands or stay in sites monthly)
Gas – $300 (about 1,000 miles at 9 miles per gallon…so this number will vary)
RV Payment – $300
RV & Truck Insurance – $130
RV Only Insurance (repairs) – $43
Roadside Assistance – $13
Repairs (budget for these) – $50
Total: $1,936

The rest of our monthly budget really doesn’t change. Since our home is on wheels we go grocery shopping just like we typically would, so we don’t eat out a whole lot. This is one reason why living on the road can be so affordable.

While traveling full time in an RV requires you a flexible job, merely living in an RV full time does not. We are kind of in the middle of the two. Owning my own company allows me to take extended periods of time off to travel, but most of the time we are parked in Austin at an RV park. I would say one of the things we love most about living in the RV full time is we spend a lot more time outdoors! Living in a tiny space is great, but it does force you outside, which is perfect for our family.

Hammock time outside! Rv life forces you outside to enjoy nature.

Living in an RV full time forces us to get outside more!

 

 

Our simple rv solar setup

Simple solar setup with Renogy 100 watt solar panel. The panel charges two 6 volt deep cycle batteries.

This past October our family traveled to Virginia so I could run an Ultra Marathon. We knew it was going to require us to be without shore power in our RV for at least 3 nights (we ended up 4 nights without shore power), so I decided to research solar power. Because the last time we boondocked for several nights we used a generator and even on a fully charged factory installed battery we couldn’t make it through one night without COMPLETELY draining the battery, which I now know is a huge no-no.

I won’t bore you with all of the details about all the solar setups that are possible and cut straight to the chase and let you know about the simplest setup anybody can possibly have. (Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase, affiliate link to Amazon)

The first thing you need has nothing to do with solar panels. It’s a battery bank. The battery your RV came with isn’t going to cut it. You need to upgrade to two 6volt deep cycle batteries. Commonly known as golf cart batteries.

You need two of them run in parallel because your RV runs on a 12 volt system when on battery, and two 6volt batteries make 12 volts. It’s simple math.  (click here for information about wiring two 6 volt batteries in parallel)

You will want to look at the amp hours on the battery too. Mine are rated at 210 amp hours. Which means I essentially have 105 usable “amp hours” because you don’t want to let your batteries fall below 50% capacity. (More detail about this below)

So simply put: let’s say your RV lights draw 5 amps and you ran those for 10 hours straight you will have used 50 amp hours of your 105 amp hours (this is assuming nothing else is drawing off the battery) So this is where a solar panel comes in. The solar panel keeps the battery charged so you always have usable amps.

Solar panels don’t “power” your RV. They simply keep the battery charged. We use a Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase. We decided on the “ground deploy” method because we wanted simplicity and did not want to deal with installing panels on the roof or running wiring through the RV.

This 100watt panel connects to our battery setup with alligator clamps and the line from the panel has a 10amp fuse installed in it. We also purchased a model that came with a charge controller which is another essential component of a solar setup. Without a charge controller the panel can’t regulate and put “juice” into the batteries.

So, out little system now looks like this: solar panel & charge controller, battery bank (and wiring the that runs from the charge controller to the batteries)

The higher the wattage panel you get the more amp hours it can pump back into the batteries. Our little 100watt panel puts in about 5 amps per hour in full direct sun. So, if we used 20 amps of power during the night running lights and fans, it would take 4 hours to fully charge the battery.

So far, this simple setup has been great for us. So much so we temporarily disconnect from shore here in Austin (we went back onto shore power because the cost of propane offset any energy savings).

Boondocking in Virginia. We spent 4 nights completely off grid.


So that’s it, a super simple way to go solar.

To recap:

  1. Purchase at least two 6 volt deep cycle batteries and wire then in parallel (this replaces your existing 12 volt marine battery), connecting them to your RV. If you want more usable amp hours go ahead and wire up four 6 volt deep cycles in parallel. Just make sure they are all the same make/model and amp hour rating
  2. Purchase a briefcase style solar panel WITH charge controller.
  3. Connect the charge controller via alligator clamps to the battery, or your RV’s solar ready port if compatible (note, most of the solar ready ports are useless without a special plug that the manufacturer doesn’t even know much about)
  4. Go off grid!

Two 6 volt deep cycle batteries wired in parallel. We use the Duracell 120 Amp Hour Golf Cart batteries.

Important things to note when going solar. 

  1. This simple system will not power air conditioning, AC outlets or microwaves.
  2. The more batteries you have the more usable amp hours are available and the longer you can go without having to charge them. This is helpful for cloudy days.
  3. When on solar you are running on DC only. You will need propane to keep your fridge running.
  4. Consider wiring 12 volt ports into the RV. This is easiest done by connecting existing wiring such as lights and your water pump (anything that runs on DC power)
  5. Use small 12 volt adapter inverters for charging laptops, batteries, and televisions (I will say though we don’t have a TV in our rig so have never attempted to power one). You can hard wire them to the battery or use the 12 volt outlets you installed. Going directly off the battery is always best.
  6. Never let your battery capacity fall below 50%…or 12volts. This can be measure with a voltmeter, or usage meters that connect to the battery.

USB and 12 volt ports, wired directly into the existing LED lights. Wires run through inside of the closet up into the light fixture.


Update: Where have we been?

Boondocking during the Bandera 100k at Hill Country State Natural Area.

Well, what can we say, life has been crazy. A lot has been going on in our lives, so we thought we would take some time to update you.

Since our last update we had just returned from spending a couple months in Red River, New Mexico: and we absolutely loved it there. We definitely plan on going back sometime in the near future.

Following our trip to New Mexico, we returned to Austin for a few weeks before hitting the road again and heading up to Virginia for Caleb to run the Grindstone 100. During that portion of the trip we also visited friends in Winchester, VA, and Chattanooga, TN on the way back to Texas.

Over the entire summer we had traveled well over 5,500 miles. Since then though we had been nestled in our RV site in Austin, but a couple weeks ago we went to Hill Country State Natural Area for Caleb to run the Bandera 100k. After that we spent a week on Kristy’s mom’s property and did some improvements to the RV. Pictures below.

The past few months have been a whirlwind though. Caleb has been working hard on Bearded Brothers, and Kristy started up her own business as well that will set us up for future success when we start traveling more. The new business is an MLM opportunity selling Monat haircare products.

We have also started attending a new Church, Grace and Peace, and have really been enjoying it. We also recently received news that our RV park has sold, and is under new ownership, and the current rumor is everybody has to be out by the end of the year. We aren’t sure if their plans are to do improvements, or just turn the property into another development, but either way we are excited about the new opportunities it will bring, and love the idea of not having to pay for a site in the park while we are gone. We will just find a new home upon returning from our summer travels.

2018 is certain to hold a lot of exciting things. Sometime in March or April we plan on taking another trip out to the Guadalupe Mountains. This time we pray that it will be problem free. We also plan on traveling this summer again as well. We will be in Durango, CO in July and Caleb will be volunteering for the Hard Rock 100, and will for sure be in Steamboat Springs area around September, 15: Caleb is running the Run Rabbit Run 100 miler.

With the growth of both our businesses, and all the travel we are certainly in for a wild ride this year, but we are looking forward to it.

What travel plans do you have in store for 2018? What big goals do you have? Comment below.

Covered the cushions in the dinette, added a splash of color on the valances as well. Also, notice the cabinets are painted gold from the inside (prior too they were translucent). Gold trim as well!

More color added!

Kids room. Added a chest for dress up cloths, put a “bench” over the fold out couch so we could place cubbies on top for more storage. Not pictured is extra shelving behind the ladder and on the existing book shelf/entertainment center.

Since we don’t have a TV, we added an extra shelf into the entertainment center. We also added a splash of color in their as well. The gold cabinets can be seen here too.

Chevrons in the bedroom! Added a “headboard” which is just a large piece of foam insulation covered with batting and fabric. Added valances and curtains as well.

Kristy’s, “office.” And wall of inspiration.

The inspiration piece for it all. Kristy found this piece of art at Goodwill years ago for just a few dollars. It also graced the walls of our first RV and was the inspiration for the updates we made in her as well.

Hiking with little ones…why bother?

Earlier this summer, our family went on a two-mile hike that took us more than two hours to complete. Yep, that’s right, we were walking slower than one mile per hour. I’m pretty sure snails were slithering faster than us. All this got me thinking about why we even bother dragging our kids out on the trail when doing it alone would be much faster and usually more enjoyable. Simmering on this question, I came up with three reasons why we keep hiking with our kids.

Hiking is our family way. Sharing the outdoors with our kids is part of our family culture, our identity. When we spend time outside we are showing our kids that nature is important, that we are a part of God’s glorious creation. They are learning respect, stewardship and conservation. Not because we preach it to them, but because they see us live it out on the trail. Along the way we are building beautiful memories together that I hope will remain in their hearts as a wellspring of joy that they may draw from their whole life through.

Tip: Let your kids see you enjoying nature and they will follow. Bend down to examine a flower. Let them see you picking up trash along the trail. Model good trail etiquette. Talk about what you see and hear. More is caught than taught!

Hiking is education. Every time we go on a hike, my kids and I learn something valuable. Because they are hiking slowly (did I mention the snail’s pace?) they notice so much more than I do. They are always bringing me berries, flowers or bugs to identify. On this particular hike, Josh found six different types of mushrooms, some of which were edible. I love that my kids are becoming nature-literate, learning how the world works by touching, tasting and enjoying it’s creatures.

Tip:  Resist the urge to lecture your kids. Let them point out what piques their interest and allow them to ask questions. I encourage our kids to take samples or photos of any plants or animals they find interesting so we can identify them at home. They remember so much more when they do the leg-work.

Hiking is perseverance. There are no short-cuts out on the trail. If we want to see the waterfall, alpine lake or wildflower meadow, we have to keep going. Hiking is a golden opportunity to teach little ones the value of setting a goal and sticking to it, even when he journey is difficult. Of course, we keep our hikes within their capability, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a fair amount of complaining and feet-dragging along the way. Our hope is that by slowly stretching their abilities they will become more resilient and confident.

Tip:  Have patience. If possible, let your kids take the lead and set the pace. I try to remind myself that my goal is to foster a love of nature, not set any personal records for fastest hike.

Yes, hiking with little ones is not the same as going alone; It’s a lot slower, louder and generally more painful… Like most every part of parenting. I like to imagine our family in ten years, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail together. I know they won’t be little forever, so I try to savor these “training” hikes, where we lay the foundation for what we hope becomes a life-long love of nature.

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.
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